The Art and Poetry of the Tang Dynasty

March 28, 2018

Stone Telling.com tells us, “Of the approximately 2,200 Tang poets, many were women, including China’s only female emperor, Empress Wu Zetian, but the works of female poets overall were not popular until the mid-to-late Tang Period (mid-700s A.D. to 907 A.D.), several generations after Empress Wu’s reign. At this time, women enjoyed more freedom than women of the following dynasties, especially those who were educated and of the upper class.”

One of Wu Zetian’s poems was about an imperial visit to a park.

Tomorrow morning I will make an outing to Shanglin Park,
With urgent haste I inform the spring:
Flowers must open their petals overnight,
Don’t wait for the morning wind to blow!

Song Zhi-wen, another Tang Dynasty poet, was found guilty of accepting bribes. In one of his poems he revealed that he had good reason to fear returning home from exile because when he did, he was executed.

Crossing the Han River
Song Zhi-wen (656 – 712 A.D.)

No news, no letters – all winter, all spring —
Beyond the mountains.
With every homeward step more timid still
I dare not even inquire of passerby.

Another example of Tang Dynasty poetry is The View in Spring by Du Fu (712 – 770 A.D.).

A kingdom smashed, its hills and rivers still here,
Spring in the city, plants and trees grow deep.
Moved by the moment, flowers splash with tears,
Alarmed at parting, birds startle the heart.
War’s beacon fires have gone on three months,
Letters from home are worth thousands in gold.
Fingers run through white hair until it thins,
Cap-pins will almost no longer hold.

(Owen, Stephen, trans. An Anthology of Chinese Literature: Beginnings to 1911. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1996, p. 420. )

The next poem is one of many that Yuan Zhen (779 – 831 A.D.) wrote for his dead wife, who he married when he was poor. She did not live long enough to share his fame and fortune.

In former years, we chatted carelessly of death and what it means
to die.
Since then, it’s passed before my very eyes.
I’ve given almost all your clothes away
But cannot bear to move your sewing things.
Remembering your past attachments, I’ve been kind to maids you
loved.
I’ve met your soul in dreams and ordered sutras sung.
Certainly, I know this sorrow comes to all
But to poor and lowly couples, everything life brings is sad.

The art of the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE) explored new possibilities in materials and styles. For instance, Tang Tri-colored Pottery thrived in the Tang Dynasty over 1300 years ago. Its glaze mainly features the three colors of yellow, green and white, but “tri-color” does not only refer to these three colors but many others.

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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Dunhuang’s Silk Road Oasis

March 14, 2018

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.

And 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. Some of the cave art at Dunhuang depicts the dark side of Buddhism.

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 Ancient Bells of Marquis Yi

February 7, 2018

In 1977, a discovery was made in China—a complete set of chime bells were unearthed from the tomb of Marquis Yi, who lived during the Warring States Period (475 to 221 BC). These chimes were older than the Qin Dynasty’s famous Terra Cotta warriors (221 to 206 B.C.).

When the chimes were discovered in Hubei Province, a plot of land was being leveled to build a factory. The Red Army officer in charge of the work had an interest in archeology.

The officer discovered that the workers were selling the ancient bronze and iron artifacts they were digging up. He convinced local authorities there might be an ancient tomb buried below the site.

When the tomb was unearthed, a set of chime bells was discovered.  These musical instruments were an important part of ritual and court music in ancient times. An American professor in New York City even called these chimes the eighth wonder of the ancient world.

The sixty-five chime bells weighed about 5 tons.

No other set of chimes like this had been discovered in China before and this set was in excellent condition.

A project was launched in 1979 to duplicate four sets of these chimes. More than a 100 scientists and technicians were recruited.  In 1998, twenty years after the discovery, the project was completed. One of the sets was sent to Taiwan as a gift.

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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Several thousand years ago in China there was Music

January 2, 2018

The first few weeks of 2018 will focus on China’s long history starting with the earliest known musical instrument found in China.

Music in China is traditionally associated with ritual observances and government affairs.

