Buddhism’s Arrival and Influence in China

June 6, 2017

Siddartha Guatama, an Indian Prince, became the Buddha in the 6th century BC. Recorded history says Buddhism first arrived in China about four hundred years later more than two centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ.

After the Buddha died, tradition says that Buddhism split into difference sects. Christianity and Islam also split into two major branches that divided again several times over the centuries after the founders died.

Today Buddhism has about 379-million followers and is the world’s fifth largest religion.

The Bodhidharma was a Buddhist monk and a teacher who lived during the fifty and/or sixth century AD about twelve-hundred years after Buddha.

Britannica.com says, “The accounts of Bodhidharma’s life are largely legendary, and historical sources are practically nonexistent. Two very brief contemporary accounts disagree on his age (one claiming that he was 150 years old, the other depicting him as much younger) and nationality (one identifies him as Persian, the other as South Indian). The first biography of Bodhidharma was a brief text written by the Chinese monk Daoxuan (flourished 7th century) about a century after Bodhidharma’s death.”

The Buddhist monk Bodhidharma was known as Da Mo in China.

Da Mo establishes the Shaolin Temple as the birthplace of Zen and the Martial Arts. In ancient China, bandits and thieves were widespread and Buddhist temples were vulnerable to attack. The Da Mo taught a fighting system for the monks to defend themselves, and it proved successful. Over time, the Buddhist Shaolin style of martial arts evolved to what it is today.

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Forbidden City Secrets Reveal Tibet’s Long Ties to China

May 31, 2017

I was surprised while reading The Last Secrets of the Forbidden City Head to the U.S. by Auston Ramzy.

I was surprised that evidence like this slipped past the Western media censors — sorry, it is politically incorrect to say that there are media censors in America. In the United States, the censors are editors that work for huge autocratic, for-profit media corporations.

The Time Magazine piece Ramzy wrote was about an exhibit traveling to the United States with treasures from the Forbidden City that have not been seen since 1924.

Ramzy wrote, “Many of the 18th-century objects that will be displayed are symbols of the emperor’s devout Buddhism. They include a hanging panel filed with niches that hold intricate figurines of Buddhas, deities and historical teachers from the Tibetan Buddhist sect to which [Emperor] Qianlong belonged.”

I didn’t know the powerful Qianlong Emperor followed the teachings of Buddhists from Tibet. There are four Buddhist sects in Tibet. The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of one of the four, the Yellow Hat sect.

Why would the Qianlong Emperor belong to a Tibetan sect of Buddhism if Tibet were not considered part of China? In fact, Tibetan Buddhist monks traveled to the capital of China to serve the emperors.

China considered Tibet a vassal state or tributary.  In fact, starting in the 13th century, Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasty troops are known to have occupied Lhasa.

In fact, the October 1912 National Geographic Magazine describes how the Imperial government in Beijing managed a difficult Tibet, and I’ve mentioned letters Sir Robert Hart wrote in the 19th century that also mention Tibet as part of China.

In 1890, a Convention between Great Britain and China was signed that offers more evidence that China’s emperor considered Tibet part of his realm and Great Britain agreed. Tibet is mentioned twenty-nine times in this treaty.

Tibet declared freedom from China in 1913 after about seven-hundred years of occupation soon after the Qing Dynasty collapsed and China fell into chaos and anarchy while warlords fought over the spoils. Tibet did this because the British Empire convinced the Dalai Lama to break from China.

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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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Tibet’s Democracy that Never Was and Never Will Be

April 11, 2017

There are many misleading claims about Tibet. To understand what I mean, Google “Tibet’s Democracy in Exile,” but the historical facts support that Tibet has never been a republic and/or a democracy in its entire history.

One example of a misleading media report said, “Being a Tibetan in exile is a loss that manifests in many forms: the loss of homeland and natural rights fall within that.”

What were the natural rights that were lost?

Most Tibetans in exile (about one-percent of the total Tibetan population) gave up their rights and about ninety-nine percent of the population known as serfs that were often treated no better than slaves. The serfs were left behind as the one-percent who owned the land and held the wealth fled.

Before 1950, when Mao’s Red army reoccupied Tibet for China, there had been no democracy or republic in Tibet in its entire history.

The following quotes show us what Tibet was like before 1950.

“Lamaism is the state religion of Tibet and its power in the Hermit Country is tremendous. Religion dominated every phase of life. … For instance, in a family of four sons, at least two, generally three, of them must be Lamas. Property and family prestige also naturally go with the Lamas to the monastery in which they are inmates.

