Seeking Harmony versus the Search for Happiness

November 15, 2017

The Search for Happiness in bold white print was splashed across the cover of my November 2017 issue of National Geographic Magazine.  In the United States, it has been my perception that the search for happiness sends many people to places like Disneyland or out to eat something that is horrible for their long term health. Maybe buying that type of happiness explains why more than 70-percent of Americans are fat or obese. In other words, when feeling depressed, spend money and while out shopping, walk around texting your friends nonstop until you run into a tree or bounce off other pedestrians because you weren’t paying attention to what was going on around you.

I think this type of thinking is one reason why the U.S. child prodigy Grace VanderWaal wrote and sang “So Much More Than This”.

Like Grace VanderWaal says in her song, “Close your phone and breathe in the air. You’ll soon realize that there’s something that is so much more than this …”

Money will buy fleeting happiness but unless you have an endless supply of money to keep buying that happiness, it will not last long. That’s why I think buying happiness is the same as being addicted to cocaine and heroin. The withdrawal symptoms when the money dries up are agonizing.

What does harmony mean to many in China and can harmony lead to a more stable form of happiness?

 

In China, harmony plays an important role in everyday life. Cultural etiquette among Chinese revolves around harmony as Confucius taught. Confucianism still plays an important role in Chinese society. It is a system of ethics and conduct, the obligations of people toward each other based on their relationships.

Even the way the government in China does business is governed by the same principals. As much as most Americans and Europeans seem incapable of understanding China, the Chinese often see foreigners as barbaric when they do not behave properly according to Chinese standards.

Understanding cultural differences is a two-way street.

For instance, several years ago, after dinner with guests one night, I got up to wash dishes at the sink while Anchee and our daughter were still eating. Anchee later explained that when we have Chinese guests it is impolite to do that since it signals to the guests that it is time to leave. Her advice, “Soak the dishes and leave them until the guests go.”

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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 Law versus what is Morality

November 14, 2017

The Chinese legal system may have been shattered during Mao’s Cultural Revolution but that didn’t last forever. After Mao died, China rose from the ashes like a phoenix and a lot has changed since then.

For instance, 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 to China itself.

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.

In addition, China 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 then 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 taking place, 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 the law.

The fidelity to law in Chinese legalism was interpreted as the fidelity 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 by many in the west, especially many Americans that judge China based on Western values and laws.

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

I knew this individual for almost sixty-years, and I’m sure he meant that China should have a legal system like the one in 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 it comes from God. To him, that meant there was no other choice. For his approval, China had to bend toward Christian scripture.

The problem with that logic is Confucius was around spreading his teaching for centuries before Jesus Christ was born, and the fact that the New Testament didn’t exist for centuries until after Christ died meant that what Confucius taught has been around longer. Was God behind that too?

The Chinese learned from Confucius while in the West we learned from the likes of Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates. There were many other voices that influenced western thought, and Eternity in an Hour provides a list of famous western philosophers.  Do you think that too many voices often leads to confusion, and that might explain why Chinese civilization has been more stable over the millennia than the west has?

If China becomes the world’s super power in the next fifty to one-hundred years, will the Chinese judge the United States and Europe based on Confucian morality?

Discover The Return of Confucious To China

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 Power of China’s People

November 7, 2017

If you think that the Chinese people do not have a voice in China, think again.

CNN reported, “China may be a single-party state run from the very top. But grassroots activism has been bubbling up from beneath, bringing about much needed social support and change. … These are tiny little groups of people all over the country working on trying to improve the lives of people living in those areas — whether it’s on labor issues, women’s rights or the environment.”

One example of this power took place in December 2009 and it was about electric bikes. When new regulations threatened to restrict the use of e-bikes and ban them from public roads, opposition from the e-bike industry and bike riders stopped the regulations in their tracks.

Adrienne Mong of NBC News said, “The news triggered a heated debate that was played out all over the Chinese-language media and on the Internet. Eventually, the government backed down, and it’s been left up to industry groups to figure out new guidelines.”


Of course, even in China, Social Media has other uses too.

More than two years after the e-bike protest, Tea Leaf Nation reported on February 23, 2012 about a blog that was deleted by Sina Weibo, a popular Chinese microblogging platform, but what was deleted was soon restored thanks to widespread outrage and threats that the majority of Chinese would switch to Twitter and/or Facebook.

The Reuters Institute ran a piece about the power of the Chinese netizen and how microblogging is changing Chinese journalism. Zhou Kangliang, a Chinese journalist, concludes that “as Chinese online microblogging services grow and traditional journalism grows with them, it is learning from lessons and experience…”

The Washington Post reported, “In a country where most media are controlled by the state, information is heavily censored and free-flowing opinions are sharply constricted, Chinese have turned to a new platform to openly exchange unfettered news and views: microblogs, similar to Twitter.”

But Foreign Policy Magazine reported that Xi Jinping has tamed the once-enterprising commercial media.” The project of ‘guidance’ is not merely what we tend in the West to call ‘censorship,’ an act of cutting, excising, and obliterating; rather, it is a process of diversion, of redirection. Public opinion is not stopped — it is harnessed.” To China’s leaders, this is “Channeling public opinion.”

