What Makes China Different

December 4, 2019

One major difference is that most Chinese have NOT been seriously influenced by the politics and religious beliefs of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. The major influences of Chinese Culture come from Confucian and Taoist thought.

In fact, the former prime minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew thought that Western-style democracy is incompatible with Confucianism and that the latter constitutes a much more coherent ideological basis for a well-ordered Asian society than Western notions of individual liberty.

Confucianism and Taoism appeared in China almost nine hundred years before Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. It would take another three centuries before Christianity and Islam reached China, more than twelve hundred years after the 5th century BC when Confucian and Taoist thought was introduced to China.

The Jews arrived much later. Most scholars agree that a Jewish community existed in Kaifeng, China since the Northern Song Dynasty (960–1127 AD), though some date their arrival to the Tang Dynasty (618–907 AD), or earlier.

Buddhism arrived during the Han Dynasty, but by then China was already deeply Confucian and Taoist. Both have philosophies that focus on harmony and social order in society. Although Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism all mention harmony, too, the violence and wars caused by these religions have painted a wide bloody scar through history that continues today. You might be shocked to discover that Buddhists can be violent, too. If you are interested, I suggest you read A Short History of Violent Buddhism to learn more.

Confucius and many of his contemporaries were concerned about the state of turmoil, competition, and warfare between the feudal states. They sought philosophical and practical solutions to the problems of government — solutions that, they hoped, would lead to a restoration of unity and stability. – Columbia.edu

Taoism (also known as Daoism) is a Chinese philosophy attributed to Lao Tzu (c. 500 BCE) which contributed to the folk religion of the people primarily in the rural areas of China. Taoism focuses on the present – heaven and hell exist in how you connect to the present moment. On the other hand, Christianity teaches that heaven or hell happens after death.

Classroom.com says, “Taoism and Islam are very different in many ways. Religious Taoism is polytheistic, worshiping no single, omnipotent god, and instead venerating a pantheon of gods, many of whom have functional titles and roles. The Taoist classic text is the ‘Tao Te Ching.’ ‘Tao’ means, roughly, ‘the Way,’ and refers to both the ordering principle of the universe and to the gentle seeking of accommodation with it. … Islam says there is only one God, Allah.”

China like Singapore legally allows five religions, but only 200 million Chinese (14 percent of China’s population of 1.4 billion) practice Buddhism, Daoism, Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism.

According to Religion in China – By the Numbers, there are 44 million Christians and 20 million Muslims in China today. Combined, Islam and Christianity represent less than five percent of China’s population compared to the United States with the largest Christian population in the world, about 75 percent of its 320 million people.

The most widespread religion in China is a combination of Buddhism, Chinese folklore, Taoism and Confucianism. It is estimated that 800,000,000 Chinese follow this tradition that retains traces of its ancestral Neolithic belief system including the veneration of the Sun, Moon, Earth, Heaven and various stars, as well as communication with animals. Folk religion in China has been practiced alongside Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism by Chinese people for thousands of years.

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

About iLook China


The ancient Chinese concept of Hell after death

January 23, 2019

The Chinese have Dante beat. Dante only wrote about 9 circles of hell. The Chinese have eighteen levels. It makes sense in a gruesome way when you realize the Chinese also came up with a very slow and painful death by a thousand cuts, and then there’s the Chinese water torture. Where do you think the West came up for  waterboarding?

China Underground.com says, “Diyu, the Traditional Chinese Hell, based on Buddhism concept of Naraka, is an underground maze with various levels and chambers, where souls are taken after death to atone for the sins they committed when they were alive.”

Buddhism originated in India and when it arrived in China, it brought eighteen levels of hell with it. Over time, this belief spread across China.

Taoism, Buddhism, and traditional Chinese folk religions think that the souls of the dead must experience several tests before reaching the gates of hell, where demons demand money to enter, which might explain why many Chinese burn paper money at funerals to make sure beloved family members have enough for the journey through hell.

