The Lovers Who Wanted to Save China’s Past

March 22, 2017

Smithsonian Magazine ran a piece on The Lovers of Shanxi. Lin Huiyn and Liang Sicheng are known today as the couple that wanted to save China’s ancient architectural treasures before they were lost forever. On the eve of World War II and Japan’s invasion of China, this married couple set out in the 1930s to search China and document the country’s architectural history.

Smithsonian said, “The couple would go on to make a string of extraordinary discoveries in the 1930s, documenting almost 2,000 exquisitely carved temples, pagodas and monasteries that were on the verge of being lost forever.”

Liang Sicheng is recognized as the “Father of Modern Chinese Architecture”. Princeton University, awarded him an honorary doctoral degree in 1947, and wrote “a creative architect who has also been a teacher of architectural history, a pioneer in historical research and exploration in Chinese architecture and planning, and a leader in the restoration and preservation of the priceless monuments of his country.”

His wife was the first female architect in modern China. Her passion was the restoration of China’s cultural heritage sites.  She died in 1955 of tuberculosis, and soon after her death, her husband was denounced during Mao’s Cultural Revolution, and Liang Sicheng died in 1972 before the Cultural Revolution ended. During the years after his first wife’s death, he witnessed the destruction of many of China’s architectural masterpieces.

But today, in China, this couple is remembered and honored for what they accomplished.

These two also visited one of the few surviving examples of ancient China’s architecture to see the massive four-mile-long wall built in 1370 AD that surrounds the city of Pingyao in Shanxi province. One reason this city’s ancient architecture survived the Mao era is because the city was too poor to tear everything down during the Cultural Revolution when Mao was attempting to erase history.

After Mao’s death, Deng Xiaoping reversed Mao’s policies and opened China to the world, and over the years many of the damaged buildings were rebuilt.

I can only hope that something similar will happen in the United States once the malignant narcissist Donald Trump is gone.

Today the ancient city of Pengyao is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Most buildings in the Old city are from the Ming and Qing dynasties. During the late Qing Dynasty, Pingyao was the financial center of China.

Discover Wu Zetian, China’s only female emperor

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 “iLook China”!
Sign up for an E-mail Subscription at the top of this page, or click on the “Following” tab in the WordPress toolbar at the top of the screen.

About iLook China

China’s Holistic Historical Timeline


The Lost Crew of “Tough Titi” made it home thanks to China

March 1, 2017

It’s ironic that during World War II, the United States fought alongside the Chinese, both the Nationalists and the Communists, against the Japanese until 1945. In fact, it was Mao’s Chinese Communist guerrilla troops who rescued some of Jimmy Doolittle’s B-25 crews when they crash landed in China after bombing Tokyo on April 18, 1942. The Chinese who helped save those American troops paid a horrible price. Click the link to discover how horrible.

Then a few years later Communist China and the United States became enemies fighting in North Korea until 1953, and China sent advisers to Vietnam to help fight the United States there (1955 to 1975).

To punish Communist China, the U.S. placed an embargo on China from 1949 to 1969. The Korean War ended in 1953 but the embargo didn’t end until 1969. The goal had been to disrupt, destabilize, and weaken China’s communist government by causing the people of China to suffer, and this “complete embargo” was one of the tools to achieve that goal. The embargo also helped set the stage for millions of Chinese to die of starvation during what’s known as Mao’s Great Famine.

When Nixon arrived in China in 1972, China and the U.S. became friends again.

Now President Donald Trump, the popular-vote loser by almost 3 million votes, is working overtime to turn China into an enemy of the U.S. again.

But in 1996, when the U.S. and China were trading partners and still friendly, Chinese farmers discovered a World War II American bomber’s wreckage and the remains of the ten-man crew on Little Cat Mountain (Mao’er Shan), Southern China’s highest peak.

The name of the B-24 bomber was Tough Titi.

These Americans were considered heroes to the Chinese, and the remains of the crew were returned to the United States for burial.

There’s a memorial stone near the crash site and Chinese tourists pay honor to these Americans by leaving flowers and other gifts.

To honor these American heroes further, the Chinese recovered some of the bomber’s parts and used them as a centerpiece for a museum in Xing’an, about a four-hour drive from the crash site.

Why is President Donald Trump going out of his way to make China an enemy of the United States while doing the opposite in Russia with the brutal Vladimir Putin?

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.

