Kung Fu Cricket Mania

November 30, 2016

The first time I read about China’s singing crickets was in “Empress Orchid” by Anchee Min.  Retired concubines spent time carving gourds where these crickets lived. The crickets entertained empresses, emperors, and princes.

Then I learned about China’s fighting critics from a comment left on this Blog, and there was a link included.

While writing this post, I Googled the subject. In Gardening4us.com, Catherine Dougherty says, “Cricket culture in China dates back to the Tang Dynasty (618 – 906 AD).

“It was during this time the crickets first became respected for their powerful ability to ‘sing’ and a cult formed to capture and cage them. And in the Sung Dynasty (960 – 1276 AD)… cricket fighting became popular.”

The Chinese consider the cricket to be a metaphor for summer and courage. Pacific Pest Inc. says, “Crickets are popular pets and are considered good luck in some countries; in China, crickets are sometimes kept in cages, and various species of crickets are a part of people’s diets … and are considered delicacies of high cuisine in places like Mexico and China.”

Soon, the United States may be added to this list, because Exo, a U.S. company, is producing protein bars from cricket flower. “After cleaning the crickets, we dry them to remove the moisture and mill them into fine flour. The result is slightly nutty tasting flour that is high in protein and micronutrients.”

From Home Made in China, we learn “Summer used to mean picking berries in the yard and making jam, canning green beans, going to the farmer’s market, BBQs, lawn mowing, hiking, swimming. Now my whole family looks forward to the arrival of singing crickets.”

Discover Wu Zetian, China’s only female emperor

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Is There a Turkey Day in China Too?

November 23, 2016

Turkey is a fowl many Chinese seldom eat. However, eating duck and chicken is common. Duck is even considered a delicacy. In fact, the Unvegan says, “No trip to Beijing is complete without eating some Peking Duck.”

The Virtual Tourist says, “It is thought that Beijing roast duck, like the tradition of roast turkey in America and the UK, owes its origin to the roast goose that is still popular in Europe on festive occasions.”

Most Americans do not celebrate the Chinese New Year (the Spring Festival) and most Chinese do not celebrate Thanksgiving. After all, Thanksgiving is an American holiday that Canadians also celebrate, but on the second Monday in October.


Thanksgiving in Beijing with Peking Duck

CBS News.com reported, “America is the world’s biggest producer and exporter of turkeys. As a nation we’re also the largest consumers of turkey …” and “China is the second-largest market for U.S. turkey exports, reportedly buying more than $70.5 million in turkey meat in 2012.”

If you are visiting China during Thanksgiving, you have a choice between Peking Duck, which is easy to find, and turkey.

Go China says, “Just head to your local international grocery store (Jenny Lu’s in Beijing, Cityshop in Shanghai) and stock up on all the fixings: frozen Butterball turkeys, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie makings. But you better do it fast, there tends to be a run on these items so if you’re shopping on the last Thursday in November, you’ll be out of luck.”

In fact, if you are visiting Shanghai, the Shanghai City Guide is there to help you find where to buy your favorite food. There are even three Walmarts in Shanghai, and Time Out Beijing provides a list for China’s capital city.

Discover Wu Zetian, China’s only female emperor

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Does China have its own version of Halloween?

October 31, 2016

The closest celebration in China to Halloween in the United States is The Hungry Ghost Festival celebrated the 14th or 15th night of the 7th lunar month in July or August. This year that day fell on August 17th.

The Ghost Festival, also known as The Hungry Ghost Festival, is a traditional Chinese festival and holiday celebrated by Chinese in many countries, in which ghosts and/or spirits of deceased ancestors come from the lower realm and/or hell to visit the living.

Buddhists and Taoists in China claim that the Ghost Festival originated with the canonical scriptures of Buddhism, but many of the visible aspects of the ceremonies originate from Chinese folk religion, and other local folk traditions (The Ghost Festival in Medieval China by Stephen Teiser).

In America, most children wear costumes and go door to door collecting free candy.  In China, the opposite takes place; food is offered to dead ancestors, joss paper is burned, and scriptures are chanted.

Chinese Culture.net says the Hungry Ghost Festival is “Celebrated mostly in South China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and especially in Singapore and Malaysia.” It is believed by many Chinese that during this month, the gates of hell are opened to let out the hungry ghosts who want food.

By comparison, History.com says, “Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the New Year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred.”

I think it’s interesting that the dead linked both America’s Halloween and China’s Hungry Ghost Festival, at least historically.

As a child, I loved wearing a costume on Halloween and going out “trick-or-treating” at night to return home with a heavy bag (usually a pillowcase) filled with candy.

I still remember how much my stomach hurt and how terrible I felt after gorging myself on all that free processed sugar.

