What Makes China Different

December 4, 2019

One major difference is that most Chinese have NOT been seriously influenced by the politics and religious beliefs of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. The major influences of Chinese Culture come from Confucian and Taoist thought.

In fact, the former prime minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew thought that Western-style democracy is incompatible with Confucianism and that the latter constitutes a much more coherent ideological basis for a well-ordered Asian society than Western notions of individual liberty.

Confucianism and Taoism appeared in China almost nine hundred years before Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. It would take another three centuries before Christianity and Islam reached China, more than twelve hundred years after the 5th century BC when Confucian and Taoist thought was introduced to China.

The Jews arrived much later. Most scholars agree that a Jewish community existed in Kaifeng, China since the Northern Song Dynasty (960–1127 AD), though some date their arrival to the Tang Dynasty (618–907 AD), or earlier.

Buddhism arrived during the Han Dynasty, but by then China was already deeply Confucian and Taoist. Both have philosophies that focus on harmony and social order in society. Although Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism all mention harmony, too, the violence and wars caused by these religions have painted a wide bloody scar through history that continues today. You might be shocked to discover that Buddhists can be violent, too. If you are interested, I suggest you read A Short History of Violent Buddhism to learn more.

Confucius and many of his contemporaries were concerned about the state of turmoil, competition, and warfare between the feudal states. They sought philosophical and practical solutions to the problems of government — solutions that, they hoped, would lead to a restoration of unity and stability. – Columbia.edu

Taoism (also known as Daoism) is a Chinese philosophy attributed to Lao Tzu (c. 500 BCE) which contributed to the folk religion of the people primarily in the rural areas of China. Taoism focuses on the present – heaven and hell exist in how you connect to the present moment. On the other hand, Christianity teaches that heaven or hell happens after death.

Classroom.com says, “Taoism and Islam are very different in many ways. Religious Taoism is polytheistic, worshiping no single, omnipotent god, and instead venerating a pantheon of gods, many of whom have functional titles and roles. The Taoist classic text is the ‘Tao Te Ching.’ ‘Tao’ means, roughly, ‘the Way,’ and refers to both the ordering principle of the universe and to the gentle seeking of accommodation with it. … Islam says there is only one God, Allah.”

China like Singapore legally allows five religions, but only 200 million Chinese (14 percent of China’s population of 1.4 billion) practice Buddhism, Daoism, Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism.

According to Religion in China – By the Numbers, there are 44 million Christians and 20 million Muslims in China today. Combined, Islam and Christianity represent less than five percent of China’s population compared to the United States with the largest Christian population in the world, about 75 percent of its 320 million people.

The most widespread religion in China is a combination of Buddhism, Chinese folklore, Taoism and Confucianism. It is estimated that 800,000,000 Chinese follow this tradition that retains traces of its ancestral Neolithic belief system including the veneration of the Sun, Moon, Earth, Heaven and various stars, as well as communication with animals. Folk religion in China has been practiced alongside Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism by Chinese people for thousands of years.

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 is the Misunderstood Dragon

January 30, 2019

If you want to make an attempt to understand China, I suggest starting with the differences between Chinese dragons vs. Western ones.

Kid World Citizen.org tells us, “(Chinese) Dragons symbolize importance, power and strength, represent all things male, and were the symbol of the Emperor of China (who was said to sit on the dragon throne). The imperial dragon is shown with 5 claws instead of the usual 4, to distinguish him from lesser beasts.”

Chinese “Dragons are essential in agricultural life, since they are seen to control the seasons and the weather.  Although they (Chinese dragons) have no wings, the fiery pearl sometimes displayed in their mouths gives them the power to fly to heaven.  The male air and weather dragons would bring rains and winds to help the harvest, while the female earth dragons would preserve the waters in rivers and underground wells.” …

If you are interested, there’s more about Chinese dragons at Kid World Citizens dot org (find the link above).

Compare what you have learned about China’s dragons to the West’s. The Vintage News.com says, “From ancient Greek myths to Game of Thrones, the legend of the dragon is one of the most enduring and romanticized throughout history. It has been traced back as far as 4000 BC and exists in all parts of the world.” …

In the West, dragons were generally treated as violent monsters that must be slain by heroes and saints. European dragons could have four legs, two legs, or none, and often had wings.

“In Asia, and especially China,” The Vintage News continues, “the view of these creatures was very different. … They breathed clouds and moved the seasons. The dragon was the symbol of the Chinese Emperor, and the Imperial throne was called the Dragon Throne. Known as the Dragon, the emperor ruled in harmony, and brought peace and prosperity to all. … Chinese dragons are depicted as being more serpent-like, with long, snaking bodies and usually had four legs. They are generally seen as wingless.”