1a-242-what-most-reviewers-are-saying-jan-16-2017

Where to Buy

Subscribe to “iLook China”!
Sign up for an E-mail Subscription at the top of this page, or click on the “Following” tab in the WordPress toolbar at the top of the screen.

About iLook China

China’s Holistic Historical Timeline


Red Star Over China

February 28, 2017

During one of our trips to Shanghai, China, we saw a film called Mao Zedong and Edgar Snow.

Edgar Snow (1905 – 1972) was an American journalist known for his books and articles on Communism in China and the Chinese Communist revolution. He is believed to be the first Western journalist to interview Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong, and is best known for Red Star Over China (1937) an account of the Chinese Communist movement from its foundation until the late 1930s.

The film was in Mandarin and wasn’t subtitled, so I had to watch carefully to understand what was going on. When I returned home to the United States, I searched Amazon for a DVD copy of the film but couldn’t find one.

However, I discovered that Edgar Snow’s wife threatened to sue China if the movie was released, but that didn’t stop the Chinese.

There’s no doubt that Mao had to have charisma to lead so many in battle for so many years to win a civil war that stretched from 1927 to 1950.

However, Mao changed after he became China’s modern emperor, and the power must have corrupted him. The evidence is the results of the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, and the purges that killed so many.

There were also successes like the Chinese Communist Party’s war against poverty, the increase in life expectancy that almost doubled during Mao’s rule. and the health programs that were implemented such as the bare-foot doctors. The reason so many Chinese still think of Mao as the George Washington of China was because life after 1949 was better than life before the CCP won the Civil War.

Students of China may want to see this film, but the only place one may buy a DVD of this movie is probably China.

When Edgar Snow came down with pancreatic cancer, Zhou Enlai dispatched a team of Chinese doctors to Switzerland to treat him.

Discover Anna May Wong, the woman that 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.

2a-242-positive-reviews-hall-of-fame-reviewer-jan-16-2017

Where to Buy

Subscribe to “iLook China”!
Sign up for an E-mail Subscription at the top of this page, or click on the “Following” tab in the WordPress toolbar at the top of the screen.

About iLook China

China’s Holistic Historical Timeline

 


Eating Out in China’s Oldest Capital

February 14, 2017

In 1999, in China’s oldest capital, our hotel was in sight of Xian’s city walls.  We had a view of the ancient battlements that were several hundred years old and sinking. At night, the walls and towers were outlined with white Christmas lights.

I ached to get up there and walk on those walls that were wide enough to drive cars on.  I’d have to wait more than nine years before that happened.

To get an idea of the history of this city, it helps to know that it was the capital longer than any other city in China, and was first called Chang’an before it became known as Xian.

Several dynasties ruled China from this city:

BC 221-206 – Qin (Ch’in) Dynasty
BC 206 – 9 AD – Han Dynasty
581-618 AD – Sui Dynasty
618-906 AD – Tang Dynasty
Timeline of Chinese History and Dynasties

Beijing wouldn’t become the capital of China until 1279 AD during the Yuan Dynasty when Kublai Khan was emperor.

On our second day in Xian, we walked from the hotel and through an opening in the ancient wall into the city to a Xian restaurant. I went in first and the hostess, who didn’t speak a word of English, handed me a menu written in English.

Anchee, dressed more like a Chinese peasant than an American, walked in after me, and she was handed a menu written in Chinese. Then she glanced over my shoulder at my menu before taking it out of my hands and giving it back to the hostess.

“We’ll use the Chinese menu,” she said. Anchee grew up in China during Mao’s Cultural Revolution and didn’t leave until she was 28.

The prices in Mandarin were less than half the English version.  A stunned look appeared on the hostesses face.  It was a Candid Camera moment, and it was all I could do not to laugh.

This doesn’t mean every restaurant in China does this. In fact, most don’t. The double menu caper was probably the idea of the owner of that specific restaurant in a city known for tourism due to the Terra Cotta warriors and the tomb of China’s first Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi.

Discover The Return of Confucious

2a-242-positive-reviews-hall-of-fame-reviewer-jan-16-2017

Where to Buy

Subscribe to “iLook China”!
Sign up for an E-mail Subscription at the top of this page, or click on the “Following” tab in the WordPress toolbar at the top of the screen.

About iLook China

China’s Holistic Historical Timeline


The Challenge of Health Care in China

January 31, 2017

In 1950, China’s population was almost 552 million, and the average lifespan was 35 as it had been for centuries. By the Time Mao died in 1976, even with the Great Famine (1958-1961) in a country known as the Land of Famines, the population increased to more than 930 million, and the average lifespan had climbed to almost 55. Today, there are almost 1-billion, 400-million Chinese, and the average lifespan has reached beyond 76 years, more than twice what it was in 1950 when Mao and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) became the leader of China?