Today, due to the epidemic of diabetes and overweight or obese children in the United States (also in China mostly among its new middle class), I stopped celebrating Halloween years ago, and do not give candy to children. The last time I gave treats to children on Halloween, I handed out small boxes of raisins (sweet dried grapes) instead of candy, and one mother called me cheap.

But Science Daily.com comes to my defense with: “Teenagers who consume a lot of added sugars in soft drinks and foods may have poor cholesterol profiles—which may possibly lead to heart disease in adulthood, according to first-of-its-kind research reported in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.”

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports, “Teenagers and young adults consume more sugar drinks than other age groups and have been linked to poor diet quality, weight gain, obesity, and, in adults and children, type 2 diabetes.”

The American Diabetes Association says, “25.8 million children and adults in the US have diabetes while 79 million have prediabetes. Due to excessive sugar consumption, the risk of diabetes may lead to heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, blindness, kidney disease, nervous system disease, and/or amputation of feet and legs.”

Maybe Americans should learn something from the Chinese Hungry Ghost Festival. Do not feed that sweet addictive candy to children.  Instead, give the sugar to the dead and have your children eat apples, because there’s a lot of truth to the old saying that if you eat an apple a day, it will help keep the doctor away. If you doubt that, read this from Science Daily.

Discover Anna May Wong, the woman that died a thousand times.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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The Cultural Importance of Education in China Caught on Film

October 25, 2016

In the Chinese film Not One Less (1999), a thirteen-year-old girl is asked to be the long-term substitute teacher in a small Chinese village.  The teacher says to her that when he returns, if he finds all the students still there, he will pay her ten yuan, less than two American dollars at the time.

When one student, Zhang Huike, stops coming to school, Wei Minzhim, the thirteen-year-old substitute teacher, follows him to the city.

There are several themes in this film. The most powerful was the value of an education and not losing face. If Wei loses Zhang, she will fail the teacher who gave her the responsibility to teach the village children. To her, that means she must keep all the students.

This film reveals one of the greatest cultural differences between the United States and China. More than 2,000 years ago, Confucius taught that an education was the great equalizer and the key to leaving poverty behind. In the United States, for the last several decades, corporations in the private-sector education industry that profit off high-stakes tests claim high-test scores will lift children out of poverty, and low test scores are the fault of teachers, not children who don’t study for whatever reason.

Today many Chinese, not all, and most Asians outside of China still believe with a passion that education is the key, and this belief may explain why the on-time high school graduation for Asian-Americans in the United States is the highest when compared to all other racial groups.

U.S. News.com reports that Asian/Pacific Islander students comprised the only subgroup with a higher (on-time high school) graduation rate than white students (in the U.S.).

In the United States, teachers are often blamed for the lower graduation rates of Hispanics (more than 74 percent) and Blacks (71 percent), while in China parents take the blame when their children are not successful in school.

This is another significant difference between China and the United States. In China it would be unthinkable to wage war against the nation’s teachers for children who don’t learn. Instead, parents, who cared, and teachers work together to do what they can as partners to make sure children learn.

And for children that live in poverty and/or with parents that don’t care, a Stanford University Researcher discovered “There is an achievement gap between more and less disadvantaged students in every country, surprisingly, that gap is smaller in the United States.”

Zhang Yimou was the director of this film. He said, “Chinese culture is still rooted in the countryside. If you don’t know the peasant, you don’t know China.” Because of this, there is a strong message in this film about the urban–rural divide in China, which is being addressed as China sews the nation together with high-speed rail and electricity.

This a powerful movie about children, education, and poverty that shows the challenges China (and every country) faces in improving the lifestyles of almost 8-hundred million Chinese, who don’t live in the cities. The challenge is to do this without losing the cultural values that flow through Chinese history like a powerful river.

Discover Wu Zetian, China’s only female emperor

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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The Story of Stone and China’s Star Crossed Lovers.

October 12, 2016

The Dream of the Red Chamber (also known as The Story of Stone) is generally considered one of the four greatest Chinese classical novels. The story is so popular in China that it has had several versions and translations and was made into a TV series.

The author, Tsao Hsueh-chin (1715-1763) came from a powerful and wealthy family and lived a privileged life as a child in Nanjing. Later, he became poor and struggled to survive. Going from wealth to poverty provided him with the necessary experiences to write this tragic story.

Although this novel (English translation available on Amazon in addition to a film selection) has great literary merit on many levels, readers might have difficulty keeping the characters straight, because there are more than four hundred characters and almost thirty are major ones.

Nevertheless, readers and students of Chinese history and culture should read this book to develop a better understanding of Imperial China during the Ch’ing Dynasty. The novel paints a vivid portrait of a corrupt feudal society on the verge of the capitalist, market economy we see flourishing in China today.

Another plot is the Romeo and Juliet love story between Chia Pao-yu and Lin Tai-yu, who, like Romeo and Juliet, wanted to be free to marry anyone they desired.

