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.

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Remote Southwest China

March 4, 2020

Far from the Great Wall and the Grand Canal are the remote villages and towns of Southwest China.

Post Magazine reports, “Historically, this area, which spans the provinces of Guangxi, Guizhou, and Yunnan, was a hotbed of ethnic insurrection and separatist movements. The region proved so difficult to pacify that the Chinese have long dubbed it ‘the land of a hundred barbarians’ and even today, ethnic minorities, as well as local Han, eke out lives as removed from mainstream affairs as one can be in today’s China.”

While I have never visited Southwest China, a few years ago when my daughter was a student at Stanford University, she volunteered to travel to this area with a nonprofit that provided heart-related health care for poor children. The closest I came was when we flew to Southeast China and visited the Dragon’s Back and cruised along the Li River.

Southwest China is also where Pu’erh tea originated, and the beginning of the Tea Horse Road to Tibet.

In 225 A.D., when China was divided into the three kingdoms of Wei, Shu, and Wu, the prime minister of Shu led a military expedition to Yunnan. Historical records say that many of the Shu troops came down with eye diseases.  After they drank boiled Pu’erh tea, the troops recovered.

Wild China reports, “Deep in the heart of Southern Yunnan there exist tea trees unlike any other on Earth. The jungles of Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture and the districts of Simao and Lincang are home to the oldest tea trees in the world. In these regions grow tea trees that range in age from several centuries to over a millennium, and the tea that is made from their leaves is called Pu’er.

“Over the past 30 to 50 years, however, the number of these ancient trees has steadily decreased. Since China’s reform and opening-up policies were implemented in 1978, the Chinese tea industry has grown rapidly.” …

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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What are Trees Good for

February 26, 2020

Trees are vital. As the biggest plants on the planet, they give us oxygen, store carbon, stabilize the soil and give life to the world’s wildlife. They also provide us with the materials for tools and shelter.

The UN’s 2006 Billion Tree Campaign was inspired by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement. When an executive in the United States told Professor Maathai their corporation was planning to plant a million trees, her response was: “That’s great, but what we really need is to plant a billion trees.” The campaign was carried out under the patronage of Prince Albert II of Monaco.

As of November 2019, 13 years since the campaign’s launch, its website The Trillion Tree Campaign registered over 13.6 billion trees planted across 193 countries.

China planted 2.8 billion of those trees, after already planting 63.2 billion before 2006. India was in 2nd place with 2.5 billion trees and Ethiopia was third with 1.7 billion. The United States, a distant 12th place, only planted 315 million.

While China has been planting trees for “the past 40 years, the Earth has lost a third of its arable land to erosion and degradation.” – National Geographic

You might ask, “What is arable land?” Arable land is any land capable of being plowed and used to grow crops. That means in the last 40 years, our planet has lost thirty-three percent of the land capable of growing the food we need to keep from starving and dying off.

National Geographic reports, “in 1978, the Chinese government implemented the Three-North Shelterbelt Project, a national ecological engineering effort that called for the planting of millions of trees along the 2,800-mile border of northern China’s encroaching desert, while increasing the world’s forest by 10 percent. Also known as the ‘Great Green Wall,’ the project’s end date isn’t until 2050; so far, more than 66 billion trees have been planted.” …

“Beyond the Great Green Wall, China has taken other measures against encroaching deserts. A series of laws starting in the early 2000s also targeted the problem, including efforts to return some farm and grazing lands to a more natural state of forests or grasslands.”

Since China’s Great Green Wall is being planted in an arid desert without enough water, Chinese engineers are planning to build a 1,000km tunnel, the longest in the world, to carry 10 – 15 billion tonnes of water each year from the Yarlung Tsangpo River to the Taklimakan Desert in the north.

“The proposed tunnel, which would drop down from the world’s highest plateau in multiple sections connected by waterfalls, would ‘turn Xinjiang into California”, one geotechnical engineer said.” – South China Morning Post

China currently leads the world in planting trees, photovoltaic solar power use, the most wind energy produced, the most hydroelectric power, and Lithium-Ion battery production. Ancient China also built The Great Wall (13,170 miles long) and the longest canal in the world.

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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Frozen in China but the sky is Blue

January 1, 2020

Tourism is an important industry in China and if you prefer colder weather, like me, the place to go for winter fun is Harbin.

CNN Travel reports, “China has invested heavily in bringing commercial and tourist traffic to more remote regions of the country. ……… The city of Harbin hosts the annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, the biggest of its kind in the world. Every winter, visitors come from across China and the world to see the mammoth creations, which this year included a Buddha statue made from 4,500 square cubic meters of snow, and a 3-D light show reflected against the ice for dramatic effect.”