How did all that happen?

After the CCP won the Civil war in 1949, health care improved in China. By the time Mao died in 1976, average life expectancy had increased by twenty years, so the program must have worked, right?

The CCP was the first government in China’s history to set goals and plans to help the people who lived in extreme poverty improve the quality of their lifestyles, and soon after Mao Zedong’s healthcare speech in 1965, the concept of the barefoot doctor (with basic paramedical training) was developed.

By 1968, the barefoot doctors program was a national policy, and it was offered free to the working class. The barefoot doctor program ended in 1981 with the end the agricultural cooperatives. However, two-thirds of rural village doctors currently practicing in China were first trained as barefoot doctors.

This program was the foundation of rural-health care in China, but back then anyone could become a barefoot doctor.

Mao told the people that if you wanted to be a doctor, you didn’t need to go to medical school. All you had to do was have the motivation to provide medical care to needy people and the government would support you and provide limited training.

The second class of medical care went to teachers, clerks and secretaries, who were considered ‘friends’ of the working class, the proletariat. The only difference was that these ‘friends’ had to pay to get medical treatment, and it was possible to face financial ruin from one hospital stay.

A third group of people was considered enemies of the proletariat: former shop-owners, landlords and denounced intellectuals like liberal arts professors. These people were denied health care.

Mao died in 1976, and between 1981 and 2003, the health care system in China was privatized. People had to pay before treatment or receive no medical care. This changed again in 2003, when the CCP launched a new cooperative medical system operated and funded by the government with a copay of 10 Renminbi per year for each enrolled citizen.

In 2008, the SARS epidemic resulted in the beginning of more health-care reforms.

Health Affairs.org reports, “China is at a crossroads in transforming its health care system. Like the United States, China is faced with the double-edged sword of having both a large uninsured population and rapid health care cost inflation. … China’s solution for its rural areas is the New Cooperative Medical Scheme (NCMS), a government-run voluntary insurance program. … In an attempt to redirect urban patients’ reliance on hospital services toward primary care, the government announced in 2005 the establishment of community health centers (CHCs) to provide prevention, primary care, home care, and rehabilitative services.”

2a-242-positive-reviews-hall-of-fame-reviewer-jan-16-2017

Where to Buy

Subscribe to “iLook China”!
Sign up for an E-mail Subscription at the top of this page, or click on the “Following” tab in the WordPress toolbar at the top of the screen.

About iLook China

China’s Holistic Historical Timeline


China’s Mighty Ditch, the Grand Canal

January 25, 2017

I’ve heard China’s critics allege that China could never compete with a democracy when it comes to innovation. Yet for thousands of years China was ruled by autocratic all-powerful emperors, and China was the most advanced and wealthiest country in the world until about the time the Portuguese arrived. Encyclopedia Britannica reports, “Early in the 18th century the Portuguese found that they could import opium from India and sell it in China at a considerable profit.”

One Chinese innovation is the Grand Canal, and it wasn’t built overnight. It took centuries and more than one dynasty to complete. In fact, work on the first segment of the Grand Canal started in BC 486, and even after the canal was completed centuries later; it was renovated by the Ming Dynasty between 1411 and 1415 AD.  The Ming also renovated the Great Wall.

It could be said that China’s Grand Canal is the opposite of China’s Great Wall, because it’s a ditch and not a wall. Until my first trip to China in 1999, I’d never heard of the Grand Canal, and it is still in use today while the Great Wall is just a tourist attraction.

Is there anything in Europe and/or the United States that’s been around for more than 2,500 years that’s still in use today?

While building the Grand Canal, the pound lock was invented in the 10th century during the Song Dynasty.  Without the pound lock there’s be no Panama or Suez Canals.  According to Encyclopedia.com, “The ancestor of the modern lock is the flash lock. It originated in China and is believed to have been used as early as BC 50.”  The pound lock, an improvement of the flash lock, was also invented in China.

The first pound lock in Europe was built in the Netherlands in 1373 AD, and Leonardo de Vinci improved the pound lock in the 15th century. Did Marco Polo, who lived in China from about 1271 – 1295, bring back the concept of the pound lock? After all, while in China, Polo traveled extensively and probably used the Grand Canal to get around.

