September 13th is Mid-Autumn Day

September 11, 2019

China’s Mid-Autumn Festival is similar to the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States. Families and friends in China get together and celebrate a bountiful harvest by coming together to eat, drink, and be happy.

Around the world, Chinese and Vietnamese celebrate this festival. For instance, in San Francisco, not far from where I live, the Chinatown Autumn Moon Festival took place on September 7 – 8, 2019.

During the Mid-Autumn Festival, it is customary to have Moon-Watching parties, and offerings are still made to the Moon.

Also known as the “Full Moon Festival,” the Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month and takes place when the moon’s orbit is at its lowest angle to the horizon, making the moon appear brighter and larger than any other time of the year.

One historical event linked to this festival is the Moon Cake Uprising.

Near the end of the Yuan Dynasty (1271 – 1368 AD), many Chinese wanted to take back their country from the invading Mongols. Zhu Yuanzhang, the founder of the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644 AD), united the resistance forces. However, it was not easy to organize the different factions spread across the country so the rebels hid notes with details about the rebellion in mooncakes and sent them to the different factions on Mid-Autumn Day. Since then, eating moon cakes have been a Chinese custom during the Mid-Autumn Festival.

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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Say Hello to “The Farewell”

September 4, 2019

If you marry someone that grew up in China, the odds favor that you will also be married to a Chinese family. When I married Anchee in 1999, I got a lot more than a wife. In China, I also was accepted by her family, her friends, and I started to learn about the country of her birth, its long history, and its culture, and I haven’t stopped learning. The only thing I haven’t learned is Mandarin, a tonal language where what sounds like one word can be four words depending on the tone. I’m not tone deaf. I enjoy listening to music, but I cannot tell the difference between the sounds needed to pronounce four different words that sound like they are one word.

I saw “The Farewell” alone on a Monday morning in an almost empty theater with two other people that sat higher up in what I call the bleachers. The film offered more than the drama of a Chinese family that discovers their beloved grandmother in China has a short time to live. Throughout the film, the Chinese family and their friends, and even the Japanese bride hide the doctor’s verdict from the grandmother.

To keep this secret, her two sons that haven’t been to China with their families for twenty-five years, use the excuse of a sudden engagement to bring family and friends together for this unexpected wedding before grandmother dies. One son lives in the United States, and his brother lives in Japan where his son has a Japanese girlfriend, the bride to be.

The lead character is Billi. She was six when her mother and father moved to the United States. When we first meet Billi, she is in her twenties and living alone in a postage-stamp-sized apartment in New York City.  She can’t pay her rent, won’t ask her parents for financial help, and doesn’t want to move back home.

Billi played by Awkwafina, an actor that was born in New York City in 1988 as Nora Lum, grew up Chinese in the United States helping her understand the differences between the two cultures.

What I think made this film worth watching was witnessing Billi’s American individualism in conflict with China’s collective culture, until she remembers or learns, when in China, do as the Chinese do.  By the way, the grandmother lives in an older building. Many residential buildings in China’s cities are newer looking and more modern than what I saw in this film unless the story took place before the 21st century.

Too bad, so many Americans are not interested in learning about other cultures. “The Farewell” opened July 12, 2019, and its total domestic lifetime gross to date is about $12.8 million. More Americans should see films like this one instead of cartoons like “Monsters, Inc.” that grossed almost $600 million.

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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Still in Use Today

August 21, 2019

Several years ago, I had a debate on this Blog with an individual who claimed the Chinese could not be innovative because they did not live in a democracy. Eventually, as I tore his opinion to shreds, the debate turned mean and he started to attack me with insults and threats like internet trolls often do.

For anyone that thinks the Chinese cannot be innovative unless they live in a democracy like the United States with its current repressive, mean President Donald Trump, who is not innovative, I want you to know a few things about China.

First, most of the world knows about China’s Great Wall (first built during the Spring and Autumn period (771 – 476 BC) and portions of that Great Wall, rebuilt by the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644 AD) is still around for tourists to visit today.

China’s Grand Canal is not as well-known as the Great Wall, but that canal (started building in 486 BC) is the longest one in the world and it is still in use today. To make it work, the Chinese invented the Pound Lock in the 10th century more than a thousand years ago. The Pound Lock is a Chinese innovation and without it, there would be no Suez and Panama canals. The first Pound Lock built in the West was in the Netherlands in 1373 AD.

Did someone in the Netherlands reinvent the Pound Lock or was that innovation stolen from China?

What most of the world doesn’t know is that seventeen ancient irrigation sites in China have been inscribed as world Heritage Irrigation Structures, reports China Central Television.

One of those seventeen irrigation sites was built 2,275 years ago, and it is still in operation. The Dujiangyan irrigation system is located in Dujiangyan, Sichuan Province and was built for irrigation and flood control. Even massive earthquakes have not destroyed it. Japanese troops in World War II were ordered to destroy it, but they couldn’t find it.

