What Came First, the Blog or the Book?

April 29, 2020

The reason I launched iLookChina in January 2010, was to build a social media platform to attract readers for “My Splendid Concubine”, my first published novel, and it worked. The 1st edition of the book was released in December 2007 and two years later the novel had sold 562 copies. By New Years of 2010, another 2,375 copies had been sold thanks to the blog. Fast forward a decade to February 2020, and Concubine has reached 64,399 readers (more if their copies were loaned to friends and family), and that is not counting the near quarter-million page reads through Kindle Unlimited.

This journey did not start in 2007. It started December 1999, when Anchee and I visited China together for the first time on our honeymoon. By then, I had already I started the nine years of research, writing, editing and revisions that led to the novel.

By the end of 2007, I thought I knew a lot about China. I could not have been more wrong. The truth was I didn’t know much at all as I was soon to discover.

That brings me to 2009, when I was a member of the California Writers Club (the 2nd oldest writers club in the United States), and I took an all-day workshop through the South Bay Branch of the club where we learned what we had to do to attract interested readers for our books.

Without word-of-mouth, readers are not going to find our books. We had to find the readers first.

In that workshop, we were told not to write about being writers as many authors do, but to write about something our book was a small part of. For me, that meant China. The instructor said if we wanted to be found on the first page of a Google search we had to publish 1,000 posts in the first year. I went home and did everything I had learned in that workshop and started posting three times a day until I hit the one thousand mark. Good thing I was a retired teacher by then, because that turned out to be more than a full-time job. After reaching 1,000 posts, I slowed down to one new post a day for the next few years before I ended up where I am now, once a week.

The first post was American Hypocrisy published on January 28, 2010. The first paragraph says, “Why am I writing about China? Simple—many Americans do not respect the differences between cultures. They say they do, but I don’t believe them. During the 2008-2009 school year, our daughter returned home one day to tell us that her history teacher talked about China and said the people had to be very depressed to live under a totalitarian government like the Communists.”

While China has an authoritarian one-party government, it isn’t a totalitarian state like North Korea, not even close, and I never met any Chinese depressed by their government during my trips to China. In fact, Shanghai turned out to be the Paris of Asia, a colorful, thriving city filled with life.

The day I launched the blog, I had been married to Anchee Min for a decade and had visited China nine times with my family to learn more about the country, its culture, and people, and even that wasn’t enough.

Long before the end of 2010, I ran out of stuff to write about by the time I reached the hundredth post. Most of what I knew about China was what I had learned while writing that historical fiction novel set in the middle of the 19th century. It was based on a true story and the main character was an Irishman named Robert Hart who was 19 when he arrived in China in 1854. Beginning as a student interpreter in the consular service, Hart arrived in China at the age of 19 and stayed for 54 years, except for two short leaves in 1866 and 1874. Hart has been credited as the most important and most influential Westerner in Qing dynasty China.

I had to learn more about China, or the blog was going to die a slow death. I started studying China’s history going back thousands of years. I wrote about the Great Wall, the Grand Canal, the first emperor, the different dynasties, the best emperors, the worst emperors, the inventions that came out of China, Chinese medicine, Daoism Confucianism, Buddhism, and the food, et al.

I also learned about China’s 1911 revolution, and Dr. Sun Yat-sen, known today as the Father of the Nation, both in Taiwan and Mainland China. Sun had been sent by his family to go to school in Hawaii as a boy where he learned about the U.S. Constitution. He returned to China as a young man and joined the revolution to replace the Qing Dynasty with a republic modeled on the United States but adapted to fit Chinese culture.  After several failures, Sun successfully recruited the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the Nationalist Party, and other smaller parties to work together and form a multi-party republic.

Then Dr. Sun Yat-sen died unexpectedly in 1925 before the job was done, and the alliance he had built fell apart starting China’s long and brutal Civil War (1927 – 1949). The CCP did not start that Civil War. Chiang Kai-shek did that when he formed an alliance with the criminal triad gangs in Shanghai to destroy the newly forming labor unions and the young Chinese Communist Party that was organizing the unions. Without warning, Chiang Kai-shek’s troops, with help from Shanghai’s ruthless criminal triads, hunted down and executed, without trials, every member of the Communist Party they could find and the leaders of the labor unions along with the workers that had joined the unions.

To keep publishing posts and attracting readers interested in learning more about the real China, I had to keep learning, but I couldn’t do that by turning to the misleading, biased propaganda that often gets published and broadcast about China in the U.S. media. I had to find material published before 1911 and from other academic sources like from Australia, and the media from other countries like the BBC, France 24, and Al Jazeera English, headquartered in Doha, Qatar.

Since iLookChina’s launch, there have been more than 2,434 posts (most of them researched and written by me), 4,966 comments, and 802,366 hits (visitors). Sometimes I have paid a price when a China hating American accuses me of being an evil Communist and a traitor to the United States, because I strive to reveal the real China and not the fabricated one we often read about in the U.S. Media.

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


The Moral Failings of Donald Trump according to Confucius

April 15, 2020

Simon Worrall, writing in National Geographic Magazine said Confucius “was hailed after his death as ‘The Uncrowned King,’ a philosopher whose sound bites of wisdom became China’s handbook on government and its code of personal morality for thousands of years.”