There are eighteen levels on this journey, and each level comes with a method to test for evil.

For criminals, the souls are heavy and the trip is long and painful. Chinese almanacs graphically illustrated the punishments while good souls were light and made the journey quickly.

Today, these beliefs are probably more alive in remote areas of rural China than urban areas where Mao’s Cultural Revolution had more of an impact getting rid of ancient beliefs.

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


Halloween vs China’s Hungry Ghost Festival

October 31, 2018

The closest celebration in China to Halloween is The Hungry Ghost Festival celebrated the 14th or 15th night of the 7th lunar month. For 2018, the Hungry Ghost Festival started on August 25th.

Similar to Latin America’s Day of the Dead, 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).

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.

History.com says, “Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts lived 2,000 years ago in what’s known today as Ireland, the United Kingdom and Northern France. The Celts 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.”

In America, children wear costumes and go door to door collecting free candy.  In China, for those who celebrate the Hungry Ghost Festival, the opposite takes place: food is offered to dead ancestors, joss paper is burned, and scriptures are chanted.

I stopped celebrating Halloween decades ago. As a teacher I was what all that candy was doing to my students the day after when they returned to school on a sugar high followed by a sugar low. At first, I handed out small boxes of very sweet organic raisons until a mother told me I was cheap.

If you are a parent of young children, here is why you should not celebrate Halloween with them. The Guardian.com reported, “Sugar is behind global explosion in type 2 diabetes, study finds. Researchers say link between consumption of sugar and diabetes is independent from obesity.”

In addition, the National Institutes of Health says, “Rates of new diagnosed cases of type 1 and type 2 diabetes are increasing among youth in the United States, according to a report …”

And if you don’t want to believe sugar is responisible, here’s what Stanford Medicine has to say, “Researchers examined data on sugar availability and diabetes rates from 175 countries over the past decade. They found that increased sugar in a population’s food supply was linked to higher diabetes rates, independent of obesity rates.”

Think about it: if you want to celebrate Halloween, replace it with China’s Hungry Ghost Festival and skip the candy.

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


The Qing Dynasty’s Last Leader was a Woman: Part 2 of 2

June 20, 2018

The National Library of Australia reports, “Hugh Trevor-Roper, Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford, was asked to examine the Backhouse manuscript by its Swiss custodians. In Hermit of Peking: The Hidden Life of Sir Edmund Backhouse, Trevor-Roper dismissed the autobiography as historically worthless fiction by a man he called a forger, confidence trickster and fantasist. He concluded, ‘Backhouse’s ‘memoirs’ are not an edifying work. They are a pornographic novelette’, and unpublishable.”

But Backhouse’s journalistic fraud served as the foundation for most history texts still used today that continue to slander Tzu Hsi.

To do Tzu Hsi justice and to discover the truth, one should read Seagrave’s Dragon Lady, The Life and Legend of the Last Empress of China.

To learn who the real woman was that ruled China pay attention to what Robert Hart wrote about Hzu Hsi in his letters and journals.  Robert Hart arrived in China from Ireland in 1854 to learn the language as an interpreter for the British consulate in Ningpo. In 1859, almost five years later, Hart quit his job with the British and went to work for the Emperor of China as an employee. He returned to England in 1908.

When I was researching Robert Hart’s life while working on my historical fiction novel My Splendid Concubine, I learned that Hart became Inspector General of Chinese Maritime Customs and worked closely with the Imperial ministers and Manchu princes. Before returning to England after living in China for fifty-four years, Hart met with the Dowager Empress in a private audience inside the Forbidden City.

Hart referred to Tzu Hsi as “the Buddha” and later “the old Buddha” since she was a devout Buddhist and it is obvious that he thought of her with affection and admiration.

