Competition vs Harmony

October 3, 2018

China is a collective culture vs. Europe and North America with cultures based on individualism, and understanding Confucianism helps explain how China’s collective culture works.

Religion

China has never been dominated by one religion like Christianity dominates Europe and all of the Americas or Islam dominates the Middle East and most of North Africa.

Philosophy

In China, Confucianism developed during the Spring and Autumn period from the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius (551–479 BCE). His philosophy concerns the fields of ethics and politics, emphasizing personal and governmental morality, correctness of social relationships, justice, traditionalism, and sincerity. Over time, Confucianism replaced Chinese Legalism.

Chinese Buddhism entered China from India during the Late Han Dynasties. By the time of the Tang dynasty five-hundred years after Buddhism’s arrival into China, it had transformed into a thoroughly Chinese religious philosophy dominated by the school of Zen Buddhism. Neo-Confucianism became highly popular during the Song dynasty and Ming Dynasty due in large part to the eventual combination of Confucian and Zen Philosophy.

In Europe and the Americas, there is Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Rene Descartes, John Lock, et al.  In the West, instead of one major philosopher, there are many. Western Philosophy refers to philosophical thinking beginning with Ancient Greece and Rome, extending through central and Western Europe and, since Columbus, the Americas.

The Basics of Philosophy says, “Very broadly speaking, according to some commentators, Western society strives to find and prove ‘the truth’, while Eastern society accepts the truth as given and is more interested in finding the balance.”

Westerners put more emphasis on individual rights while Easterners focus on social responsibility.

Individualism vs. Collectivism

China is a collective culture vs the west that is based on individualism, and this difference might explain why China was the wealthiest, most technologically advanced civilization on the planet for about 1,500 years up until the 16th century.

Objectivism 101 explains, “Collectivism … sees the group as the important element, and individuals are just members of the group. The group has its own values somehow different from those of the individual members. The group thinks its own thoughts. Instead of judging the group as a bunch of individuals interacting, it judges the group as a whole, and views the individuals as just members of the group.”

In individualism each individual is acting on his or her own, making their own choices and are not guided by the collective, and to the extent they interact with the rest of the group, it’s as individuals.

Collectivism views the group as the primary entity and most if not all individuals are expected to conform. Harmony is considered the foundation of a collective culture while divisiveness is the foundation of individuality.

But first, China Mike says, “To understand the Chinese mind, you need to start with Confucius (552-479BC). Arguably the most influential person in Chinese history, Confucius and his teachings continue to exert a deep influence on society even in modern China today. … Confucianism is a complex system of social and political ethics based on filial piety, kinship, loyalty and righteousness. His teachings cover a wide range—from how a ‘true gentleman’ should behave in his daily life (down to how he eats with proper decorum) to how a ruler should govern (with a benevolent concern for the well-being of his subjects).”

Note: When I started iLookChina in January 2010, I set a goal to write and publish three blog posts a day until I reached 1,000 posts, and then I slowed down. More than seven years later, iLookChina has now published 2,355 posts with more than one-million words. That’s why I have decided to slow down some more. Starting today, I will be posting once a week on Wednesdays. To the more than twenty-thousand amazing people that follow iLookChina, thank you.

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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Crazy Rich Asians – a Review

August 28, 2018

I saw “Crazy Rich Asians” on Wednesday, August 15, the day the film was released, near where I live, a few days before the film earned the #1 rank at the box office for its first weekend. The following Sunday I went to see another film and there was a long line waiting to see “Crazy Rich Asians”.

Opening Weekend: $26,510.140
(#1 rank, 3,384 theaters, $7,834 average)
Box Office Mojo

Crazy Rich Asians” is the 2nd film I’ve seen that I think reveals what goes on inside an overseas Chinese family. I haven’t read the books (a trilogy) the film was based on, but I plan to. The first book in the trilogy came out in 2013.

The first book and film was Amy Tan’s “Joy Luck Club”.

Both books and films reveal the inner workings of overseas Chinese families.

Chinese American New Yorker Rachel Chu flies to Singapore with her boyfriend, Nick Young, to attend his best friend’s wedding in Singapore where she runs into his Singapore Chinese family that’s split over accepting or rejecting Rachel. The elder and ruling members of the family do not approve of Nick’s girlfriend while some of the younger members of the family accept her without reservation as long as the elders don’t know they support Rachel.

In Amy Tan’s “Joy Luck Club” (Hardcover 1989) we are introduced to a tiger mother, who grew up and immigrated to the U.S. from China, and her rebellious American Chinese daughter. In 2009, I married into a Chinese family with an immigrant mother and American Chinese daughter.  I married the mother who is Anchee Min. The marriage survived for sixteen years and we are still friends. I think that qualifies me as a reliable witness to the inner working of an oversees Chinese family.

