The Tao of Meditation: Part 3 of 3

October 19, 2017

I wonder what happened to all of China’s mediating Buddhists and Taoists during Mao’s Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Did they go underground like Anchee Min’s mother who became a closet Catholic that only prayed when her three children slept? During China’s Cultural Revolution, no one could be trusted, not even your children.

Most people don’t change who they are regardless of what the rich and/or powerful want, so it is obvious that if being a Buddhist or Taoist and meditating could get you denounced, you will find a way to practice what you think when no one else notices what you are doing.

Until Communism appeared, religion and the state were often closely linked. In the imperial era, the emperor was regarded as divine; political institutions were believed to be part of the cosmic order; and Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism were incorporated in different ways into political systems and social organizations.

U.S. History.org reports, “Taoism and Confucianism have lived together in China for well over 2,000 years. Confucianism deals with social matters, while Taoism concerns itself with the search for meaning. They share common beliefs about man, society, and the universe, although these notions were around long before either philosophy.”

During the Cultural Revolution, the teenage Red Guard did not discriminate against particular religions. They were against them all. They ripped crosses from church steeples, forced Catholic priests into labor camps, tortured Buddhist monks in Tibet and turned Muslim schools into pig slaughterhouses. Taoists, Buddhists and Confucians were singled out as vestiges of the Old China and forced to change or else.

However, after Mao died in 1976, China, under Deng Xiaoping lifted the ban on religious teaching, and since the mid-1980s there has been a huge program to rebuild the Buddhist and Taoist temples that were torn down by the teenage Red Guard.

In addition, in December 2004, China’s central government announced new rules that guaranteed religious beliefs as a human right.

According to an article in The People’s Daily, “As China has more than 100 million people believing in religion, so the protection of religious freedom is important in safeguarding people’s interests and respecting and protecting human rights.”

In March 2005, religion was enshrined in China as a basic right of all citizens, but worship outside of approved religions remains forbidden. There are five religions recognized by China’s government: Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism. There are also a few Jewish Synagogues: two in Beijing, two in Shanghai, and five in Hong Kong.

Since the end of the Cultural Revolution with Mao’s death, it was safe to meditate again without the threat of fear getting in the way of an individual’s search for inner harmony.

Return to Part 2 or start with Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Blame the British for China and India’s Border Problems

October 3, 2017

In August 2017, The New York Times reported China Tells India That It Won’t Back Down in Border Dispute. “China’s military has warned India not to underestimate its resolve to hold a mountainous piece of land at the heart of a standoff between the two Asian powers. … Beijing defending its claim to the 34 square miles of disputed land at a corner where China, India and the small kingdom of Bhutan meet. India does not claim the land but says it has been acting on behalf of Bhutan.”

So far, no shots have been fired, but this isn’t the first time India has had border conflicts, and the world can probably blame the British Empire for this problem that never seems to go away.

In the 19th century, with the reckless stoke of a pen or pencil, British Explorer McMahon drew the borders on maps that created India, and due to this, International Border Consultants reports, “India has had border disputes/wars with China, Nepal, and Pakistan.”

What’s interesting is that before the British Empire established the Raj, Victorian Web.org says India wasn’t a country, and no Chinese government was included in the changes McMahon made to the borders between Tibet and India.

When McMahon drew those borders for India, the Qing Dynasty like the Yuan and Ming Dynasties before it considered Tibet part of China.

In 1947, soon after the end of World War II, India gained its independence from Britain, and the Indian government refused to negotiate with China over land that had once been part of Tibet, but after 1949, Mao’s government told India that some of the land behind the McMahon line in India had been part of Tibet and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) wanted it back.

For the next thirteen years, China and India had a series of diplomatic conversations about this boundary issue. Zhou Enlai, the first prime minister of the PRC, attempted to convince Jawaharlal Nehru to resolve the boundary issue peacefully.

With the failure of peaceful negotiations, Chinese troops were sent to the McMahon Line.