There are also a few other differences to compare.

China is a collective culture vs Europe and North America that are individualistic cultures. It is possible that the reason China’s dragons are different is because of the influence of a collective culture.

Does that mean we can explain the evil and danger of Western dragons to the influence of individualistic thinking?

European and North American cultures are influenced mostly by Christianity, Judaism, and philosophers from ancient Greece and Renaissance Europe. Ancient Athens in Greece is among the first recorded and one of the most important democracies in ancient times; the word “democracy” ( Greek: δημοκρατία – “rule by the people”) was invented by Athenians in order to define their system of government, around 508 BC.

Christianity, Islam, and Judaism have never been a major political or religious influence in China.

Religious and/or philosophical influences in China come from Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism.

Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism have never been a major political or religious influence in Europe or North America.

Because of these differences, mainland China has never had a republic or democracy similar to Europe or North America.

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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Religious Influence in China

April 17, 2018

The Financial Times reports, “Christianity first reached China in the 7th century AD, brought by Nestorian Eastern Syriac believers.” The Review of Religions.org says Islam arrived about the same time, but in the 17th century, The downturn for Muslims began with the rise of the Qing Dynasty in 1644. Qing Emperors made life very hard for Muslims. First they prohibited the Halal slaughter of animals, then they banned the construction of new Mosques and the pilgrimage for Hajj. Conditions grew bleak for Islam in the second half of the 19th Century when rebellion led to the slaughter of possibly millions of Chinese Muslims.”

This helps explain why China has never had an organized religion dominate the culture as religions have in Western and Middle Eastern countries.

In fact, when organized religions meddle too much, the Chinese eventually strike back. During the Tang Dynasty in 878 A.D., a rebel leader named Huang Chao burned and pillaged Guangzhou (better known in the West as Canton) killing tens of thousands of Muslims, Jews, and Christians.

Then there were two Opium Wars during the middle of the nineteenth century where France and England invaded to force opium and Christian missionaries on China.

That resulted in the Taiping Rebellion, which was led by a Christian convert, Hong Xiuquan, known as God’s Chinese son. Hong claimed to be Jesus Christ’s younger brother. Estimates say twenty to thirty million Chinese may have died during this religious war to rid China of opium and turn China into a Christian nation, far more than all the Crusades combined.

The culmination of a series of campaigns against organized religions starting in the late 19th century, including Mao’s Cultural Revolution, destroyed or forced Christians, Jews, and Muslims to hide their religious beliefs.

More than thirteen hundred years have passed since Christianity and Islam were introduced to China, but after all those centuries only 0.45-percent of the Chinese population follows Islam while about 2.5-percent are Christians. That means about 97-percent of the population does not belong to an organized religion like Christianity or Islam that often has an influence on politics.

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 Ancient Capital that Served Twelve Dynasties

February 13, 2018

Most people outside China only know of Beijing (once called Peking) as the capital of China. However, another city was China’s capital for more than a thousand years, and there were others. The top five are: Xi’an (called Chang’an in ancient times), Beijing, Nanjing, Luoyang, and Kaifeng.

Chang’an (Xi’an) served as the capital for twelve dynasties, including the Western Zhou, Qin, Western Han, Sui and Tang dynasties, spanning more than eleven-hundred years. It was also the cultural center of the Silk Road.

To discover Chang’an’s long history also teaches us much about China’s civilization. Discovery Channel’s Neville Gishford said, “It (Han Chang’an) was more powerful than Rome. If any Roman army had actually gone there, they would have been absolutely annihilated.”

Han Chang’an was larger than Constantinople and richer than Egypt’s Alexandria. It was a fortress so powerful that even 20th-century artillery could not knock its walls down.

Today, Xi’an (once Chang’an) is home to almost nine million people and thousands of men made of clay, the Terra Cotta Warriors guarding China’s first emperor.

In addition, the massive city wall is more than six-hundred years old and longer than 12-kilometers. Cracks are appearing and an engineering team keeps close watch and makes repairs

However, the Xi’an of today was first built over two thousand years ago and has been three cities, not one. The Han Dynasty built the first city (Chang’an), which is located close to the modern city of Xi’an, and the old eroding walls of the Han Dynasty capital are still visible.

At 36 square kilometers, Han Chang’an was more than one-and-a-half-times the size of Rome.

Archaeologist Charles Higham, a world famous authority on ancient Asian cities, said, “A delegation of jugglers from Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180 AD), who is regarded as one of the greatest emperors in Roman history) traveled and performed in the Han Court of Chang’an.”