The festival originated in 1963. … In 2001, the Harbin Ice Festival was merged with Heilongjiang’s International Ski Festival and got a new formal name, the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival.


Sneak Preview of Harbin Snow and Ice World 2020

“More than 100 activities and events will be held in Harbin … The activities and events fall into several categories, namely ice and snow tourism, ice and snow culture, ice and snow fashion culture, ice and snow trade, and ice & snow sports.” ꟷ Ice Festival Harbin.com

The Atlantic reports that more than a million tourists visit Harbin to see the massive ice and snow sculptures.

China Daily.com reports, “The festival officially starts in January 5th every year, but the locals begin to celebrate the festival in the third week of December of the previous year because most of the ice lanterns, ice and snow sculptures are completed by this time. Depending on the weather conditions and activities, the festival usually last until the end of February.”

As of 2015, China is the fourth most visited country in the world, after France, the United States, and Spain, with almost 57 million international tourists per year. In 2017, tourism resulted in revenue of about USD 1.35 trillion, 11.04% of the GDP, and contributed to direct and indirect employment for more than 28-million Chinese.

The Chinese also like to travel outside of China. According to The Telegraph, in 2018, almost 150 million Chinese visited other countries. But domestic tourism adds up to almost 5.5 billion trips annually.

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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Do people or countries pollute, that is the question

November 13, 2019

Recently, I heard someone accuse China of being the world’s worst polluter based on its total carbon dioxide emissions (CO2). When I pointed out that per capita (per person) was more important than the total and mentioned that per capita in the United States was 15.53 tons of CO2 per person vs 6.59 tons for China, he refused to back down. To him, China was guilty of being the worst CO2 polluter on the planet, because of its total, not its per person number.

Saudi Arabia is the worst polluter on the planet because its population of 34.2 million produces 16.85 tons of CO2 per person (per capita).

If Saudi Arabia had China’s population, how much CO2 would its people produce?

The United States is ranked #3 for per capita (per person) CO2 emissions behind Saudi Arabia (#1) and Australia (#2).  China is ranked #12.

There are 195 countries in the world and if you click globalcarbonatlas.org, you will easily discover the population of each country and how much total CO2 pollution each country produces.

For instance, the United States has a population of 324,459,463 and it’s per capita CO2 emissions are 15.53 tones per person. China’s per capita (per person) emissions are 42.4-percent of the United States, but because China’s population is more than four times larger, the total amount of C02 is higher. China’s population is 1,409,517,317, and it’s per capita CO2 emissions are 6.59 tons per person.

If we got rid of all the people in a country, would that country still produce CO2 emissions?

U.S. 15.53 tons of CO2 per person vs China’s 6.59 tons


Watch the video and answer this question: what country has produced the most CO2 since 1960?

If you are interested, The Union of Concerned Scientists ranks the top 20 highest emitters of cumulative carbon dioxide emissions based on each country’s total and its per capita (per person) amount. The first chart is ranked by the total CO2 emission per country. Scroll down for the second chart that ranks the top twenty by individual (per capita) CO2 emissions. … The world’s per capita average is 4 tons of CO2 per person.  That means the population of the United States produces 3.88 times more CO2 than the global average vs China at 1.62 times.

Science Daily reports, “students conducted detailed interviews or made detailed estimates of the energy usage of 18 lifestyles (in the United States), spanning the gamut from a vegetarian college student and a 5-year-old up to the ultra-rich: Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates. The energy impact for the rich was estimated from published sources, while all the others were based on direct interviews. The average annual carbon dioxide emissions per person, they found (for the ultra-rich) was 20 metric tons …

“But the ‘floor’ below which nobody in the U.S. can reach, no matter a person’s energy choices, turned out to be 8.5 tons …. That was the emissions calculated for a homeless person who ate in soup kitchens and slept in homeless shelters.”

Just in case you did not understand what Science Daily was saying: The ultra-rich in the United States produce 20 metric tons per person (per capita) and even a homeless individual in the U.S. still produces 8.5 tons of CO2 vs China’s per capita average of 6.59 tons, but to the individual I went all Rambo on, none of that matters, because China is guilty due to its country total. Since CO2 emissions are caused by individuals instead of countries, I wonder what his solution would be … to execute one billion Chinese to get China’s total CO2 emissions down. How many American’s would have to die to get that country’s per person CO2 emissions down to 4 tons per capita?