Confucius believed that every person had their place in society, and his philosophy turned Ancient China into a structured society with the longest continuous history of any country in the world–3,500 years of written history. Source: American Historical Association

More than twenty-four hundred years ago, Confucius dedicated his life to the moral training of his culture. He lived during the Warring States period before China was unified. Living with all of that violence and death, he dreamed of a land where people could live happily and harmoniously together.

Does that mean China enjoys dignity without democracy while the United States has democracy without dignity?

Confucius provides the answer In Analects 16.7, “The gentleman has three things to be cautious about: In his youth, when his blood and energy are not yet settled, he must be cautious about sex. In his middle years, when his blood and energy are just strong, he must be cautious about fighting. In his old age, when his blood and energy are already weak, he must be cautious about greed.”

The Conversation says, “Trump seems to embody all three types of recklessness identified by Confucius.

“His behavior towards women has been roundly condemned; his warmongering words regarding North Korea provoked fear and consternation around the world; he unashamedly made his lust for wealth and power into the basis of his media personality.”

Why do these moral failings matter?

“Because democracy needs dignity if it is not to descend into disorder. That doesn’t mean (America’s) leaders have to abide by some impossible standard of personal moral purity; after all, they are only human.”

However, if we judge Donald Trump by Confucian standards, Trump is now America’s most irredeemable leader and is beyond redemption. It doesn’t matter of Trump wins or loses the election in November 2020, he will always be considered hopeless by future historians.

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


China’s Wild Elephants

April 8, 2020

According to 2017’s Great Elephant Census, there are, “352,271 African savanna elephants in 18 countries, down 30% in seven years.”

The BBC reports, “There are around 40,000-50,000 elephants left in Asia, and like African elephants they are listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List. The number of Asian elephants has declined by at least 50% in the last three generations. … on 1 January 2018, China banned domestic ivory trade – a historic move shutting down the world’s biggest legal ivory market. A number of other countries, including the UK and Thailand, have also begun taking steps to try and ban the sale of ivory.”

However, while other wild elephants population in the world are down, China is the only country where numbers are on the rise, but don’t celebrate yet. There are only 200 – 250 wild elephants in China.


“In the past 20 years, the number of Asian elephants in southwest China’s Yunnan Province has more than doubled when elephant populations all over the world are decreasing and under threat. China’s conservation efforts are seen as an international wildlife and environmental success story.”

Eleaid.com says, “China’s elephants are only found in the extreme south of the Yunnan province, bordering Burma and Laos. Their range includes Xishuangbanna (XSNB) and the Nangunhe Nature Reserves.

“The elephant is a protected species in China and the government has taken steps to conserve areas of elephant habitat including moving people out of the reserves in a bid to minimize human-elephant conflict.

“Chinese officials have reported that the population is growing through both reproduction and immigration of herds from Laos. This is attributable to the lack of a threat from poachers in China and the abundant availability of fodder. …”

The existence of elephants in ancient China appears in both archaeological evidence and in Chinese artwork. Long thought to belong to an extinct subspecies of Asian elephants, … they lived in Central and Southern China before the 14th century BC, more than 3,000 years ago. Elephants ranged as far north as Anyang, Henan in northern China.

Today, tourists may see wild elephants in Gajah Liar Valley. “There are wooden houses built in tall trees that offer a safe place to watch. — China Travel.com

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


Who Deserves Credit for the First Vaccine?

April 1, 2020

Worst Pandemics in History reports that “25 million died from Bubonic Plague in 541-542 AD, and 75-200 million died from the Black Death in 1346-1353.” … The next huge death toll from a pandemic equal to the first two was Influenza in 1918 killing “20 – 50 million people.”

Because of these earlier pandemics, eventually, the first successful vaccines were created, and as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread around the world, a global race is on to create a vaccine to protect us from this one, too.

While Edward Jenner, an English physician, developed the first successful smallpox vaccine in 1796, did you know that he wasn’t the first one to inoculate for a viral disease?

The history of vaccinations started centuries before Jenner was born.

“Several accounts from the 1500s describe smallpox inoculation as practiced in China and India (one is referred to in volume 6 of Joseph Needham’s Science and Civilisation in China). Glynn and Glynn, in The Life and Death of Smallpox, note that in the late 1600s Emperor K’ang Hsi, who had survived smallpox as a child, had his children inoculated. That method involved grinding up smallpox scabs and blowing the matter into nostril. Inoculation may also have been practiced by scratching matter from a smallpox sore into the skin. It is difficult to pinpoint when the practice began, as some sources claim dates as early as 200 BCE.” — History of Vaccines.org

However, Britannica.com tells us “China has one of the world’s oldest medical systems. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal remedies date back at least 2,200 years, although the earliest known written record of Chinese medicine is the Huangdi neijing (The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic) from the 3rd century bce.”

“Newly discovered documents reveal that 2,200 years ago, Qin Shi Huangdi, China’s first emperor, put out an executive order to search for a potion that would give him eternal live.” — Live Science.com

Is it possible that the first emperor of China’s search for immorality might have also led to those alleged early inoculation attempts as early as 200 BCE? After all, the same desperate search by Huangdi’s alchemists accidently led to the discovery of gunpowder.

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


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