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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The Peasant Cult that Defeated the Yuan Dynasty

October 11, 2016

Religions, as Christians, Jews and Muslims practice them, have seldom played a major role in Chinese Culture and Politics. Even today, more than 800 million Chinese say they don’t belong to any religion and the largest religion in China is Buddhism with about 10% of the population.  Even during Imperial times, most members of government didn’t belong to organized religions. The same is true today with the Chinese Communist Party.

China’s struggle with pagan cults (for instance, the White Lotus Society) stretches back almost a thousand years. The White Lotus Society appealed to poor Han Chinese peasants and more so to women, who found peace in worshiping the Eternal Mother, Wusheng Laomu. It was believed that this Eternal Mother would gather all her children at the millennium into one family.

White Lotus Societies started out seeking tranquility through a combination of Buddhism with some elements of Daoism (Taoism) and other native Chinese religions. Even in the 12th century, the Yuan Dynasty was distrustful of the Yellow Lotus Society, which didn’t fit comfortably with Confucianism.

Persecution of the White Lotus Society started during the Mongol Yuan Dynasty (1271 – 1368 AD), the first dynasty that was not led by the Han Chinese. Due to this, the White Lotus Society changed from one of peace and tranquility and organized protests to violence against the Mongol rulers.

Since Yuan Imperial authorities distrusted the White Lotus Society, the Dynasty banned them, and the White Lotus went underground.  The White Lotus predicted that a messianic, Christ like figure would come and save them from persecution. That man was Zhu Yuanzhang, a Buddhist monk.

The White Lotus led revolution started in 1352 near Guangzhou before Zhu Yuanzhang joined the rebellion. But soon, he became the leader by forbidding his soldiers to pillage in observance of White Lotus religious beliefs.

By 1355, the rebellion had spread through much of China. In 1356, Zhu Yuanzhang captured Nanjing and made it his capital. Then Confucian scholars issued pronouncements supporting Zhu’s claim of the Mandate of Heaven, the first step toward establishing a new dynasty.

Zhu Yuanzhang liberated China from the Mongols and became the founding Emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1643). Known as the Hongwu emperor, he was cruel, suspicious, and irrational, behavior that grew worse as he aged.

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.

#1 - Joanna Daneman review Updated August 26 - 2016_edited-2

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Marco Polo

October 5, 2016

As a child I was fascinated with Genghis Khan (1162 – 1227 A.D.) and his grandson Kublai Khan (1215 – 1294), who was the 5th Khagan (Great Khan of the Mongol Empire), and the 1st Emperor of the Yuan Dynasty in China (1271 – 1368).  He was the first non-native emperor to conquer all of China. This fascination is why I knew a little bit about Marco Polo. In fact, I’ve known about Marco Polo most of my life but not much detail about what he actually accomplished in China.

map-of-mongol-empire

Marco Polo lived in China for 17 years and loyally served Kublai Khan.  I’ve never seen the first television miniseries (8 episodes) originally broadcast by NBC in 1982, but I have watched season one of the recent Marco Polo series produced by Netflix.

Halfway through Seasons One’s Netflix series, I wanted to know how accurate this fascinating interpretation of Marco Polo’s life in China was and did some digging with help from Google.

In the Bonus material for the 1st season, there’s a thirty-eight minute documentary that I recommend watching before starting the episodes, so you have a better idea of who Marco was and what he did in China.  That way you won’t have to do what I did. Watching the documentary will help you separate fact from fiction while watching the series. I didn’t know about the documentary until I finished watching the episodes.

What I found interesting when I did my research about Marco’s years in China (1275 – 1292) was the show’s ratings on Rotten Tomatoes.  The thirty-three critics gave the show a rating of 4.7 out of 10, but the audience of 2,162 gave the show a rating of 9 out of 10. It was easy for me to side with the audience.

I bought the DVDs for Marco Polo Season 1 from Amazon where it has 4.6 of 5 stars from the 90 customer reviews.

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 Eunuch Who Beat Columbus by Almost 90 Years

October 4, 2016

The New York Times reported, “The Chinese map, which was drawn in 1763 but has a note on it saying it is a reproduction of a map dated 1418, presents the world as a globe with all the major continents rendered with an exactitude that European maps did not have for at least another century, after Columbus, Da Gama, Magellan, Dias and others had completed their renowned explorations.”