Although the film for “Crazy Rich Asians” focuses on the fact that Nick Young’s super wealthy and powerful Shanghai Chinese family thinks of themselves as “Chinese”, the fact is they are also overseas Chinese just like Rachel is, because most if not all Chinese in China think of everyone that is Chinese living outside of China as overseas Chinese.  Maybe Singapore Chinese are considered less overseas since they live closer to China than Rachel from New York.

Now, before you jump to conclusions, do not stereotype Chinese. Not all Chinese think and act the same as the family in “Joy Luck Club” or “Crazy Rich Asians”.  Not all Chinese are rich or are tiger parents. Another book I recommend is the Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua. But again, Chua is overseas Chinese born in the United States to immigrant parents. “Amy Chua argues that Western parenting tries to respect and nurture children’s individuality, while Chinese parents typically believe that arming children with skills, strong work habits, and inner confidence prepares them best for the future.”

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 Joined the WTO in 2001

August 22, 2018

The BBC reported, “After 15 years of diplomatic struggle, China finally has become a fully-fledged member of the international trading system.”

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 in China.

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.

China also 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 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 happening, 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 law.

Chinese legalism was interpreted as the fidelity (loyalty) 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, especially by many ignorant Americans that judge China based on Western values and laws.

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

I knew this individual for about sixty years, and I’m sure he meant that China should have a legal system like 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, to him, that it came from God. For this former friend’s approval, China had to bend its laws to fit Christian scripture.

However, the Chinese learned from Confucius while in the West we learned from the likes of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, the Old and New Testaments, and many other voices that influenced western thought. I wonder if too many voices often lead to confusion, and that might explain why the Chinese civilization has been more stable over the millennia than the west has.

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 endless Crusade against Corrupt Government Officials

August 21, 2018

In 2000, a former deputy chairman of the National people’s Congress was executed for taking bribes. At the time, this was the highest communist official to be put to death since the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949.

ABC News reported, Cheng Kejie (67), the former vice chairman of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, was convicted of taking $5 million in bribes, and executed after the Supreme People’s Court approved his death sentence on Sept. 7, 2000. Cheng’s lover, Li Ping (in her 40s), was sentenced to life in prison. Li escaped the death penalty by cooperating with investigators, giving them details of Cheng’s crimes and helping to recover the booty.

Since economic reforms began in 1978, political corruption in China has grown significantly. The types of offenses vary, though usually, they involve trading bribes for political favors, such as local businesses trying to secure large government contracts or subordinates seeking promotions for higher office.

The South China Morning Post reports, “President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign was launched in 2012 targeting party, government, military, and state-owned company officials suspected of corruption.  The campaign has led to the investigation and prosecution of hundreds of officials across the country.”

In fact, “Xi Jinping’s anti-graft drive has caught so many officials that Beijing’s elite prison is running out of cells. Overcrowding has prompted Qincheng prison – where former high-ranking officials are jailed – to pull the plug on Lunar New Year visits, source says.”

And XinhuaNet.com says, “Besides the crackdown on “tigers” and “flies,” the anti-graft watchdog has been busy hunting corrupt officials hiding out abroad.

“By the end of December, 3,866 fugitives had found themselves hunted down and captured from more than 90 countries, with more than 9.6 billion yuan (1.48 billion U.S. dollars) recovered by police, according to the CCDI.”

Brookings Institution China scholar Cheng Li, in an article entitled “Debunking Misconceptions about Xi Jinping’s Anti-corruption Campaign”, asserted that attributing ulterior motives to the campaign was not only wholly misleading but also unproductive. Li believes that not only has Xi’s campaign had the effect of truly curbing corrupt practices at all levels of government, it has also restored public confidence in the Communist Party’s mandate to rule, and has also returned massive ill-gotten gains back into state coffers which could be re-directed towards economic development.”

But corruption in China’s government is nothing new.  Stratfor.com tells us, “Too often, the dynastic cycle began with the central power’s vigorous gains over the vast country’s far-flung regions under the Mandate of Heaven (the belief in an emperor’s divine right to rule), which led to decades or centuries of unity and prosperity. Then, bureaucratic corruption began eroding the imperial court, manifesting in the slow and steady accumulation of power in the regions. … An unwillingness or inability to reform, the massiveness and uncontrollability of the country and various other factors — both internal and external — led to dynastic decline.”

It is obvious that Xi Jinping does not want history to repeat and end up with another government decline and collapse, at least while he is alive and in charge.

