Seven Amazing Places to Visit in China: 3 of 5

March 1, 2018

The Leshan Buddha

Everything about this Buddha is BIG. More than a thousand years old, it took almost a century to carve the Leshan Buddha from the solid rock cliff. The Buddha looks out over a river and legend says the rugged, unpredictable river sunk many boats drowning people until the Buddha was carved from the cliff.

It is thought that the rocks cut from the cliff while the Buddha was being constructed tumbled into the river and calmed the currents. However, today, air pollution as in acid rain from industry is threatening the Buddha. Maintaining the Buddha has become a challenge. About two million people visit each year.

Mount Wudang

To the Chinese, Mt. Wudang is the first mountain under heaven. Ornate palaces may be found on the mountain’s slopes. Temples, pavilions and bridges are all designed to harmonize with the landscape. This mountain is also the home of Wudang Kung Fu. A martial art that is still active today after seven hundred years. In Chinese terms, Wudang is a small town of 20,000 people that is a fascinating mix of tradition and modernity.

Continued with Part 4 on March 2, 2018, or return to 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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Seven Amazing Places to Visit in China: Part 2 of 5

February 28, 2018

The Hanging Monastery

Another popular tourist site is the fifteen-hundred-year-old wooden Hanging Monastery. The monastery is suspended fifteen stories above the valley floor on the side of a sheer cliff.  It is a mystery why the monastery was built there and why.

One reason might be the floods that once plagued the valley. Today, a dam controls the water. The monastery was built in an indentation in the cliff below an overhand.

What cannot be seen from the valley floor is the Hanging Monastery was built into the cliff’s face. More than forty caves and rooms were dug into the rock. This process allowed supports to be built into the cliff.  The thin wooden pillars are only there for decoration and were added in the last century.

The Great Wall

One of the world’s greatest treasures is the almost four-thousand mile Great Wall that took two-thousand years to complete.

The early great wall was made of layers of pressed earth and straw. The Qin Dynasty completed the first wall. The Han Dynasty extended the wall toward Mongolia. The Ming Dynasty built the wall stronger of stone and mortar. The Chinese used smoke and fire to send messages over long distances to warn of enemy attacks.

Continued with Part 3 on March 1, 2018, 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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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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Seven Amazing Places to Visit in China: Part 1 of 5

February 27, 2018

Xian, China’s first emperor, and his Terracotta Warriors

The first place is near Xian, which was the capital of thirteen of China’s dynasties.

In 1974, Chinese farmers digging a well near Xian discovered the first of the terracotta warriors guarding China’s first emperor, Shi Huangdi, of the Qin Dynasty (221 – 207 BC).

The terracotta warriors are one of China’s most popular tourist attractions. About 10 million tourists visit annually.  No two terracotta soldiers look alike.

The first emperor centralized the government, standardized the written language, currency, and weights and measures. With these changes, he created China’s national identity. Forcing hundreds of thousands of workers, he also had The Great Wall completed.

Most Chinese believe in the immortality of the spirit and life after death.

It is a tradition that most Chinese believe there is continuity between life and death, and people may take things with them for comfort in the spiritual world, which explains why the first emperor had such an elaborate tomb built.

Continued with Part 2 on February 28, 2018

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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China’s Ancient Capital that Served Twelve Dynasties

February 13, 2018

Most people outside China only know of Beijing (once called Peking) as the capital of China. However, another city was China’s capital for more than a thousand years, and there were others. The top five are: Xi’an (called Chang’an in ancient times), Beijing, Nanjing, Luoyang, and Kaifeng.

Chang’an (Xi’an) served as the capital for twelve dynasties, including the Western Zhou, Qin, Western Han, Sui and Tang dynasties, spanning more than eleven-hundred years. It was also the cultural center of the Silk Road.

To discover Chang’an’s long history also teaches us much about China’s civilization. Discovery Channel’s Neville Gishford said, “It (Han Chang’an) was more powerful than Rome. If any Roman army had actually gone there, they would have been absolutely annihilated.”

Han Chang’an was larger than Constantinople and richer than Egypt’s Alexandria. It was a fortress so powerful that even 20th-century artillery could not knock its walls down.

Today, Xi’an (once Chang’an) is home to almost nine million people and thousands of men made of clay, the Terra Cotta Warriors guarding China’s first emperor.

In addition, the massive city wall is more than six-hundred years old and longer than 12-kilometers. Cracks are appearing and an engineering team keeps close watch and makes repairs

However, the Xi’an of today was first built over two thousand years ago and has been three cities, not one. The Han Dynasty built the first city (Chang’an), which is located close to the modern city of Xi’an, and the old eroding walls of the Han Dynasty capital are still visible.

At 36 square kilometers, Han Chang’an was more than one-and-a-half-times the size of Rome.

Archaeologist Charles Higham, a world famous authority on ancient Asian cities, said, “A delegation of jugglers from Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180 AD), who is regarded as one of the greatest emperors in Roman history) traveled and performed in the Han Court of Chang’an.”

More than two thousand years ago, the walls of Chang’an (Xi’an) were made of rammed (compressed) earth and most of the city was built of kiln-fired clay bricks, which was a revolutionary building material at the time.

The builders of Han Chang’an used this new technology in revolutionary ways such as building an underground sewer system connected to the moat that surrounded the city.