“Keeping the common people or laymen, in ignorance is another means of maintaining the power of the Lamas. Nearly all of the laymen (serfs) are illiterate. Lamas are the only people who are taught to read and write.”  – October 1912 National Geographic Magazine, page 979.

Under theocratic Lamaism, there was no freedom of religion, no freedom of speech, and no one voted.

Between 1912, when those words appeared in National Geographic, and 1950, Tibet did not change. The only difference was that there was no Chinese governor in Tibet appointed by the Emperor and supported by Chinese troops.

If the majority of Tibetans want to have self-rule, there’s nothing wrong with supporting a separatist movement as long as you know all of the accurate historical facts.

After all, there are at least eight known and active separatist movements in the United States: for instance, the Alaska Independence Party; Hawaiian sovereignty movement; Lakotah Oyate; Puerto Rico Independence Party; League of the South; Texas Secession Movement; Second Vermont Republic, and the Cascadia Independence Movement.

In fact, Tibetans have about the same odds to be free from China as Hawaiians and the Lakota Sioux have of being free of the United States.

It is a historical fact that a reluctant Tibet was ruled over by the Yuan (Mongol), Ming (Han) and Qing (Manchu) Dynasties from 1277 to 1913, when Great Britain convinced Tibet to break from China at the same time the Qing Dynasty was collapsing. Between 1913 and 1950, Tibet was ruled by a Dalai Lama and was an autocratic theocracy, not a democracy. In case you don’t know, a theocracy is a system of government in which priests rule in the name of God or a god. In Tibet’s case, his holiness the Dalai Lama is often called a “God-King”.

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The Complex History of Buddhism

November 1, 2016

Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha, lived in the 5th or 6th Century B.C. He was born in Nepal and his father was the king of the Sakya people.  After he attained enlightenment at the age of thirty-five, Buddha preached the Dharma in an effort to help others reach enlightenment too.

Unlike the other major religions, Buddhism does not have a god like the Christian, Jewish or Islamic God.  Buddha is not a deity or supreme being. The Buddha believed that religious ideas and especially the god concept have their origin in fear.

Several centuries later during the Han Dynasty in the first century B.C., trade with Central Asia introduced Buddhism to China.  Over the centuries, interest in Buddhism grew.  However, due to Confucianism and Taoism, the Chinese adapted Buddhist scripture to fit the Chinese culture creating the Mahayana sect that spread to Korea and Japan.

Like most major religions, there are subdivisions within Buddhism but most may be classified into three. This is why Southeast Asian Buddhists differ from the Chinese.  The Theravada form of Buddhism is found in Southeast Asia in countries like Burma, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.

Tibetan Buddhism incorporates other beliefs, and there are four principal schools or types of Tibetan Buddhism. The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of one of the four, the Yellow Hat sect.

Buddhism in China reached its high point during the Tang Dynasty, 618 to 907. However, in 845 AD, the Tang emperor suppressed Buddhism and destroyed thousands of monasteries, temples and shrines.

Soon after Mao and the Communists won China’s Civil War with the Nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek, Buddhism flourished for a time but was repressed during the Cultural Revolution (1966 – ‘76) along with all other religions. Many monasteries and Buddhist texts were destroyed. After Mao died in 1976, many of the major monasteries were rebuilt under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping.

In 2012, the Pew Research Center reported there were about 488 million Buddhists worldwide, and about 244 million, half, are in China.

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Trading Tea for Tibetan Horses

October 26, 2016

Many have heard of or read about the Silk Road between China and Europe, but I think few have heard of the ancient Tea Horse Road (also known as the Tea-Horse Trade Route), which I first read about in the May 2010 issue of National Geographic Magazine (NGM).

Legend says that tea from China arrived in Tibet as early as the Tang Dynasty (618- 906 A.D.). After that, the Chinese traded tea for horses, as many as 25,000 horses annually.

Zhang Yun writes, at The Wandering.com, “Horses obtained from the tea-horse trade between the Song Dynasty and Tibetans could be classified into two kinds: one were good horses from Gansu and Qinghai and Tibet’s Nagqu by way of the tea-horse trade, which could serve as warhorses; the other was horses given as tribute, most of which came by the Sichuan-Tibet Route or from various areas in the southwest. Most of these, however, could only be used as farm horses …”

But that isn’t what struck me the most about the NGM piece. It’s the example that demonstrated why most if not all Chinese peasants loved and possibly worshiped Mao Tse-Tung.