In fact, Hart, who is considered the Godfather of China’s modernization, at no time indicated in anything he wrote that Tzu Hsi was conspiratorial, sinister or manipulative. However, he did indicate that she was strong-willed and hot-tempered, clever and had ability.

Tzu Hsi died in 1908 a few weeks after Robert Hart left China and returned to England to live out his final few years. The Qing Dynasty collapsed in 1911, the same year Robert Hart died.

Return to 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.

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


The Qing Dynasty’s Last Leader was a Woman: Part 1 of 2

June 19, 2018

Empress Dowager Tzu Hsi ruled the Qing Dynasty as a coregent after her husband, the Xianfeng Emperor died in 1861, and her son, The Tongzhi Emperor (1856 – 1875), was too young at age five to rule China.

Sterling Seagrave, the author of Dragon Lady, writes, “Absurdly little was known about her life. The New York Times printed a long, error filled obituary calling her Tzu An, the title of her coregent, who had died twenty-seven years earlier.”

Many current history texts continue to slander the Dowager Empress Tzu Hsi (1835 – 1908) without much evidence as one of history’s most monstrous women, an alleged ruthless Manchu concubine who seduced and murdered her way to the throne in 1861 to rule China through prevision, corruption and intrigue.

This is how many still think of Tzu Hsi. In addition, she was accused of murdering her son, and then years later her nephew, who died the day before she did.

Instead, her son died of syphilis because he preferred prostitutes to the hundreds of virgin concubines that belonged to him. Rumors claimed that Tzu Hsi had her nephew poisoned, but Yuan Shikai may have had him poisoned so he could become the next emperor. There is no evidence to support either allegation.

How did Tzu Hsi earn such a bad reputation?

It seems that she earned this reputation similar to how today’s China has been smeared in much of the Western media. Thanks to a liar and fraud by the name of Edmund Backhouse, who was a reporter for The London Times and his bestselling book “China under the Empress Dowagers”, Tzu Hsi’s fate to be labeled a monster and murderer  was guaranteed until 1976 when Backhouse’s fraud and lies were revealed.

Continued in Part 2 on June 20, 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.

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


The Power of One Man’s Dedication

March 20, 2018

In the seventh century, early in the Tang Dynasty, Hsuan-tsang (Xuangzang) entered a Buddhist monastery when he was thirteen. Later, he moved around China studying under different masters.

Finally, he went to India to study Buddhism at its source with Sanskrit masters where he  spent over ten years, wrote a famous book about his journey, and returned to China with over six hundred original manuscripts.


The first 2:3 minutes summarizes his life, and when he died, it was reported that his funeral was attended by one million people.

Hsuan-tsang spent the rest of his life with a group of translators rendering seventy five of the most important works into Chinese. All of this work was sponsored by the Emperor of the newly established Tang Dynasty (618 – 906 AD).

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


Seven Amazing Places to Visit in China: 5 of 5

March 3, 2018

To protect the Shibaozhai temple (#6), the Chinese government had a six-hundred-foot high, thirty-three-foot thick dike built to protect it. Many river cruise boats dock at Shibaozhai for a few hours to allow passengers to tour the pavilion and temple.

Forbidden City, Beijing

The Forbidden City is the largest, ancient palace in the world and is one of the most visited tourist sites on the planet. This palace covers more than 7 million square feet in central Beijing next to Tiananmen Square. That is the size of eighty football fields and the palace is surrounded by a moat.

In the early fourteen hundreds, the emperor moved the capital of China to Beijing to establish better control over the country. It took a million laborers and artists fourteen years to build. The Forbidden City has 9,999 rooms—as close as a man can get to the palace of the gods, which is supposed to have ten-thousand rooms.

Before the Forbidden City became a tourist attraction, the penalty for sneaking inside was death usually by being beheaded. Once the empresses and concubines of the emperor moved into the Forbidden City, none were allowed to leave. Twenty-four emperors ruled China from inside the walls of this palace.

Return to Part 4 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.

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