More than two thousand years ago, the walls of Chang’an (Xi’an) were made of rammed (compressed) earth and most of the city was built of kiln-fired clay bricks, which was a revolutionary building material at the time.

The builders of Han Chang’an used this new technology in revolutionary ways such as building an underground sewer system connected to the moat that surrounded the city.

From the Qin to the Tang Dynasty, 62 emperors ruled China from Chang’an. The China Daily says in and around Xi’an, there are about 500 burial mounds where the remains of emperors and aristocrats rest.

The largest tombs mark the passing of Emperors Qin Shi Huangdi (259 – 210 BC), Tang Gaozong (628 – 683 AD), and his wife Empress Tang Wu Zetian (624 – 705 AD).

The Daming Palace, where the Tang Emperors ruled China, was eight-hundred years older and nearly five times larger than Beijing’s Forbidden City. The Daming Palace was built in one year.

However, it wasn’t the Daming Palace that made Chang’an powerful. Long before Manhattan, Hong Kong, Paris, and Dubai, Chang’an was where the world came to shop.

Over a thousand years ago, the wealth of the West poured into China. But wealth wasn’t the only thing China gained. Several major religions were also introduced to China.

For instance, Islam was barely a hundred years old, when Silk Road traders brought this religion to Chang’an. Today’s Xi’an claims it has a Muslim history going back thirteen hundred years when Islam was first introduced to China in 650 AD.

In fact, the oldest mosque in China was built in 685-762 AD in Chang’an during the reign of Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty.

Although Christianity and Islam were both introduced to China during the Tang Dynasty, Buddhism has deeper roots since it first arrived in China from India about 200 BC.

Christianity arrived in China in 635 AD (more than eight hundred years after Buddhism and only a few years before Islam), when a Nestorian monk called Alopen reached the ancient capital city of Tang Chang’an.

During the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1643 AD), China isolated itself from the world by rebuilding the Great Wall and a string of impregnable fortresses to protect China’s heartland from Mongol invasion.

One of those fortresses was a new military city built on the ruins of Tang Chang’an, and the Ming named this city “Western Peace” that in Mandarin is “Xi’an”.

Xi’an was one-sixth the size of Tang Chang’an, but nearly six hundred years later,  Xi’an’s walls still stand representing the largest, best-preserved set of ancient defensive walls in the world.

History records that when the walls of this third city faced its first attack, they stood firm, but the attack took place from April – November in 1926. The 20th-century artillery rounds only dented the walls.

The newest enemy to Xi’an’s ancient walls comes from modernization and the millions of inhabitants of the city. As the water table below the city is sucked dry from too many people, this has caused the earth to sink, which is pulling down the walls, and engineers and scientists work to discover ways to save them.

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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Buddhism’s Journey to China

January 30, 2018

An Indian prince became the Buddha around the 6th Century BC, but Buddhism would not arrived in China for several centuries. The Buddha’s original name was Siddartha Guatama.

After he died, Buddhism split into two major branches that divided again several times over the centuries.

Today, Buddhism has almost 380-million followers and is the world’s fifth largest religion. Christianity is the largest with 2.4 billion followers. Islam is ranked #2 with 1.6 billion. Christianity and Islam also split into different sects after the founders died although Jesus Christ isn’t the real founder of Christianity. Jesus was a Jew and he died a Jew. There is no evidence that Jesus Christ wanted to launch a new religion that wasn’t Jewish. Hinduism (#3) has 1.15 billion followers with four-major sects.

The Bodhi-dharma was a Buddhist monk and a teacher who lived during the fifty and/or sixth century AD, more than a thousand years after Buddha died in India. The Bodhi-dharma traveled from India to China where he lived in a cave for 9 years.

A Sudden Dawn by Goran Powell is an epic historical fiction novel that opens with a young man named Sardili born in 507 AD to the Indian warrior caste. Sardili realizes that he would rather seek enlightenment than follow his family’s military legacy and he sets out on a life-long quest for truth and wisdom that leads him to China where he becomes the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma, known as Da Mo in China.

Da Mo establishes the Shaolin Temple as the birthplace of Zen and the Martial Arts. In ancient China, bandits and thieves were widespread and Buddhist temples were vulnerable to attack. The Da Mo taught a fighting system for the monks to defend themselves, and it proved successful. Over time, the Buddhist Shaolin style of martial arts evolved to what it is today.

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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Did you know that Christmas is celebrated in Communist China?

December 20, 2017

I don’t read or speak Mandarin and a few years ago in early December an e-mail arrived that was in Mandarin and there was a link to a video and other attachments.

