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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Seeking Harmony versus the Search for Happiness

November 15, 2017

The Search for Happiness in bold white print was splashed across the cover of my November 2017 issue of National Geographic Magazine.  In the United States, it has been my perception that the search for happiness sends many people to places like Disneyland or out to eat something that is horrible for their long term health. Maybe buying that type of happiness explains why more than 70-percent of Americans are fat or obese. In other words, when feeling depressed, spend money and while out shopping, walk around texting your friends nonstop until you run into a tree or bounce off other pedestrians because you weren’t paying attention to what was going on around you.

I think this type of thinking is one reason why the U.S. child prodigy Grace VanderWaal wrote and sang “So Much More Than This”.

Like Grace VanderWaal says in her song, “Close your phone and breathe in the air. You’ll soon realize that there’s something that is so much more than this …”

Money will buy fleeting happiness but unless you have an endless supply of money to keep buying that happiness, it will not last long. That’s why I think buying happiness is the same as being addicted to cocaine and heroin. The withdrawal symptoms when the money dries up are agonizing.

What does harmony mean to many in China and can harmony lead to a more stable form of happiness?

 

In China, harmony plays an important role in everyday life. Cultural etiquette among Chinese revolves around harmony as Confucius taught. Confucianism still plays an important role in Chinese society. It is a system of ethics and conduct, the obligations of people toward each other based on their relationships.

Even the way the government in China does business is governed by the same principals. As much as most Americans and Europeans seem incapable of understanding China, the Chinese often see foreigners as barbaric when they do not behave properly according to Chinese standards.

Understanding cultural differences is a two-way street.

For instance, several years ago, after dinner with guests one night, I got up to wash dishes at the sink while Anchee and our daughter were still eating. Anchee later explained that when we have Chinese guests it is impolite to do that since it signals to the guests that it is time to leave. Her advice, “Soak the dishes and leave them until the guests go.”

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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The Law versus what is Morality

November 14, 2017

The Chinese legal system may have been shattered during Mao’s Cultural Revolution but that didn’t last forever. After Mao died, China rose from the ashes like a phoenix and a lot has changed since then.

For instance, China became a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) on December 11, 2001. The admission of China to the WTO was preceded by a lengthy process of negotiations and required significant changes to China itself.

Many elements in China’s WTO accession agreement required improving the rule of law. When China joined the WTO, China agreed to ensure that its legal measures would be consistent with its WTO obligations and that led to China’s Rule of Law Reform.

In addition, China made a substantial number of other WTO commitments related to the rule of law in areas of transparency, judicial review, uniform enforcement of laws, and nondiscriminatory treatment.

China then reformed its judicial processes to ensure that they were compatible with its WTO commitments.

This transition from Chinese to western legalism hasn’t been as smooth as some critics wanted it to be, but it is taking place, and it’s clear that in the last few decades China has made an effort to fit into the community of nations while retaining its own identity.

That might be explained by the differences between Chinese legalism and Western legalism primarily related to morality. Western legalism defends the rule-of-law but argues against the morality of law. In contrast, Chinese legalism, especially in the early Pre-Qin era, did not separate morality from the law.

The fidelity to law in Chinese legalism was interpreted as the fidelity to the monarch in moral terms often as defined by Confucianism. In other words, morality in the United States and Europe is mostly based on the teachings of Christianity and many western philosophers while the morality of China is mostly based on Confucianism.

Understanding China’s history and the morality that’s part of its legal system is often ignored by many in the west, especially many Americans that judge China based on Western values and laws.

For instance, a conservative, born-again Christian, former friend of mine, once said to me that China needed a proper legal system. Since China already had a legal system, what did he mean by that?

I knew this individual for almost sixty-years, and I’m sure he meant that China should have a legal system like the one in the U.S. or the U.K. After all, he claimed scripture guided his life and the Christian Bible has been around for centuries proving it comes from God. To him, that meant there was no other choice. For his approval, China had to bend toward Christian scripture.

The problem with that logic is Confucius was around spreading his teaching for centuries before Jesus Christ was born, and the fact that the New Testament didn’t exist for centuries until after Christ died meant that what Confucius taught has been around longer. Was God behind that too?

The Chinese learned from Confucius while in the West we learned from the likes of Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates. There were many other voices that influenced western thought, and Eternity in an Hour provides a list of famous western philosophers.  Do you think that too many voices often leads to confusion, and that might explain why Chinese civilization has been more stable over the millennia than the west has?

If China becomes the world’s super power in the next fifty to one-hundred years, will the Chinese judge the United States and Europe based on Confucian morality?

Discover The Return of Confucious To China

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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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.