In 1999, Chinese archeologists unearthed what is believed to be the oldest known playable instrument, a seven-holed flute fashioned about 9,000 years ago from the hollow wing bone of a large bird.

To establish the age of the flute, a U.S. chemist at the Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory analyzed data from carbon-14 dating done in China on materials taken from the site. “The flutes may be the earliest complete, playable, tightly-dated, multinote musical instruments.”

The 9,000-year-old flutes were “exquisitely-crafted” from the wing bone of a red-crowned crane.

In The Book of Songs, an ancient collection of Chinese poetry from the 11th to the 7th century BC, the three-hole Yue is the most frequently mentioned wind instrument, but by the Tang Dynasty (618 – 906 AD), the Yue had all but vanished.

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, 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 Erhu is Unique to China and it complements the Spoken Language

November 21, 2017

CGTN.com says, “The  erhu is a two-stringed bowed musical instrument, more specifically a spike fiddle, which may also be called a ‘southern fiddle’ and sometimes known in the Western world as the ‘Chinese violin’ or a ‘Chinese two-stringed fiddle’. It is used as a solo instrument as well as in small ensembles and large orchestras. It is the most popular of the huqin family of traditional bowed string instruments used by various ethnic groups of China. A very versatile instrument, the erhu is used in both traditional and contemporary music arrangements, such as in pop, rock, jazz, etc.”

And once you recognize the sound of an erhu, it can usually be readily picked out from other musical instruments, because that sound is unique.

The history of the erhu spans more than a thousand years. The first erhu was heard during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD).

Since the traditional Chinese character for “erhu” indicates it has two strings, the erhu has probably changed little over the centuries.

The Han ethnic group makes up about 92% of the population of China, and Han folk music, in a sense, is similar to Mandarin in that it is made by sliding from higher tones to lower tones, or lower to higher, or a combination of both.

Han folk music is also similar to poetry with slow soothing tempos that express feelings that connects with the audience or whoever is playing the piece. Even the way a moment of silence is delivered changes the meaning behind the music.

Discover China’s First Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi, the man that unified China and its written language more than 2,000 years ago.

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 Holistic Historical Timeline


My Country’s “Got Talent” until they Don’t

November 8, 2017

There’s America’s Got Talent, Britain’s Got Talent, Africa’s Got Talent, Asia’s Got Talent, Belgium’s Got Talent, Bhutan’s Got Talent, Cambodia’s Got Talent, Croatia’s Got Talent, Czech Republic & Slovakia’s Got Talent, Ecuador’s Got Talent, France’s Got Talent, Georgia’s Got Talent (not the U.S. state), Germany’s Got Talent, Greece’s Got Talent, Iceland’s Got Talent, Got Talent Israel, Italia’s Got Talent, Mongolia’s Got Talent, Myanmar’s Got Talent, Nepal’s Got Talent, Holland’s Got Talent, Norway’s Got Talent, and …

Anyway, that incomplete list shows how many Got Talents there are or were. Here’s the Wiki post for all the former and current Got Talents.

The last year for China’s Got Talent was Season 5, 2013-14. The next video shows the five winners of China’s Got Talent from the man who had no arms and played the piano with his bare feet to the acrobat that won season 5.

I have two favorites: one from the United States and one from Norway.

Grace VanderWaal won America’s Got Talent in 2016, at age 12. She writes her own songs and performs them. She then signed a record contract with Columbia Records and put out her first short album that reached #9 in the United States. She went on to win a Teen Choice Award and an award from Disney. She is now 13, and started her first concert tour in early October 2017, at Austin’s City Limits Music Festival. Her first full-length album (she wrote all the songs) is scheduled for release on November 3. I already have my own copy and I listen to it every morning when I exercise. I like her work that much.

Angelina Jordan won Norway’s Got Talent when she was age 8, singing classic jazz. At age ten in 2016, she recorded “I Put a Spell on You.”  If you enjoyed that performance, there’s more. You will discover she performs barefoot. Jordan’s first album was scheduled for release this year.

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.

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