For more than a thousand years, men fed their families by carrying hundreds of pounds of tea on their backs across the rugged mountains into Lhasa. Some froze and died in blizzards. Others fell to their deaths from the narrow switchbacks that climbed to the clouds.

This all ended in 1949 when Mao had a road built to Tibet and farmland was redistributed from the wealthy to the poor. During China’s long Civil War, Mao promised land reforms to the landless peasants who were no better than slaves for the few who owned most of the land and wealth.

“It was the happiest day of my life,” said Luo Yong Fu, a 92-year-old dressed in a black beret and a blue Mao jacket, whom the author of the National Geographic piece met in the village of Changheba.

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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Over a thousand years of Buddhist History Hidden at Dunhuang

August 3, 2016

The first time I heard about Dunhuang in China’s Gobi desert, I was attending a seminar conducted by Dr. Vincent Yip. Dr. Yip is an accomplished photojournalist who taught a Silk Road course at Stanford in addition to his courses about Marketing to more than 1.3 Billion Customers in China and Asia.

The June 2010 issue of National Geographic had a piece about the history of the Mogao caves near Dunhuang, a Silk Road oasis in northwestern China.

The Buddhist art found in almost 800 hand carved caves are considered among the world’s finest. There is nearly a half-million square feet of wall space decorated with these murals and more than 2,000 sculptures.


Between the fourth and 14th centuries AD—over a thousand years of history was documented on scrolls, sculptures and wall paintings revealing a multicultural world more vibrant than anyone imagined.

Contrary to popular belief and the Dalai Lama’s soft-spoken words of peace, Buddhism, like all large religious movements, has had a bloody and violent history depicted in the picture on page 145 of the National Geographic that shows an eighth-century heavenly armored guard with bulging eyes trampling a foreign demon.

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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What does it mean to Eat Bitterness and be Asian in the United States?

December 8, 2015

On April 25, 2011, Nadra Kareem Nittle wrote, Are U.S. Universities Discriminating Against Asian Students? The answer to Nittle’s question was and still is YES.

In the US, since the Civil Rights era preferential treatment favored African-Americans and Latinos since Asian-Americans tend to swallow their bitterness instead of protesting violently as the other minorities have done.

For example, the NAACP says it fights for social justice for all Americans. However, facts demonstrate that the NAACP tends to favor legislation that focuses on benefits for African Americans. If this were not true, there would be no need for political organizations to serve Latinos and Asian-Americans.

In fact, Africana Online said, “The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has been instrumental in improving the legal, educational, and economic lives of African Americans.” There was no mention of the other minorities that suffer from racism in the U.S.

However, Latino Political Clout is growing in the U.S. to challenge the NAACP’s clout. The recent US Census indicated Latinos continue to become a larger ratio of the American population. With growing numbers will come political and social changes to the country.

But we know that the number of votes a minority such as African-Americans, Latinos and Asian-Americans deliver during an election results in political influence, and it’s obvious that blacks are winning when it comes to clout because a higher ratio of blacks vote than whites, Latinos and Asians.

For instance, in 2012, a larger percentage of blacks—66% of eligible black voters—voted than whites (64.1%). In contrast, Latino voters tend to turn out in slightly lower ratios than blacks or whites. Asians, on the other hand, are not voting like they could. According to Pew Research.org, only three in ten Asian American eligible voters cast ballots in midterm elections.

As demonstrated, Asian American political organizations have a long way to go to catch up to African-American and Hispanic or Latino political influence.

Is this because Asian and Chinese Americans are crippled by the influence of their cultures when it comes to increasing political influence in the U.S. since Chinese parents teach their children to eat bitterness?

In China, the tradition to “eat bitter” has been passed down from generation to generation. “Eat bitter” is a literal translation of Chinese "吃苦", which refers to endure hardship including discrimination without complaint or protest.

The 2014 Census 2014 census revealed that minority influence is not equal since there are about 42.1 million African-Americans, 55.5 million Hispanic or Latino Americans and only 17.1 million Asian Americans, who turn out to vote in lower ratios. Numbers count and it helps that Latinos and African-Americans do not eat bitterness like most Asians do.

I think that the Asian cultural aspect of “eating bitterness” has been influenced by Taoism, Buddhism and Confucius while in the West the warlike and often-violent religions of Christianity and Islam did not follow the same path.

______________________________

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 lusty love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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