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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 Power of China’s People

November 7, 2017

If you think that the Chinese people do not have a voice in China, think again.

CNN reported, “China may be a single-party state run from the very top. But grassroots activism has been bubbling up from beneath, bringing about much needed social support and change. … These are tiny little groups of people all over the country working on trying to improve the lives of people living in those areas — whether it’s on labor issues, women’s rights or the environment.”

One example of this power took place in December 2009 and it was about electric bikes. When new regulations threatened to restrict the use of e-bikes and ban them from public roads, opposition from the e-bike industry and bike riders stopped the regulations in their tracks.

Adrienne Mong of NBC News said, “The news triggered a heated debate that was played out all over the Chinese-language media and on the Internet. Eventually, the government backed down, and it’s been left up to industry groups to figure out new guidelines.”


Of course, even in China, Social Media has other uses too.

More than two years after the e-bike protest, Tea Leaf Nation reported on February 23, 2012 about a blog that was deleted by Sina Weibo, a popular Chinese microblogging platform, but what was deleted was soon restored thanks to widespread outrage and threats that the majority of Chinese would switch to Twitter and/or Facebook.

The Reuters Institute ran a piece about the power of the Chinese netizen and how microblogging is changing Chinese journalism. Zhou Kangliang, a Chinese journalist, concludes that “as Chinese online microblogging services grow and traditional journalism grows with them, it is learning from lessons and experience…”

The Washington Post reported, “In a country where most media are controlled by the state, information is heavily censored and free-flowing opinions are sharply constricted, Chinese have turned to a new platform to openly exchange unfettered news and views: microblogs, similar to Twitter.”

But Foreign Policy Magazine reported that Xi Jinping has tamed the once-enterprising commercial media.” The project of ‘guidance’ is not merely what we tend in the West to call ‘censorship,’ an act of cutting, excising, and obliterating; rather, it is a process of diversion, of redirection. Public opinion is not stopped — it is harnessed.” To China’s leaders, this is “Channeling public opinion.”

“Channeling,” then, was about harnessing the power of for-profit newspapers and magazines, commercial Internet portals, and social media in order to better inundate the public with information from state sources. Ultimately, this was about taming the flood in the Internet age.

In other words, China is not going to let an Alt-Right media similar to Fox News, Breitbart or an Alex Jones spread destabilizing conspiracy theories that might cause disharmony and disrupt China’s culture and economy.

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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Feeding China’s Hungry Ghosts

October 25, 2017

History.com says, “Halloween, one of the world’s oldest holidays, is still celebrated today in a number of countries around the globe. In Mexico and other Latin American countries, Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, honors deceased loved ones and ancestors. In countries such as Ireland, Canada and the United States, adults and children alike revel in the popular Halloween holiday, which derived from ancient festivals and religious rituals. Traditions include costume parties, trick-or-treating, pranks and games.”

The closest celebration in China to Halloween is The Hungry Ghost Festival celebrated the 14th or 15th night of the 7th lunar month. This year that day fell on September 5th while Ghost Month lasted from August 22nd to September 19th.

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).

In America, children wear costumes and go door to door collecting free candy.  In China, the opposite takes place; food is offered to dead ancestors, joss paper is burned, and scriptures are chanted.

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 the area that is now known 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.”

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 Vampire Lore 

October 24, 2017

Belief in vampires is not confined to the people of Transylvania, and half-humans able to transform themselves into monsters are no strangers to Chinese folklore. Some tales may be traced back to the third century AD.

Since Bram Stoker’s Dracula was published in 1897, this makes a case that vampire folklore may have originated in China and traveled west along the Silk Road almost two thousand years ago.

The Chinese vampire is called a Jiang-shi (also spelled Kaing-shi or Chiang-shih). However, Chinese vampires are different from Dracula or Anne Rice’s vampires.

Chinese folklore says the Jiang-shi is stiffened by rigor mortis and these vampires have to hop to get around. The Jiang-shi also finds its victims by smelling your breath, so if a blood thirsty Jiang-shi is hunting you, stop breathing so they can’t find you.

In the 1980s, there was a series of Chinese vampire movies produced in Hong Kong. The first in the series was Mr. Vampire.

There were a few Taiwanese vampire films, which include The Vampire Shows His Teeth (a series of three films (1984-1986), New Mr. Vampire (1985), Elusive Song of the Vampire (1987) and Spirit versus Zombie (1989).

Vampire stories have become popular in mainland China. Tom Carter, an American author and expatriate living in China, said Twilight is a popular pirated novel and some Chinese Twilight fans are writing their own fan-fiction and vampire stores on Chinese Blogs.

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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