Since I learned the hard way years earlier that you don’t open an attachment from an e-mail when you don’t know where it’s from, I waited until Anchee read it and said it was from one of our daughter’s grandfathers in China.

Inside the attached file were twelve virtual Christmas cards in English with flashing Christmas lights in winter settings. There was also a link to a video where people in China were being asked questions about celebrating Christmas.

Daughter’s grandpa lives in Shanghai, and the city’s shopping malls were decorated for Christmas. It seems that many Shanghai Chinese adopted the Christmas holiday and take it seriously even giving gifts.

One Chinese man in the linked video said, “Perhaps because Shanghai is quite an international city, we attach much importance to this festival and celebrate it in a grander manner compared to other cities in China.”

A young Chinese woman said, “If you live overseas for a long time, you will know that this is the time to reunite with your friends and exchange Christmas presents with those you know.”

The twelve virtual Christmas cards our daughter’s grandfather attached to his e-mail said:

  1. “Remember… Through the year, be thankful for what you have…”
  2. If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep… You are richer than 75% of the world.”
  3. “If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish some place, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.”
  4. “If you woke up this morning with more health than illness… You are more blessed than the million who will not survive this week.”
  5. “If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation… You are ahead of 500 million people in the world.”
  6. “If you can attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death… You are more blessed than three billion people in the world.”
  7. “If your parents are still alive and still married… You are very rare, even in the United States.”
  8. “If you hold up your head with a smile on your face and are truly thankful… You are blessed, because the majority can, but most do not.”
  9. “If you can hold someone’s hand, hug them or even touch them on the shoulder… You are blessed because you can offer healing touch.”
  10. “If you can read this message, you just received a double blessing that someone was thinking of you, and furthermore … You are more blessed than over two billion people in the world that cannot read at all.”
  11. “Have a good day, count your blessings, and pass this along to remind everyone else how blessed we all are. You are wished a Merry Christmas.”
  12. “Remember … throughout the year, be thankful for what you have been blessed with …”

This e-mail came from a grandfather that fought on the winning side of China’s Civil War (1925 – 1949), and then he held an important position in China’s Communist Party until he retired at 67 (as the 1982 Chinese Constitution requires).

Country Digest says that Shanghai has a population of more than 24-million people, and only 2.6-percent (624k) are Protestants and Catholics.


There are Chinese and expatriates who celebrate Christmas in Beijing too.

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 Chinese Perception of Christianity Explained

June 22, 2016

Christianity has existed in China since at least the seventh century during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD). Yet after more than twelve hundred years there are only 30 to 40 million self-identifying Christians in China. That’s less than 3% of China’s total population compared to more than 87% that are not religious who mostly follow the teachings of Confucius and/or Taoism, and Muslims (Islam arrived in China in the 6th and 7th centuries) represent less than 2% of the people.

Christianity hasn’t had much success in Japan either. The first known appearance of organized Christianity in Japan was the arrival of the Portuguese Catholics in 1549 more than four hundred years ago but only 2% of Japan’s population are Christians today.

Why?

For an answer, let’s turn to what Lin Yutang had to say on this subject.

Lin Yutang (1895 – 1976) was a Chinese writer, translator, linguist and inventor. He was one of the most influential writers of his generation. In 1933, he met Pearl S. Buck in Shanghai and she introduced him, and his writings to her American publisher.

Lin Yutang says, “For most Chinese the end of life lies not in life after death, for the idea that we live in order to die, as taught by Christianity, is incomprehensible, nor in Nirvana, for that is too metaphysical, not in the satisfaction of accomplishment, for that is too vainglorious, nor yet in progress for progress’ sake, for that is meaningless.

“The true end, the Chinese have decided in a singularly clear manner, lies in the enjoyment of a simple life, especially the family life, and in harmonious social relationships.”

“The Chinese are a nation of individualists. They are family-minded, not social-minded.  …  It is curious that the word society does not exist as an idea in Chinese thought. In the Confucian social and political philosophy we see a direct transition from family, ‘chia’, to the state, ‘kuo’, as successive stages of human organization. …

“The Chinese, therefore, make rather poor Christian converts, and if they are to be converted they should all become Quakers, for that is the only sort of Christianity that the Chinese can understand. Christianity as a way of life can impress the Chinese, but Christian creeds and dogmas will be crushed, not by a superior Confucian logic but by ordinary Confucian common sense. Buddhism itself, when absorbed by the educated Chinese, became nothing but a system of mental hygiene, which is the essence of Sung philosophy.”

My Country and My PeopleLin Yutang. Halcyon House, New York. 1938. Pgs 94; 101; 103; 172, and 108

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 on March 13 - 2016 Cover Image with BLurbs to promote novel

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