From the Qin to the Tang Dynasty, 62 emperors ruled China from Chang’an. The China Daily says in and around Xi’an, there are about 500 burial mounds where the remains of emperors and aristocrats rest.

The largest tombs mark the passing of Emperors Qin Shi Huangdi (259 – 210 BC), Tang Gaozong (628 – 683 AD), and his wife Empress Tang Wu Zetian (624 – 705 AD).

The Daming Palace, where the Tang Emperors ruled China, was eight-hundred years older and nearly five times larger than Beijing’s Forbidden City. The Daming Palace was built in one year.

However, it wasn’t the Daming Palace that made Chang’an powerful. Long before Manhattan, Hong Kong, Paris, and Dubai, Chang’an was where the world came to shop.

Over a thousand years ago, the wealth of the West poured into China. But wealth wasn’t the only thing China gained. Several major religions were also introduced to China.

For instance, Islam was barely a hundred years old, when Silk Road traders brought this religion to Chang’an. Today’s Xi’an claims it has a Muslim history going back thirteen hundred years when Islam was first introduced to China in 650 AD.

In fact, the oldest mosque in China was built in 685-762 AD in Chang’an during the reign of Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty.

Although Christianity and Islam were both introduced to China during the Tang Dynasty, Buddhism has deeper roots since it first arrived in China from India about 200 BC.

Christianity arrived in China in 635 AD (more than eight hundred years after Buddhism and only a few years before Islam), when a Nestorian monk called Alopen reached the ancient capital city of Tang Chang’an.

During the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1643 AD), China isolated itself from the world by rebuilding the Great Wall and a string of impregnable fortresses to protect China’s heartland from Mongol invasion.

One of those fortresses was a new military city built on the ruins of Tang Chang’an, and the Ming named this city “Western Peace” that in Mandarin is “Xi’an”.

Xi’an was one-sixth the size of Tang Chang’an, but nearly six hundred years later,  Xi’an’s walls still stand representing the largest, best-preserved set of ancient defensive walls in the world.

History records that when the walls of this third city faced its first attack, they stood firm, but the attack took place from April – November in 1926. The 20th-century artillery rounds only dented the walls.

The newest enemy to Xi’an’s ancient walls comes from modernization and the millions of inhabitants of the city. As the water table below the city is sucked dry from too many people, this has caused the earth to sink, which is pulling down the walls, and engineers and scientists work to discover ways to save them.

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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Buddhism’s Journey to China

January 30, 2018

An Indian prince became the Buddha around the 6th Century BC, but Buddhism would not arrived in China for several centuries. The Buddha’s original name was Siddartha Guatama.

After he died, Buddhism split into two major branches that divided again several times over the centuries.

Today, Buddhism has almost 380-million followers and is the world’s fifth largest religion. Christianity is the largest with 2.4 billion followers. Islam is ranked #2 with 1.6 billion. Christianity and Islam also split into different sects after the founders died although Jesus Christ isn’t the real founder of Christianity. Jesus was a Jew and he died a Jew. There is no evidence that Jesus Christ wanted to launch a new religion that wasn’t Jewish. Hinduism (#3) has 1.15 billion followers with four-major sects.

The Bodhi-dharma was a Buddhist monk and a teacher who lived during the fifty and/or sixth century AD, more than a thousand years after Buddha died in India. The Bodhi-dharma traveled from India to China where he lived in a cave for 9 years.

A Sudden Dawn by Goran Powell is an epic historical fiction novel that opens with a young man named Sardili born in 507 AD to the Indian warrior caste. Sardili realizes that he would rather seek enlightenment than follow his family’s military legacy and he sets out on a life-long quest for truth and wisdom that leads him to China where he becomes the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma, 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.

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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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

Discover The Return of Confucious

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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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline


The Tao of Meditation: Part 2 of 3

October 18, 2017

I’ve been following an exercise routine for at least 18 years. Recently I added mind and body mediation to the physical exercise. When I mediate every day, I turn inward to link my mind and body.

What I think of when I think of Taoism is a story from Taoist tradition whose main image or metaphor is that of water that meets a rock in the river, and simply flows around it. Taoism suggests that a major source of our suffering is that we resist and try to control the natural movements of the world around us. The Tao literally means “The Way,” and it reminds us that the world is bigger than us, and we’ll enjoy it better if we humble ourselves to the natural flow of things.

You know. Go with the flow.

Taoism teaches that the physical body only contains the personality. There were rules for food, hygiene, breathing techniques and different forms of gymnastics, which were designed to suppress the causes of death and allow each follower to create an immortal body to replace the mortal one.

After the mortal body died, the immortal body went elsewhere to live.

About 200 AD, a Taoist scholar taught that virtue, avoidance of sin, confessions of sins and good works were the most important aspects and took precedence over diet and hygiene.

The difference from religions in the West was that Taoism did not have leaders on a national scale and was more like a federation of linked communities.

What I’ve discovered as I continue to meditation every morning after the physical exercise and before I start the day, is that I’m calmer throughout the day with little or no depression or doubts and with a lot less physical pain.

Continued in Part 3 on October 19, 2017, or return to Part 1

Discover The Return of Confucious

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.

Where to Buy

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”.

About iLook China

China’s Holistic Historical Timeline