UNESCO says, “The Dujiangyan irrigation system, located in the western portion of the Chengdu flatlands at the junction between the Sichuan basin and the Qinghai-Tibet plateau, is an ecological engineering feat originally constructed around 256 BC. Modified and enlarged during the Tang, Song, Yuan and Ming dynasties, it uses natural topographic and hydrological features to solve problems of diverting water for irrigation, draining sediment, flood control, and flow control without the use of dams.”

Is there another country in the world that can match what China built more than two thousand years ago that is still in use 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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According to the Ancient Chinese, I was born as a Rooster

August 14, 2019

I was born in 1945 on August 14. Each Chinese zodiac animal has personality traits assigned to it by the ancient Chinese. Chinese people believe these traits will be embodied in people, according to their zodiac sign.

The Chinese Zodiac says as a Rooster, I am observant, hardworking, and courageous.

China’s ancient calendar is based on a twelve-year lunar cycle. At one time, the Chinese calendar was confusing and complex. Buddhists have been given credit for simplifying it by replacing a complex system of numerical symbols with the twelve animals of the Chinese Zodiac.

There are several Chinese calendars, which are still in use today. Each has its own purpose. Farmers in rural China use one. There’s even a Chinese gender calendar to help conceive a boy or girl.

In addition to the lunar, numerical, astronomical, gender and agricultural calendars, each day also has a name from one of twenty-eight constellations, with a ruling spirit for the day.

In charting the sky, the Chinese divided the heavens into 28 constellations located along the Equator and the ecliptic (the apparent path of the Sun on the celestial sphere), each named after a star in the vicinity.

Explorable.com says (see previous link), “Unlike other cultures charting the stars at this period, astrologers were separate from astronomers and their job was to interpret occurrences and omens portended in the sky. As the astronomers began to chart regular events, such as lunar eclipses, these were removed from the realm of astrologers, who Emperors consulted before every major decision.

“As a result, the Chinese developed an extensive system of the zodiac designed to help guide the life of people on Earth. Their version of the zodiac was called the ‘yellow path’, a reference to the sun traveling along the ecliptic. As is the case with Western astrology, the Chinese had twelve houses along the yellow path, although the names they gave were different.”

2019 is the Year of the Pig according to the Chinese zodiac.

Chinese years are counted in a repeating twelve-year sequence, each year symbolized by an animal: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig.

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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Singapore’s Role in the Successful Birth of Modern China

July 10, 2019

Born in 1923, Lee Kuan Yew would become Singapore’s founding father. He was elected its 1st Prime Minister in 1959. After victory in seven elections, Lee stepped down in November 1990, making him the world’s longest-serving prime minister.

In 1978, Deng Xiaoping visited Singapore and Lee offered him advice on how to modernize China, and it wasn’t by following America’s example.


CNN’s Fareed Zakaria talks with Lee Kuan Yew about his life as prime minister of Singapore.

“I want everyone to be a homeowner,” Lee Kuan Yew told CNN’s Zakaria. “I want investments. Do I want to be like America? Yes, in its inventiveness and creativeness, but not like America’s inability to control its drought problem. No! Or the gun problem. No!”

Lee also said, “I believe that during the second half of the 21st century, America will have to share the top spot with China and also India, make space for them, too.”

When Lee is asked by Zakaria if India will have an advantage because it is a democracy and China is not, Lee replies, “Let me put it this way, if India was as well organized as China, it will go a different speed, but it is going at the speed it is because it is India.  It is not one nation. It is many nations. It has 320 different languages and 32 official languages.”

India cannot reach all of its people with one language like Beijing can.

The South China Morning Post reported in 2015, “Singapore’s founder (Lee Kuan Yew) was alone among world leaders in his belief China would emerge as a global power and his views proved prescient. … In his memoirs, Lee makes plain his admiration for the late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping who led China’s opening up in 1978. Lee recalled his conversations with Deng, including one that year when Deng visited Singapore. …

“There was nothing that Singapore had done which China could not do, and do better,” Lee wrote. When Deng Xiaoping told the Chinese people to do better than Singapore, Lee knew he had taken up the challenge he had quietly tossed to Deng 14 years earlier.

Mothership reveals “Singapore was special because it represented the achievement of an estranged relative. Nowhere else outside China was there a country with ethnic Chinese in its majority.

“Lee Kuan Yew told (Deng) that if Singapore Chinese who were the descendants of poorly-educated coolies could make good, how much better mainland China could be if the right policies were adopted. …

“On the economic front, China studied Singapore’s developmental experience to glean lessons for itself. … Deng’s visit to Singapore in 1978 had left an indelible imprint on his mind. That year, some 400 delegations from China visited Singapore (to learn more). …”

In addition, “China’s decision to open up the Internet within China (based on how Singapore managed its internet), (by) … keeping the internal universe separate from the universe outside …. (led to) the vibrant (and controlled) cyberspace we now see in China.

“For many years, Singapore was an inspiration to China … Increasingly, however, Singapore has also much to learn from a China that is breaking new grounds in many fields.” Something that Lee Kuan Yew predicted in 1978 when he met with Deng Xiaoping.

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 Life of Dogs in China

July 3, 2019

Thought Co says, “Dogs are known the world over as man’s best friend. But in China, dogs are also eaten as food.”