India’s Nehru government repeatedly rejected China’s requests to negotiate the border dispute over the McMahon Line. Instead, the Indian army built bases and outposts in the disputed area while Chinese troops strengthened their defenses on their side of the disputed border.

Then India sent patrols into territory occupied by China and some of its troops were captured. In the next move, on June 4, 1962, Indian troops built fortified outposts deep in the disputed territory.

On September 8, 1962, Chinese troops surrounded the Indian outposts to stop further advances.

Chinese intelligence reported that the Indian army would soon attack due to India’s Seventh Brigade being deployed to launch Operation Leghorn. On October 9, Indian troops crossed the river between the two armies and attacked Chinese positions.

The resulting battle caused the Indian Seventh Brigade to collapse and large numbers of Indian troops surrendered and were taken prisoner by the Chinese. Chinese troops counterattacked and crossed the river pushing south as the Indian troops retreated faster than the Chinese army could advance.

To stop the Chinese, the Indian army sent four brigades to set up defensive positions along the only mountain road leading south through the rugged mountainous terrain, and India was planning to launch an assault on the Chinese army.

In a risky flanking maneuver, the Chinese sent 1,500 troops along a dangerous mountain trail to attack India’s Army in the rear and cut them in half. The move succeeded.

India’s Sixty-second Brigade collapsed the first day, and India’s Sixty-fifth Brigade abandoned their positions without a fight. News of the Indian army’s defeat reached New Delhi, and the people panicked causing large numbers of refugees to flee south.

China declared a unilateral cease-fire.

India’s army in their haste to retreat had left their weapons behind, but Chinese troops gathered the weapons and returned them to India along with the Indian troops that were POWs.

China’s next move was to withdraw its troops to the border it claimed to keep only the disputed territory. Similar to the Korean Conflict, that brief conflict ended without a treaty.

Since that 1962 war, China and India have continued to argue about sections of the border, which includes a portion of Kashmir and the eastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.

Another area in dispute is Ladakh. For centuries, Ladakh was an independent kingdom but is now part of India but with obvious cultural links with China.

In Ladakh, no one knows where India ends and China begins. China and India still share the biggest stretch of disputed border in the world divided by Nepal and Bhutan from Arunachal Pradesh in the south to Kashmir in the north.

The Indian army keeps a heavy military presence on India’s side of the border in Ladakh. Once again, India is not interested in negotiating a peaceful settlement.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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The Amazing Story of Pu-Erh Tea: Part 3 of 3

September 28, 2017

The fermentation of Pu-Erh tea demands a perfect mix of water, moisture, and air. This provides the conditions for the development of microbes and the necessary fermentation.

The fermentation process produces a substance called theaflavin often called the soft-gold of tea.

Clinical experiments show that theaflavin reduces blood fat and cardiovascular disease among other benefits.

In animal experiments, the mice fed theaflavin had their blood fat reduced by 30% compared to the control group’s 10% blood fat reduction.

Due to the process of producing Pu-Erh, the tea may be stored as long as a century without losing its flavor or health enhancing benefits.

The 110-days of fermentation for Pu-Erh is important to achieve the best flavor and enhanced, health benefits. The time must not be shortened. The temperature and humidity must also be stable and many warehouses are built partially underground to achieve this.

Pu-Erh got its name because it was first sold in a town by the same name.

I buy my Pu-Erh tea from Whole Foods Market or Sprouts Farmers Market, and I drink it early in the morning during my hour of exercise that ends with ten minutes of focused meditation.

Return to Part 2 or start with Part 1

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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The Amazing Story of Pu-Erh Tea: Part 2 of 3

September 27, 2017

Pu-Erh tea is mellowed by aging, the period by which it is transported and stored.

The largest, tallest tea trees in the world grow in the mountains of Yunnan. This region also produces black, green, Oolong and other varieties of tea.

The leaves for Pu-Erh tea are divided into three sizes, and the largest contain most of the health benefits.

For centuries, the process of making tea from picking, to washing, to boiling, mixing, pressing, clustering, baking, and packing has been improved to enhance the flavor.