“Channeling,” then, was about harnessing the power of for-profit newspapers and magazines, commercial Internet portals, and social media in order to better inundate the public with information from state sources. Ultimately, this was about taming the flood in the Internet age.

In other words, China is not going to let an Alt-Right media similar to Fox News, Breitbart or an Alex Jones spread destabilizing conspiracy theories that might cause disharmony and disrupt China’s culture and economy.

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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War with North Korea and What China wants: part 2 of 2

November 1, 2017

North Korea is frozen in time, but South Korea and China have evolved and adapted to the global economy.  It is in China’s interest to see North Korea merge with South Korea and become a capitalist nation, but achieving that goal will not be easy and a nuclear war with North Korea is not the answer.

The Independent, another publication in the UK, explains what nuclear war between the U.S. and North Korea might look like. “The most immediate reaction would likely be massive artillery fire on Seoul and its surroundings. North Korean artillery installations along the border can be activated faster than air or naval assets and larger ballistic missiles that can target South Korean, Japanese or American bases in the region with nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Those countries have ballistic-missile-defence systems in place but can’t guarantee they will shoot down everything. Japan has begun offering advice to its citizens on what to do in the event a missile lands near them — essentially try to get under ground — and US firms are marketing missile shelters. While it’s unclear if North Korea can successfully target US cities like Denver and Chicago with a nuclear ICBM, it’s similarly unknown if US defence systems can strike it down — adding to American anxieties.”

The New Yorker reports, “The Obama Administration studied the potential costs and benefits of a preventive war intended to destroy North Korea’s nuclear weapons. Its conclusion, according to Rice, in the Times, was that it would be ‘lunacy,’ resulting in ‘hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of casualties.’ North Korea likely would retaliate with an attack on Seoul. The North has positioned thousands of artillery cannons and rocket launchers in range of the South Korean capital, which has a population of ten million, and other densely populated areas. (Despite domestic pressure to avoid confrontation, South Korea’s President, Moon Jae-in, has accepted the installation of an American missile-defense system called Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or thaad.)”

And we shouldn’t forget this fact also reported by The New Yorker. Some two hundred thousand Americans live in South Korea.

The New Yorker correctly called this lunacy the Madman Theory, but isn’t that who Donald Trump is: a madman, a serial liar, a failed businessman, and a bully?

Who do you think China fears more Donald Trump or Kim Jong-un and his brutal regime? And the answer is simple. All you have to do is compare how many nuclear weapons the U.S. has vs North Korea. The Independent reports North Korea has 60 compared to 6,800 for the United States.

If you have watched the two videos in Part 1 and 2, you will know what is at risk for all of us on this planet called Earth. There is hope. Trump might also be a barking dog that doesn’t bite.

UPDATE

The Telegraph reports, “China ‘detains North Korean assassins seeking Kim Jong-un’s dissident nephew Kim Han-sol’

“It is possible that Kim Han-sol and his family remained in China under the protection of Beijing, which also extended protection for his father when he was in the country. There have been suggestions that Beijing saw Kim Jong-nam as as a potential North Korean leader should his half-brother be overthrown.”

Return to or start with Part 1

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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War with North Korea and what China wants: part 1 of 2

October 31, 2017

The Telegraph in the UK asked, “Did Kim Jung-un kill his uncle and brother over a ‘coup plot involving China’?” From what I’m hearing from my sources in China, the answer is yes. China did try to get rid of Kum Jung-un. For more details about this alleged and failed coup attempt, click the link in this paragraph and read what The Telegraph says.

In the past, when the United States and North Korea threatened each other, China’s response has been for the “relevant parties” to “calmly and properly handle the issue and avoid escalation of tension.”

What has changed? The answer is simple. The current president of the United States is a serial liar, a racist, a bully, a malignant narcissist and a psychopath-sociopath (if it is possible to be both at the same time). Donald Trump is clearly more dangerous, unstable, and insane than Kum Jung-un is. Kim Jung-un is more like the barking dog who might never bite, because he knows if he bites, he will die and so will most of the people that live in his little kingdom.

In the past, China has been reluctant to be sucked into North Korea’s problems with the United States, because China has a history with Korea going back to the Tang Dynasty in 688 AD, when there was an alliance with Silla, a Korean state.

It’s also because Chinese culture, written language, and political institutions have had an influence in Korea since the 4th century and in the 14th century, Korea came under the influence of Confucian thought influenced by Buddhism and Daoism (Taoism). Even today, China has more in common with the people of North Korea and their culture than China has with the United States.

But that 1,700-year old relationship between China and Korea might not be enough to protect North Korea now that the United States has an unpredictable madman and lunatic for its president.

Why did China allow itself to be bullied by Trump to tame a beast it cannot control? The answer is simple and it is Donald Trump and his insane tweets threatening to nuke North Korea.

In an essay written by Sung-Yoon Lee in Hillsdale College’s Imprimis newsletter, he discussed Keeping the Peace: American in Korea 1950 – 2010.