While it is true that dogs are still food for some, most Chinese do not eat dog meat. In fact, ltl-school reveals, “the simple fact is most Chinese adore dogs just like many western households do. The practice of eating dog meat in China is actually much less common than most expats think. …  One thing we can say for sure, eating dog is NOT common practice in China and Chinese restaurantstofu and pretty much anything else is much more common.”

I’m a vegan and visited China several times starting in 1999 and my last trip was in 2008. Not once did I see dog meat offered on any menu, and I also did not see dogs in cages in the farmers’ markets I visited. I saw ducks and chickens in cages waiting to be bought and slaughtered, but there were no dogs or cats.

In fact, China is more vegan and vegetarian-friendly than in the United States.

GBTimes reports China’s love-hate history with dogs. “China began domesticating dogs thousands of years ago, producing many of the breeds that remain popular today. Over the centuries, however, the Chinese have also developed a complicated love-hate relationship with its canine population.” …

“In ancient China, the dog was one of the most honoured and cherished animals.”

Then during Mao’s Cultural Revolution, “Dogs were seen as a symbol of the bourgeois, therefore they were involved in the class struggle,” Marina Shafir explained. “There was a mass extirpation of dogs, and many of the original Chinese dog breeds almost became extinct.”

Then once Mao died along with his Cultural Revolution, dogs made a comeback, not as food but as an honored and cherished family member.

What is it like owning a dog in China today?

The Culture Trip answers that question. “Walk down any street in Shanghai or Beijing and you’re sure to see little brown poodles dressed more extravagantly than their owners, schnauzers with impressive beards, and shiba inus that look like they’ve been ripped straight from a meme. Little old ladies are more likely to be seen with a dog buggy than a baby buggy, and Uncle Ma is able to impress his friends with his samoyed, as if it were a Bulgari watch.” … “Dog ownership is on the rise. There are an estimated 100 million registered dogs in China, with the real number being likely even higher.”

In addition, the BBC reveals that Taiwan has banned the selling and eating of cats and dogs and that in mainland China, “The practice of eating cats and dogs has become less common as pet ownership rises, and new generations have different attitudes to eating domestic animals.”

If you are a hardcore meat eater, hate vegetables and tofu, and want to try out dog, “Each year in June, the city of Yulin in southern China hosts a dog meat festival, where live dogs and cats are sold specifically for eating and an estimated 10,000 are slaughtered for their meat,” but you better hurry because in 2016 there were large protests against this festival throughout China.

However, if eating dog and cat ends in China, never fear, because there is a better country to visit if you want to chow down on dog. South Korea, according to the BBC, has an estimated 17,000 dog farms, and then there is Thailand and Vietnam.

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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Will China rebuild its cities so they become people friendly?

June 12, 2019

Most cities were built to be friendly to cars and not people, but there is a growing movement to change that. The April 2019 issue of National Geographic Magazine (NGM) published “To build the cities of the future, we must get out of our cars

Countries across the world, including the United States and China, or starting to build and/or rebuild cities to turn them people friendly.

The first page of the 20-minute read NGM piece started with, “SHANGHAI, CHINA Near the center of this city of 24 million, China’s largest, the Yanan expressway crosses under the North-South Expressway. The country has gained half a billion city dwellers since 1990—and nearly 190 million cars. ‘It’s truly almost incomprehensible what happened in China,’ says American urban designer Peter Calthorpe, who has worked there extensively. With nearly 300 million more people expected in cities by 2030, Chinese planners say they’re changing course, prioritizing walkable streets and public transit over cars. …

Chinese planners say they’re changing course, prioritizing walkable streets and public transit over cars.

“The key test may come in Xiongan, a 680-square-mile stretch of swampy land, including a heavily polluted lake, about 65 miles southwest of Beijing. In April 2017 President Xi Jinping announced, again to general surprise, that he wanted to build a new city there. Ultimately it could house five million people and relieve congestion and pollution in Beijing.”

The guide for building these people-friendly cities is the Emerald Cities Rule book, and China is in the best position to build these cities.

“Emerald Cities: Planning for Smart and Green China,” published in 2017 lays out green building and sustainability practices for low-carbon city planning and construction in China and abroad. Emerald Cities proposes 10 principles to help set a new development direction for Chinese cities: from urban growth boundaries and transit-oriented development, to small blocks with accessible public space and car control, to green buildings and sustainable infrastructure at constructive detailed planning and community levels. The 10 principles aim to establish green, healthy and economic vibrant cities, while solving pollution and livability challenges faced by China’s cities. Emerald Cities was jointly published by China Sustainable Transportation Center and Glumac with support from Energy Foundation and Energy Innovation.”

What do U.S. President Donald Trump and his administration want to build? Trump wants to build a wall that will divide people and promote hate and segregation while he holds rallies across the U.S. promoting hate and segregation.

However, the U.S. also has the possibility offered by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal that is similar to what Xi Jinping wants to do in China, so there is still hope for America to join China in making the world people friendly instead of focused on hate, segregation, and greed.

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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