The Classical Gardens of Suzhou

March 18, 2020

UNESCO.org says, “Classical Chinese garden design, which seeks to recreate natural landscapes in miniature, is nowhere better illustrated than in the nine gardens in the historic city of Suzhou. They are generally acknowledged to be masterpieces of the genre. Dating from the 11th-19th century, the gardens reflect the profound metaphysical importance of natural beauty in Chinese culture in their meticulous design.”

The city of Suzhou has more than 2,500 years of history and was once part of the empire of Wu. The empire occupied the area in eastern China around Nanjing. Wu was one of the three major states that competed for supremacy over China after the Han Dynasty fell. The Three Kingdoms period of China took place between 220 – 280 AD.

Suzhou is located in the southern portion of Jiangsu province about fifty miles from Shanghai along the old Grand Canal. By the 14th century, Suzhou was established as the leading silk producer in China. Suzhou is also known for Kun Opera with roots in folk songs from the mid-14th century.

The Japanese art of bonsai originated in the Chinese practice of penjing (盆景). Penjing is known as the ancient Chinese art of depicting artistically formed trees, other plants, and landscapes in miniature.

Suzhou’s famous gardens were destroyed three times. The first time was during the Taiping Rebellion (1850 – 1864). Then the Japanese invaded China during World War II, and the gardens were destroyed a second time. During Mao’s Cultural Revolution, many of the gardens were destroyed a third time.

It wasn’t until 1981, several years after Mao’s death, when Deng Xiaoping ruled the Communist Party, that the gardens were rebuilt.

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


Comparing Chinese Operas to Western Ones

January 29, 2020

San Francisco Opera.com reports that Western Opera was born in Italy more than 400 years ago during the Renaissance. Western Opera is a combination of vocal and orchestral music, drama, visual arts and dance. An opera, like a play, is a dramatic form of theatre that includes scenery, props, and costumes. However, in opera, the actors are trained singers who sing their lines instead of speaking them.

How about China’s opera?

“Since the time of the Tang Dynasty’s Emperor Xuonzong from 712 to 755—who created the first national opera troupe called the ‘Pear Garden’—Chinese opera has been one of the most popular forms of entertainment in the country, but it actually started nearly a millennium before in the Yellow River Valley during the Qin Dynasty (221 to 206 BC).

“Now, more than a millennium after Xuanzong’s death, it is enjoyed by political leaders and commoners alike in many fascinating and innovative ways, and Chinese opera performers are still referred to as ‘Disciples of the Pear Garden,’ continuing to perform an astonishing 368 different forms of Chinese opera.” ꟷ Thought Co.

Not only is Chinese opera almost 1,900 years older than Western Opera, it is also culturally different.

For instance, China Highlights.com lists 7 differences: The first being “Western operas focus on powerful singing and emotional expression during the performances. The acting is self-explanatory, fluid, and life-like.

“In Beijing opera, as well as the more stylized singing, each performer’s actions are important ways to tell the story.

“The performance style is more of a rigid, symbolic visual show. For example, a performer will tie a horsewhip on their wrist and when they wave the horsewhip it means they are riding a horse.”


If you live in the United States, you do not have to travel to China to see a Chinese Opera.

“Chinese Opera, a product of Chinese tradition and innovation spanning many centuries, is at the core of traditional Chinese art. The Confucius Institute of Rutgers University (CIRU), since its establishment in 2007, has been committed to the preservation and promotion of this traditional Chinese art. For over a decade, CIRU has been hosting events and providing platforms to showcase the exquisiteness of Chinese opera. This documentary features several renowned Chinese Opera performers and their stories.” ꟷ Rutgers University

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


Magic

March 27, 2019

Magic is not exclusive to any culture or race, but in China, “the art of magic has (more than) a two-thousand-year-old history,” gbtimes.com says. “Traditional Chinese magic was developed by peasants in the northern part of the country where harsh conditions and the need to survive influenced the development of skills like street acrobatics and magic tricks in order to bring in extra money.”

In addition, China Underground.com reports, “In Chinese folklore, especially in the South, … Gu magic was used to manipulate the will of others, partners, to make people ill and not least cause death. According to Chinese folklore, a Gu spirit was able to transform into different animals: snakes, worms, earthworms, frogs, dogs or pigs. … The name Gu has ancient origins dating back to the oracle inscriptions of the Shang Dynasty (fourteenth century BC).”


In “The Sorcerer and the White Snake” Jet Li stars as a sorcerer monk in an epic special effects fantasy film based on a Chinese legend. This complete film runs more than an hour and a half.

Encylopedia.com tells us, “Magic and mantic arts are endemic in Chinese life and prominent in the religions of China, both in popular religion and in Buddhism and Daoism.”

Practicing magic in China was also risky. Ancient Origins.net says, “The rules of the time (during the Han Dynasty) declared the use of magic as a capital offense. It was especially unforgivable amongst the nobility, including the royal family.” … “Black magic was well known in Ancient China, but research related to this topic is still full of gaps. It is known, however, that one of the most famous methods for practicing magic was ‘magic mirrors’”. As M. V. Berry explained.