I think Donald Trump, if he is convicted of treason and corruption in the United States, should be relieved he is in a country where his replacement will probably pardon him and he won’t spend a day in prison or face execution.

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 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.

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Although Established by a Nationalistic Religious Cult, the Ming Dynasty Was Not a Total Failure

May 30, 2018

During the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644), great achievements were recorded in architecture, shipbuilding, porcelain making, and textile weaving.

Eighty years before the British discovered what caused scurvy, Chinese sailors were not suffering from this disease because the Chinese had developed porcelain containers to grow bean sprouts in while the ships were crossing oceans.  Bean sprouts are a rich source of vitamin C.

During his voyages, Admiral Zheng He took more than 10,000 copies of books to give away in the hope of spreading Chinese civilization and traditional Confucian ideas. Instead of diseases and cannonballs that were ruthlessly used to spread colonialism out of Europe, the Chinese gave away books.

Of all the textile industries, silk weaving was number one and could be found in almost every large and small town in Southern China.

Shang Chuan, a Research Fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences says, “Textiles in China have a long history (back to the Warring States Period, BC 475-221). By the Ming Dynasty… large workshops had appeared, although work was still done by hand.

“However, compared with the old family production model, large worships were superior as the products were quality guaranteed, all looked the same and were the same standard.”

The silk industry in China was the beginning of modern manufacturing. As many think, modern manufacturing techniques did not start in England in the 18th century. It started in China centuries earlier.

The reputation of the Chinese products that Admiral Zheng He took with him on his voyages brought him considerable honor and made him welcome everywhere he visited. On his sixth voyage, he reached the African coast and twelve hundred envoys from sixteen African and Asian countries returned to China with Zheng He’s fleet.

In Beijing, the Ming Emperor presented these envoys with forty-thousand roles of silk and brocade.

Even before the Ming Dynasty, China had been sending diplomatic missions overland to the West for centuries and trade had extended as far as east Africa.

However, never before had a government-sponsored mission the size of Zheng He’s fleet been organized.  His voyages were a vivid demonstration of the economic and cultural prosperity of the Ming Dynasty.

The Great Wall, which the Ming Dynasty had continued to rebuild, modernize and strengthen, stretched from China’s eastern coast to the far northwest. This Great Wall is what tourists in China see today.

In 1637, the largest encyclopedia of ancient China was published. It was a comprehensive book covering science and handicraft technologies. Another encyclopedia was published on agriculture. A third described China’s geology in detail. A fourth was the most comprehensive medical book in Chinese history, the Compendium of Materia Medica.

Meanwhile, The Industrial Revolution in Europe would not start in Britain until about 1760, more than a century after the Ming Dynasty had been replaced in 1655 by the Manchu led Qing Dynasty.

However, after 1433, the Ming Dynasty turned inward and became isolated from the world, setting the stage for its collapse and the madness and horror that followed for more than a century up to 1949.

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 First Emperor of the Ming Dynasty

May 23, 2018

Zhu Yuanzhang was born to a poor family that died of the plague when the Yuan (Mongol) Dynasty ruled China. To survive, he spent his youth as a Buddhist monk begging for food.

After becoming the leader of the White Lotus Society rebels, Yuanzhang led the fight against the Yuan Dynasty for twelve years. When he defeated the Mongols, he took the name Emperor Hongwu and ruled from 1368 – 1398.

Hongwu was frugal because of his difficult childhood, and he was known to be suspicious of others and exploded in anger at the smallest things. Punishments were harsh and often ended in death.

Yuanzhang’s capital was Nanjing on the south side of the Yangtze River.

However, Emperor Hongwu promoted agriculture, and he reestablished the competitive Imperial examinations of the Confucian classics.

Defeating the Yuan Dynasty did not end the Mongol threat, and the nomadic warriors continued to raid China’s north to loot and pillage.

To deal with this threat, Emperor Hongwu divided the Imperial Ming army among his sons and ordered them to defend the northern frontier. That was when the Great Wall was rebuilt, extended and strengthened.  The Great Wall tourists see in today’s China is the one that was rebuilt by the Ming Dynasty.

Since Hongwu came from a background of poverty and despised people that were wealthy, he raised their taxes. However, to avoid paying, many wealthy southern Chinese families left China with their gold and silver.

In Chinese history, the Ming Dynasty under Emperor Hongwu was probably the most conservative and the least forgiving of those who were perceived to have done wrong.

Hongwu practiced a closed-door policy with the world. To avoid conflicts with Japanese pirates, he ordered the people who lived along China’s coast to move inland and he forbid any trade with foreign merchants.

Emperor Hangwu also exercised strict control over the thoughts of the common people to preserve heaven’s rule and suppress human desire.

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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