CliffsNotes has also covered Dream of the Red Chamber.

Discover China’s First Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi, the man that unified China more than 2,000 years ago.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Learning English in China with help from a naughty monkey

September 13, 2016

The Oxford Royale Academy says, “It’s often said that English is one of the hardest languages to learn … and one of the reasons why English is known for being difficult is because it’s full of contradictions.”

That difficultly didn’t stop China from making learning English mandatory in its public schools, but speaking English like a native doesn’t always work well when you’re learning from a cartoon character called Mocky the naughty monkey.

Michael Meyer, the author of “The Last Days of Old Beijing” had this to say about Mocky: “Beijing students begin studying English in Grade One. Every child is enrolled in three forty-five-minute lessons each week until the end of elementary school, at Grade Six. Much of Mocky’s instruction is automated, reducing the teacher’s role to leading students through recitations of the dialogues, animated on a disc included with the text. Although Mocky speaks slowly, he sounds as if he’s inhaled some bad helium.”


This is a normal Chinese high school student who was not born in an English speaking country and learned English in class.

A friend shared the following e-mail and said it had gone viral among the Chinese. The friend said she knew someone else who went to Beijing and was given this brochure by the hotel he was staying at.  After you read this brochure that the hotel had translated into English, you might think it was written by that naughty monkey. Here goes:

Getting There:

Our representative will make you wait at the airport. The bus to the hotel runs along the lake shore. Soon you will feel pleasure in passing water. You will know that you are getting near the hotel, because you will go round the bend. The manager will await you in the entrance hall. He always tries to have intercourse with all new guests.

The Hotel:

This is a family hotel, so children are very welcome. We of course are always pleased to accept adultery. Highly skilled nurses are available in the evenings to put down your children. Guests are invited to conjugate in the bar and expose themselves to others. But please note that ladies are not allowed to have babies in the bar. We organize social games, so no guest is ever left alone to play with them self.

The Restaurant:

Our menus have been carefully chosen to be ordinary and unexciting. At dinner, our quartet will circulate from table to table, and fiddle with you.

Your Room:

Every room has excellent facilities for your private parts. In winter, every room is on heat. Each room has a balcony offering views of outstanding obscenity!

You will not be disturbed by traffic noise, since the road between the hotel and the lake is used only by pederasts.

Bed:

Your bed has been made in accordance with local tradition. If you have any other ideas please ring for the chambermaid. Please take advantage of her. She will be very pleased to squash your shirts, blouses and underwear. If asked, she will also squeeze your trousers.

Above All:

When you leave us at the end of your holiday, you will have no hope. You will struggle to forget it.

The punchline, as it turns out, is that the original e-mail was an April fool’s joke, but because someone who thought it was real forwarded it to everyone he knew who forwarded it again, it ended up going viral. Even the Chinese had fun with this one.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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The influence of U.S. universities on students from China

August 30, 2016

Millions of students from Communist China have attended American universities and colleges and earned degrees.

The American impression of China hasn’t stopped some of China’s top leaders sending their children to universities in the West. For instance China’s first-daughter, Xi Mingxi, the only child of Xi Jinping, the President of China, graduated from Harvard in 2014 under a pseudonym.  The New Yorker reported she “studied psychology and English and lived under an assumed (fake) name.”

In November 2015 Foreign Policy Magazine reported, “Out of the more than 974,000 international students currently in the United States, almost one in three is now Chinese.”

According to Foreign Policy Magazine there is a benefit gained from this. “Having these Chinese students on U.S. campuses helps to build a bridge between China and the United States.”

This exchange isn’t free. In fact, it’s expensive for a foreign student to attend a college or university in the U.S., and Foreign Policy says, “In the 2014-2015 academic year, Chinese students pumped $9.8 billion into the U.S. economy through tuition and fees.”

It may come as a surprise to most Americans to discover that families in China that have the money to send their children to the U.S. mostly belong to the Communist Youth League or the Chinese Communist Party and more of them are going home after graduation.

The South China Morning Post reported, “For decades, the rate of return to China remained low as students with advanced degrees did not see opportunities for research at home. Last year, more than 272,000 Chinese returned after completing their education abroad, 86,700 more than in 2011; a 46 percent increase, according to the Ministry of Education.”

When China’s evolution as a modern nation is complete, will it become a republic influenced by America’s “so-called” socialist, liberal institutions of higher education, but with Chinese characteristics like Sun Yat-sen, the father of China’s republic, said he wanted. After all, Sun Yat-sen was influencd by what he learned while attending high school and then one semester of college in Hawaii before he went home to launch a revolution that toppled China’s last imperial dynasty in 1912.

What do most Chinese students think after spending several years in the United States? Another Foreign Policy piece attempts to answer that question and reports, For many Chinese students, it’s not that simple. “I like the U.S.,” one survey respondent wrote. “But I love China; it’s my motherland.”

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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