Dao Linyin, the governor of Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous region in China says, “Pu-Erh tea contains many vitamins. Very few Pu-Erh drinkers get high blood pressure.”

Standards for selecting the thickest broad leaves for Pu-Erh tea means only about 30% of the tea leaves that are picked pass inspection to be processed into the final product. This selection process is important because the wrong leaves will have a negative impact on the fermentation process.

The fermentation step in the process of producing Pu-Erh tea takes 110-days.

Continued on September 28, 2017 in Part 3 or return to Part 1

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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The Amazing Story of Pu-Erh Tea: Part 1 of 3

September 26, 2017

The Chinese Tea Shop says, “The history of Pu-Erh Tea can be traced back to “Pu Tea” of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 CE) with the drying of leaves in the sun in Yunnan province. The plants in this region have large, soft leaves spaced far apart on large, tough stems. Today, Pu-Erh Tea with “large wild leaves” is highly prized.”

The mountainous region of southwest China in Yunnan Province produces this special tea.

The custom with Pu-Erh is to pick new tea and drink old tea. This refers to a practice unique for Pu-Erh tea of aging it in storage to obtain the unique flavor. The tea leaves are stored in a pile where the natural enzymatic breakdown process of fermentation begins. This creates heat and cooks the leaves adding a highly-prized complexity, depth, and smoothness to the tea.

In addition, modern science has recognized Pu-Erh for its health benefits beyond black tea. “The Pharmacological Elements: Vitamins B1, B2, C, and E, potassium, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, aluminum, lysine, arginine, histidine, and cystine, linoleic and linolenic acids and  trace amounts of zinc, sodium, nickel, iron, beryllium, sulfur, and fluorides.”

In 225 A.D., when China was divided into the three kingdoms of Wei, Shu, and Wu, the prime minister of Shu led a military expedition to Yunnan.

Historical records reveal that many of the Shu troops came down with eye diseases. After they drank boiled Pu-Erh tea, it was reported that the troops were cured.

The leaves for this tea were from tea trees in Yunnan. Over time, tea drinking for health benefits became a tradition in other areas of China including Tibet.

There is an old saying in Tibet. “Better three days without food than a day without tea.” Historical records show that Tibetans started drinking tea during the Tang Dynasty (618-906 AD) in 641.

Tibet does not grow tea trees, so the famous Tea Horse Road from Tibet to Yunnan was opened. Over the centuries, Tibet traded thousands of horses with China for tea.

In the early 19th century, Emperor Daoguang named Pu-Erh tea as a “Divine Tribute to the Kingdom of Heaven”.

Continued on September 27, 2017, in Part 2

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Feminism Flourished in China almost Fourteen Hundred Years Ago

September 13, 2017

Britannica Concise Encyclopedia says Feminism is a social movement that seeks equal rights for women.

The dates Britannica throws out for the age of feminist are the Enlightenment, a European intellectual movement of the 17th and 18th centuries, and the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention in the United States that called for full legal equality with men.

Merriam-Webster’s definition for feminism is the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes and organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests.

For centuries Western women were treated as chattel, the property of men. History 120 says, “Most Americans treated married women according to the concept of coverture, a concept inherited from English common law. Under the doctrine of coverture, a woman was legally considered the chattel of her husband, his possession. Any property she might hold before her marriage became her husband’s on her wedding day, and she had no legal right to appear in court, to sign contracts or to do business.”

Female Emperor Wu Zetian (625 to 705 AD) was a very early feminist who ruled the Tang Dynasty as an emperor and was China’s only woman emperor.

Women in World History says the Tang Dynasty was a time of relative freedom for women. Women would not bind their feet for a few more centuries or live submissive lives. It was a time in which a number of exceptional women contributed in the areas of China’s culture and politics.

Wu Zetian demanded the right of an emperor and kept male concubines. She also challenged Confucian beliefs against rule by women and started a campaign to elevate the position of women.