Professor Lee is an adjunct assistant professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and an associate in research at the Korea Institute at Harvard University.

Professor Lee says, “It is important for Washington to hold quiet consultations with Beijing to prepare jointly for a unified Korea under Seoul’s direction, a new polity that will be free, peaceful, capitalist, pro-U.S. and pro-China.”

But Donald Trump has clearly demonstrated that he doesn’t have the patience or intelligence to be part of a quiet consultation with Beijing to fix the North Korean problem. Even after the alleged and failed plot that China was willing to risk to get rid of Kim Jong-un, Donald Trump’s lunatic Twitter raving hasn’t stopped.

When Mao ruled China, North Korea and Communist China looked like evil twins, but today that is not the case because Mao died in 1976 and so did the China he was building. In the 1980s, China emerged as a hybrid one-party republic with term and age limits for its political leaders, so one man would never rule China like Mao did for 26 years.

In fact, China has a lot to lose because China’s middle class is more than 300-million people with an estimate that by 2030 that number will be more than 700-million.

Continued in Part 2 on November 1, 2017

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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Feeding China’s Hungry Ghosts

October 25, 2017

History.com says, “Halloween, one of the world’s oldest holidays, is still celebrated today in a number of countries around the globe. In Mexico and other Latin American countries, Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, honors deceased loved ones and ancestors. In countries such as Ireland, Canada and the United States, adults and children alike revel in the popular Halloween holiday, which derived from ancient festivals and religious rituals. Traditions include costume parties, trick-or-treating, pranks and games.”

The closest celebration in China to Halloween is The Hungry Ghost Festival celebrated the 14th or 15th night of the 7th lunar month. This year that day fell on September 5th while Ghost Month lasted from August 22nd to September 19th.

Similar to Latin America’s Day of the Dead, The Ghost Festival, also known as The Hungry Ghost Festival, is a traditional Chinese festival and holiday celebrated by Chinese in many countries, in which ghosts and/or spirits of deceased ancestors come from the lower realm and/or hell to visit the living.

Buddhists and Taoists in China claim that the Ghost Festival originated with the canonical scriptures of Buddhism, but many of the visible aspects of the ceremonies originate from Chinese folk religion, and other local folk traditions (The Ghost Festival in Medieval China by Stephen Teiser).

In America, children wear costumes and go door to door collecting free candy.  In China, the opposite takes place; food is offered to dead ancestors, joss paper is burned, and scriptures are chanted.

Chinese Culture.net says the Hungry Ghost Festival is “Celebrated mostly in South China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and especially in Singapore and Malaysia.” It is believed by many Chinese that during this month, the gates of hell are opened to let out the hungry ghosts who want food.

History.com says, “Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now known as Ireland, the United Kingdom and Northern France. The Celts celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the New Year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred.”

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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The Tao of Meditation: Part 3 of 3

October 19, 2017

I wonder what happened to all of China’s mediating Buddhists and Taoists during Mao’s Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Did they go underground like Anchee Min’s mother who became a closet Catholic that only prayed when her three children slept? During China’s Cultural Revolution, no one could be trusted, not even your children.

Most people don’t change who they are regardless of what the rich and/or powerful want, so it is obvious that if being a Buddhist or Taoist and meditating could get you denounced, you will find a way to practice what you think when no one else notices what you are doing.

Until Communism appeared, religion and the state were often closely linked. In the imperial era, the emperor was regarded as divine; political institutions were believed to be part of the cosmic order; and Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism were incorporated in different ways into political systems and social organizations.

U.S. History.org reports, “Taoism and Confucianism have lived together in China for well over 2,000 years. Confucianism deals with social matters, while Taoism concerns itself with the search for meaning. They share common beliefs about man, society, and the universe, although these notions were around long before either philosophy.”

During the Cultural Revolution, the teenage Red Guard did not discriminate against particular religions. They were against them all. They ripped crosses from church steeples, forced Catholic priests into labor camps, tortured Buddhist monks in Tibet and turned Muslim schools into pig slaughterhouses. Taoists, Buddhists and Confucians were singled out as vestiges of the Old China and forced to change or else.

However, after Mao died in 1976, China, under Deng Xiaoping lifted the ban on religious teaching, and since the mid-1980s there has been a huge program to rebuild the Buddhist and Taoist temples that were torn down by the teenage Red Guard.

In addition, in December 2004, China’s central government announced new rules that guaranteed religious beliefs as a human right.

According to an article in The People’s Daily, “As China has more than 100 million people believing in religion, so the protection of religious freedom is important in safeguarding people’s interests and respecting and protecting human rights.”

In March 2005, religion was enshrined in China as a basic right of all citizens, but worship outside of approved religions remains forbidden. There are five religions recognized by China’s government: Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism. There are also a few Jewish Synagogues: two in Beijing, two in Shanghai, and five in Hong Kong.

Since the end of the Cultural Revolution with Mao’s death, it was safe to meditate again without the threat of fear getting in the way of an individual’s search for inner harmony.

Return to Part 2 or start with Part 1

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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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