It seems that black magic also cast its spell over Chinese movie audiences in 1975, starting a few months before Mao died in 1976. “Between the late 70s and early 80s,” Den of Geek.com says, “Chinese black magic movies were pumped out en masse, feeding audiences their fill of evil sorcery and twisted moralizing. The formula usually featured some poor schmuck enlisting a dark wizard to help them achieve something (more often than not, something sexual)”

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


Winter Fun in China

January 2, 2019

The annual winter Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival (January 5 – February 5) was first celebrated in 1963 and is now the largest ice and snow festival in the world. The average temperature is a (minus) – 16.8 degrees Celsius or 1.76 Fahrenheit. On the Fahrenheit scale, the freezing point of water is 32 degrees, so the cold is below frigid.

“Traditionally, the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival open around Dec 24-25 and lasts to the end of February. But its official opening ceremony is usually held on January 5th each year.” According to IceFestivalHarbin.com, if you plan to visit, avoid February 4 – 10, 2019, and escape the crush during the Chinese New Year that is based on the lunar calendar.

The annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival was first held in 1963, but it was interrupted during Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Mao died in 1976, and it took time for China’s economic engine to recover. The fact that the festival resumed in 1985 was an early sign of the changes soon to take place in China.

Since 1985, China has transformed itself by rebuilding the old cities while building more than a hundred new ones in addition to the explosion of a middle class that equals or surpasses the entire population of the United States with plans to double that middle class in the next decade or two.

China has also crisscrossed the country with new highways and railroads that include more high speed rail than the rest of the world combined. China has also built more than 500 new airports while America’s airports are way overdue for an upgrade along with the rest of U.S. infrastructure that is out of date and falling apart. In fact, Money reports the U.S. is ranked #28 for average mobile internet speed.

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


Cyber Warfare is Evolving and China is taking the Soft approach while Russia follows the Hard path

September 18, 2018

The Washington Post reported, “Our research shows that nations such as the United States and Israel prefer to infiltrate enemy networks and precisely target and attack key military and government systems.” …

“China also primarily hacks other nations’ systems for military and industrial espionage purposes.”

Former President Obama said, “Every country in the world, large and small, engages in intelligence gathering.”

Russia, however, “stands out from other nations in uniquely using cyber methods to distort, gaslight and alter the views of the target population. Other authoritarian states use cyber methods to rig their own elections. But Russia remains rare among great powers in its targets and methods.” …

“U.S. intelligence services have concluded that Russia is conducting political warfare to alter the hearts and minds in its rival power’s population. That’s a far cry from what any other nations are attempting.”

Even China isn’t doing what Russia is doing to manipulate democratic elections and brainwash a rival country’s people unless we count “Crazy Rich Asians” a film financed by a US-based Asian film investment group Ivanhoe Pictures that partnered with Nina Jacobson to product the film that became #1 at the U.S. box office in August, 2018.

However there is a vast difference between Russia deliberately invading a democracy’s election system and programing voters to not vote and/or vote and elect liars, frauds and criminals like Donald Trump and what the Chinese are doing through major films to change the perception of China and its people from a negative bias to a positive one.

The Economist reports, “China is spending billions to make the world love it.”

“The (Chinese Communist) party borrowed the idea of soft power from an American academic, Joseph Nye, who coined the term in 1990. Mr. Nye argued that hard power alone was not enough to wield influence in the world. It had to come from ‘the soft power of attraction’, too. China was acutely conscious that it lacked it.”

Meanwhile, Russia under Putin continues to use a virtual sledge hammer in an attempt to end democratic freedoms.

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 Ming Dynasty’s Star-Crossed Lovers

June 5, 2018

China’s Romeo and Juliet, “The Peony Pavilion”, was a play written by Tang Xianzu and was first performed in 1598, forty-six years before the end of the Ming Dynasty.

Someone might assume that Xianzu borrowed from Shakespeare’s play, but that would be a wrong assumption because in the 16th century there was no internet, no television, no radio, no telephones, no TV, and it took months to sail from England to China. Communication and the sharing of ideas happened at a snail’s pace.

It was clearly a coincidence that Tang Xianzu came up with the idea of China’s Romeo and Juliet a few months after Shakespeare wrote his first version.

In fact, the Encyclopedia Britannica reports that “Romeo and Juliet” had a bumpy start.  “Romeo and Juliet, the play by William Shakespeare, was written about 1594–96 and first published in an unauthorized quarto in 1597. An authorized quarto appeared in 1599.” Two years after “The Peony Pavilion” (first) appeared on stage in China.

In addition, the star-crossed lovers that appear in the “The Peony Pavilion” also tragically die for love, but their plight is described in a much more mournful tone than Shakespeare’s version.

You might also be surprised to learn that Shakespeare is popular in China since his work is taught in most Chinese universities both in English and in Chinese.

Enid Tsui writes, “It’s had its ups and downs but, 400 years after William Shakespeare’s death, China’s affinity with The Bard is as strong as ever.”

However, The People’s Republic of Shakespeare, Adventures in Chinese Research says that many of the Romeo and Juliets performed in China are either parodies or rewrites where one of the lovers survives in the end because too many Chinese have experienced too much sadness in their lives thanks to Japan’s brutal invasion of China during World War II and China’s long bloody Civil War followed by the suffering caused by Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

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