The voyages of Chinese Admiral Zheng He’s armada were rediscovered in Fujian province in the 1930s. The story was etched in a pillar. By the final, seventh voyage, the fleet had covered over 50,000 kilometers or 30,000 miles and was comprised of three hundred ships and 28,000 men.

But when the Yongle Emperor died in 1424, China’s Hongxi Emperor stopped the voyages of China’s largest fleet. – BBC

A century later, about 1529, another Ming Emperor burned all records of the fleet. This decision to withdraw from the world may have resulted in China not being ready to confront the Western Imperial powers that arrived in the 19th century starting the Opium Wars that devastated China leading to a century of war and unrest.

For a comparison, Christopher Columbus set sale in 1492 with 3 small ships and 88 men. Erik the Red, a Viking explorer, also crossed the Atlantic in even smaller ships to build a settlement in Greenland around 1,000 AD. Some archeologists suggest that the Phoenicians may have reached the Americas before the Vikings and Columbus around 500 BC. Some even say as early as 1500 to 1200 BC.

Columbia.edu says, “From 1405 until 1433, the Chinese imperial eunuch Zheng He led seven ocean expeditions for the Ming emperor that are unmatched in world history.” To learn more about the seven voyages, click the link in this paragraph.

In fact, many layers of myth surround China’s ancient mariner. According to Kenyan lore, some of his shipwrecked sailors survived and married local women in Africa. DNA tests have reportedly shown evidence of Chinese ancestry and a young Kenyan woman, Mwamaka Shirafu, was given a scholarship to study Chinese medicine in China.

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.

#1 - Joanna Daneman review Updated August 26 - 2016_edited-2

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Jack London Accused of Racism after Visiting China in 1904

September 6, 2016

The experiences Jack London (1876 – 1916) had in Korea and China in 1904 led to an essay and a story that ignited a debate that he was a racist. At the time, London also took photographs during the Russo-Japanese War in Korea and Manchuria.

He wrote the The Unparalleled Invasion, which takes place in a fictional 1975, when the West decides to destroy China (for no good reason) by using biological warfare.

London’s 1904 essay, The Yellow Peril, contributed to the claim that he was a racist. Using Google, I found sites that support this theory.

The New World Encyclopedia says, “Many of Jack London’s short stories are notable for their empathetic portrayal of Mexicans (The Mexican), Asian (The Chinago), and Hawaiian (Koolau the Leper) characters. But, unlike Mark Twain, Jack London did not depart from the views that were the norm in American society in his time, and he shared common Californian concerns about Asian immigration and ‘the yellow peril’ (which he actually used as the title of an essay he wrote in 1904; on the other hand, his war correspondence from the Russo-Japanese War, as well as his unfinished novel “Cherry,” show that he greatly admired much about Japanese customs and capabilities.”

In addition, Jack London, Photographer (ISBN 978-0-8203-2967-3) by Jeanne Campbell Reesman, Sara S. Hodson and Philip Adam is a beautiful book showing that London had talent beyond writing stories such as White Fang or Call of the Wild.

On page 57, the caption says, “London had his camera confiscated in Japan and was often detained by Japanese officials when he got too close to the front lines, especially as the war spread to the Yalu River, the boundary between Korea and Manchuria.”

After seeing the pictures in Jack London, Photographer, it’s difficult to believe he was a racist. There have also been rumors that London committed suicide, but there’s no evidence to support that theory either.

If London were a racist, why did his Japanese servant Tokinosuke Sekine stay loyal to the end even after London was bankrupt and his ‘fair weather’ friends had abandoned him?

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.

A1 on June 22 - 2016 Cover Image with BLurbs to promote novel

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Mao as a Complicated Man

August 2, 2016

Mao was fifty-six when he became China’s leader and seventy-two at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution. But who was Mao for the other fifty-five years before he ruled China?

Many outside of China only think of Mao Zedong (1893 – 1976) as a brutal dictator, but he was more than that.

For instance, as a child, his father was a stern disciplinarian who beat him and his three siblings often, and Mao became an avid reader.

And while commanding the Red Army during The Long March (1934-1935), he was a man respected by China’s peasants. Then there was Mao’s move away from Communist Russia after Nixon’s visit to China in 1972, when Mao said to Nixon, “Our common old friend, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, doesn’t approve of this.”

In 1935, Mao’s poem, “The Long March”, reveals an awareness of the sacrifice and the willingness to suffer to accomplish great things.