A report from Boston’s University of Massachusetts says, “The Grand Canal of China is not only the world’s oldest canal, it is far longer than either Suez or Panama. At 1,795 kilometers (or 1,114 miles) it has 24 locks and 60 bridges, and claim to the title of longest canal. Building began in 486 B.C. with an important extension decreed in the third century, BCE during the Qin Dynasty.”

To understand the significance, it helps to compare the Grand Canal to the Suez and Panama Canals. In the 19th century, the French built the Suez Canal, more than two millennia after the Chinese started to build the Grant Canal and about a thousand years after the pound lock was invented. When it opened, the Suez Canal was only 25 feet deep, 72 feet wide at the bottom and 200 to 300 feet wide at the surface and is 120.11 miles long. China’s Grand Canal is almost 10 times longer.

Construction on the Panama Canal was started in 1881 by the French but was a failure. The United States eventually stepped in and finished that canal between 1904 – 1914, and when finished, it was only 51 miles long.

A timeline of the Great Wall shows that the first segment was built between BC 685 – 645, and it was 398.5 miles in length, almost 8 times longer than the Panama Canal.

Discover Wu Zetian, China’s only female emperor

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

a1-241-positive-reviews-jan-7-2017_edited-4

Where to Buy

Subscribe to “iLook China”!
Sign up for an E-mail Subscription at the top of this page, or click on the “Following” tab in the WordPress toolbar at the top of the screen.

About iLook China

China’s Holistic Historical Timeline


China’s Great Wall

January 24, 2017

Like so much about China, The Great Wall is also the victim of myths that are not always true. Did you know that the history of the Great Wall of China started with fortifications built by various states during the Spring and Autumn (771 – 476 BC) and Warring States (475 – 221 BC) periods? But the best-known and best-preserved sections of The Great Wall was built in the 14th through 17th centuries A.D., during the Ming Dynasty, more than two thousand years later.

If you want to know more about The Great Wall plan a trip to China, or read Peter Hessler’s Country Driving. The first part of this book is about the months he spent driving the length of The Great Wall all the way to Tibet.

In the first 122 pages Peter Hessler rented a Chinese made Jeep Cherokee. In this section, I learned that the Wall was successful most of the time and not the failure historians have claimed it was.

Over a period of several thousand years, the wall failed a couple of times, but served its purpose and offered protection for China’s heartland for centuries. Hessler says that there is no archaeologist in the world that has studied the history of the Great Wall, but he wrote that there are amateur experts, and you will meet a few in his book along with a unique view of rural China.


The Great Wall of China – Unbelievable Secrets & Unknown Facts

The Wall failed when first Genghis and then Kublai Khan unified the Mongol tribes and invaded China in the 13th century, but it didn’t happen overnight. It took sixty years for the Mongols to conquer all of China and then they ruled the country for almost a century before the Han Chinese rose up and drove them out.

The sections of the Great Wall I’ve visited are an hour out of Beijing. The most popular site is at Badaling.  The second choice, Mutianyu, is more dramatic, because this portion of the Great Wall runs along the ridge of a mountain range and you have to hike up a steep slope to reach it or ride a ski lift to the top. Badaling starts in a fortress in a mountain pass, and the wall climbs the slopes from there.

great-wall-consruction-by-dynasty

Smithsonian Magazine reported, “Few cultural landmarks symbolize the sweep of a nation’s history more powerfully than The Great Wall of China. Constructed by a succession of imperial dynasties over more than 2,000 years, the network of barriers, towers and fortifications expanded over the centuries, defining and defending the outer limits of Chinese civilization. At the height of its importance during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), The Great Wall is believed to have extended some 4,000 miles, the distance from New York to Milan.

China’s Great Wall was not built by one country, king, or emperor. The wall was built in sections by the kings of several nations over a period of centuries. Those walls were eventually linked together by China’s first Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi, who brutally unified China through bloody conquest into one country with one written language, Mandarin, and many spoken languages.

Then there is the recent Great Wall film starring Matt Damon, a film that explores a mystery centered on the construction of the Great Wall of China. Of course it obvious this story is based on a fantasy. In the film’s trailer, I was hooked by, “What were they trying to keep out?”

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

a1-241-positive-reviews-jan-7-2017_edited-4

Where to Buy

Subscribe to “iLook China”!
Sign up for an E-mail Subscription at the top of this page, or click on the “Following” tab in the WordPress toolbar at the top of the screen.

About iLook China

China’s Holistic Historical Timeline