After watching the video and reading the entry in Britannica and the definition in Merriam-Webster, it’s obvious that feminism was alive and well in China more than a thousand years ago during the Tang Dynasty.

In fact, in the United States, It wasn’t until August 18, 1920, that the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granted American women the right to vote, a right known as woman suffrage. At the time the U.S. was founded, its female citizens did not share all of the same rights as men, including the right to vote.

After Wu Zetian, women lost the freedom she had given them, but it was returned in 1952 when Mao said women hold up half the sky meaning that women were equal to men.

Before Mao’s victory in 1949, Chinese women were considered of less value than animals. Not only were they actual slaves in their husband’s house, but they were bought and sold like merchandise. The poor and hired peasant women were traded with the land any time a landlord sold his property. Faced with failing crops, families were often forced to sell female infants and girls as concubines, child brides and servants to wealthy families in order for the rest of the family to survive the winter.

Another of Mao’s slogans said, “Any job a man can do, a woman can do.”

This marked the entrance of Chinese women into jobs that had formerly been forbidden to them – everything from crane operators to heart surgeons. The policies adopted by the people ensured equal pay for equal work. No longer do Chinese women do the same jobs as men and get paid half the wages for it.

However, in the U.S. the alleged land of the free with more people in prison than any other country on the planet, the Equal Rights Amendment still hasn’t passed.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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An Erhu Master Captures a violent slice of China’s history

September 5, 2017

To understand another country’s history and culture, one should listen to its music, read that country’s novels, and see its films.

For instance, Reflection of the Moon about Ah Bing (1893 – 1950), a master of the Chinese Erhu, who in 1950, shortly before his death, became a national sensation as radios throughout China started to play his music.

Fortunate for me, this Chinese film had English subtitles, but were not the best quality and true to form for a Chinese movie filmed in 1979 (shortly after the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976), the plot was melodramatic with traces of propaganda that favored the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

However, to be fair, the brutal Civil War between the Communist and Nationalist Parties raged from 1927 – 1950 (with a short break during World War II to fight the Japanese invaders), and the CCP, with support from several hundred million peasants, won.

Mao’s Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution would not begin for years and for those that survived the purges in 1949 and 1950 (the victims were allegedly abusive land owners and drug dealers accused of crimes by the people they allegedly abused and victimized), Mao fulfilled his promise of land reform. Many of the landowners lost their lives, and the land they had owned was divided among the peasants collectively and not individually.

To understand the era of Ah Bing’s life, much of China (including Tibet) was still feudal in nature, and the upper classes often took advantage of the peasants and workers as if they were beasts of burden treated as slaves. At the time of his death, he was 57, and the average lifespan in China was 35. Today the average lifespan is 75.5 years.

Ah Bing’s real name was Hua Yanjun. His knowledge of traditional Chinese music and his talent as a musician went mostly unnoticed until the last year of his life in 1950, shortly after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China.

In 1950, two musicologists were sent to his hometown of Wuxi to record and preserve his music. At the time, he was ill and hadn’t performed for about two years. Six of his compositions that are considered masterpieces were recorded by those musicologists. It is said that he knew more than 700 pieces and most of them were his compositions.

The lyrics of some of his music criticized the KMT (Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist government), and he was often punished for speaking out through his music. If you have read of The Long March, you know that the peasants did not trust the KMT, but they did trust the Communists, and most rural Chinese from that era still think of Mao as China’s George Washington.

Before the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, China’s Communist Party treated the peasants and workers with respect while the KMT didn’t.

China Daily reported that Ah Bing’s story and music is still popular, and that the Performing Arts Company of China’s Air Force performed Er Quan Yin, an original Western-style Chinese opera, in 2010. The performance was “Based on the story of legendary Chinese erhu performer, Hua Yanjun, or Blind Ah Bing, the opera tells the story of an erhu performer, Ah Quan and his adopted daughter Ah Li, who struggle to make a living in the 1950s.”

Discover Anna May Wong, the American actress who died a thousand times.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

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