The Red Army fears not the trials of the March,
Holding light ten thousand crags and torrents.
The Five Ridges wind like gentle ripples
And the majestic Wumeng roll by, globules of clay.
Warm the steep cliffs lapped by the waters of Golden Sand,
Cold the iron chains spanning the Tatu River.
Minshan’s thousand li of snow joyously crossed,
The three Armies march on, each face glowing.

Mao was a complex man, and it wasn’t until after the failure of the The Great Leap Forward (1958 – 1961) that the fatal attraction and power of leadership corrupted him leading to the horrors of The Cultural Revolution (1966 – 1976), that Mao’s many critics outside of China use to define him.

Anyone who follows all of Mao’s life instead of relying on his last decade would understand that he cared deeply about the common people while punishing the landowners and wealthy, who abused the people he cared about.  On the other hand, his foe, Chiang Kai-shek, supported the landowners and wealthy while crushing the peasants and workers, but few outside of China condemn this brutal dictator who was a U.S. ally.

Mao Zedong Poems reveals what Mao might have been thinking about as President Johnson increased America’s involvement in Vietnam. Was Mao also warning us of what he was about to do in 1966, when he launched The Cultural Revolution?

Two Birds: A Dialogue (1965)

The roc wings fanwise,
Soaring ninety thousand li
And rousing a raging cyclone.
The blue sky on his back, he looks down
To survey Man’s world with its towns and cities.
Gunfire licks the heavens,
Shells pit the earth.
A sparrow in his bush is scared stiff..
“This is one hell of a mess!
O I want to flit and fly away.”
“Where, may I ask?”
The sparrow replies,
“To a jewelled palace in elfland’s hills.
Don’t you know a triple pact was signed
Under the bright autumn moon two years ago?
There’ll be plenty to eat,
Potatoes piping hot,
Beef-filled goulash.”
“Stop your windy nonsense!
Look, the world is being turned upside down.”

Through Mao’s poetry, we learn more about the man beyond the demonized stereotype created in the media outside of China.

And Do the Chinese People Currently Consider Mao Zedong to Be Evil or a Hero. In Forbes, Kaiser Kuo writes, “If I were forced to say there’s a dominant view of Mao among mainlanders, it would be that Mao was ‘good’ up until the very early 1950s — before the Anti-Rightist Campaign got into full swing, and before he set China on a course toward collectivization. Whether or not these beliefs can be supported by fact, it’s widely believed among Chinese that Mao led the Communist Party and its Red Army in effective resistance against the Japanese invaders; that they represented a morally superior vision over that offered by the Guomindang (the Nationalist Party) — a vision that championed egalitarianism, feminism, anti-imperialism, anti-feudalism, nationalism; and that they allowed China to ‘stand up’ after a century of abject humiliation beginning with the Opium War. After 1949, land redistribution and the Marriage Law (which was, by any measure, a very progressive piece of legislation) won them plaudits too.”

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.

#1 - Joanna Daneman review posted June 19 2014

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What do Moses and China’s Yellow Emperor have in Common?

July 20, 2016

On Tuesday, July 19, in Is 3,799 years old enough for you we learned about the discovery of China’s oldest known dynasty and the myth of the Yellow Emperor.  In this post I link Moses with the Yellow Emperor.

“And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. And Mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.”  Exodus 19:17, 18

What about China’s Yellow Emperor? Bellaonline.com reports, “Then one day, a yellow dragon descended from the sky to take the Yellow Emperor back to heaven …. Myth says, he ruled for a hundred years before leaving.”

In China no one knows for certain where the Yellow Emperor was from. … He was known as the Yellow Emperor in honor of his contributions to agriculture and the Chinese calendar. In addition to farming, his wife, Lei Zu, is credited with developing the idea of growing silkworms and creating silk. The Yellow Emperor is also noted as the creator of Chinese medicine, and the origins of Taoism and Confucianism trace their roots back to this mythical Emperor.

In addition, consider that the Biblical Moses (1393 – 1273 BC) and the Yellow Emperor were both on Earth about the same time.

Was the Old Testament’s description in Exodus a space ship landing on Mount Sinai, and is the Yellow Emperor returning to heaven on what sounds like another space ship a myth or reality?

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.

A1 on June 22 - 2016 Cover Image with BLurbs to promote novel

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