What is China doing to lower its per capita (per person) number?

Well, USG.gov says, “China is the largest producer of (clean) hydroelectricity, followed by Canada, Brazil, and the United States.”

China is cleaning up coal production by renovating old coal-burning facilities, and some Chinese sources estimate that China will possess the world’s largest high-efficiency coal power system by 2020. … Over the last decade, China’s investment in renewable energy and natural gas has surged. In 2017, almost half of global renewable energy investment came from China, totaling $125.9 billion.” – China power.org

What about the United States under illegitimate President Donald Trump? Politifact.com says, “Emissions did fall slightly between 2016 and 2017. But the rate of decline slowed under Trump and the month-to-month changes have been modest. Whatever decline has occurred on Trump’s watch is unlikely to stem from his own policies. Changes to emissions levels tend to come either from changing economic incentives, government policy over the long term, and factors beyond human control, such as the weather.”

The New York Times reports, “How Trump Is Ensuring That Greenhouse Gas Emissions Will Rise”

Yes or No – is China the worst CO2 emitter in the world?

Your answer will depend on rational logic vs confirmation bias. If your thinking is ruled by bias, you will say yes, if your thinking is based on rational logic, you will say no.

Science Daily says, “In psychology and cognitive science, confirmation bias (or confirmatory bias) is a tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions, leading to statistical errors.”

What about you: do you make judgments and decisions based on confirmation bias or logic and facts?

Oh, and if you are one of “those” climate change denialists like Dumb-Dumb Donald Trump, and do not think CO2 emissions are a problem, I want you to know that exposure to CO2 can produce a variety of health effects. These may include headaches, dizziness, restlessness, a tingling or pins or needles feeling, difficulty breathing, sweating, tiredness, increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, coma, asphyxia, and convulsions. In fact, ToxTown says, “Breathing in high amounts of carbon dioxide may be life-threatening.”

Also consider that there are more than 7.7 billion humans living on this planet and when we average CO2 emissions per person, The World Bank says it is almost five tons each. However, that average is not accurate because some countries produce more CO2 per person than others. For the United States, that average per person is 16.5 tons (according to The World Bank). For China, it is 7.5 tons per person, and in India, it is 1.7 tons per person, way below the global average.

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 Four Most Popular River Cruises

November 6, 2019

First: The Yangtze River Cruise

Cruise Critic.com says, “A China river cruise on the Yangtze tops the bucket list for most sophisticated travelers. … Once you’re on the Yangtze, expect to see mysterious temples and pagodas, small towns and rural life and the dramatic scenery of Three Gorges.”

At 3,900 miles, the Yangtze is the longest river in Asia, the third-longest in the world and the longest in the world to flow entirely within one country. The Yangtze has played a major role in the history, culture, and economy of China. For thousands of years, the river has been used for water, irrigation, sanitation, transportation, industry, boundary-marking, and war.

The Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze is the largest hydro-electric power station in the world. The Telegraph reports, “The dam, now the world’s biggest electricity-generating facility, supplies 15 per cent of China’s hydroelectricity power.”

To cruise beyond the Three Georges Dam, there is a vertical-hoisting elevator (the largest in the world) that lifts cruise ships weighing up to 3,000 tons up-or-down 370 feet. There is also a lock for larger ships.

Second: Li River Cruise

Since I have already written about this one-day, four to five hour cruise, Here is the link to that post, but I added a newer video with this post. Much shorter than the Yangtze River, the Li River flows 102 miles and is located in southeast China near the city of Guilin.

Third: the Huangpu River Cruise

I have taken this cruise, too, and this link will take you to that post. The Huangpu River is 71 miles long making it shorter than the Li River. The Huangpu flows through Shanghai and was excavated and created when Lord Chunshen (died in 238 BC) ruled one of the Four Warring States of that era. This river is the last significant tributary flowing into the Yangtze before it reaches the East China Sea.

The Huangpu River, one of the earliest rivers in China to be dredged by man, originates at Dianshan Lake, in the Qingpu District of Shanghai.

Fourth: the Grand Canal Cruise

The Grand Canal is the oldest and longest man-made waterway in the world. The canal starts in Beijing in the north and ends at Hangzhou in the south with a length of 1,104 miles. You may read my post about the Grand Canal by clicking this link. The Canal is ten times the length of the Suez Canal and twenty-two times that of the Panama Canal. It also connects the two major rivers of China: the Yellow River and the Yangtze River.

Travel China Guide says, “The most popular section to cruise on the Grand Canal passes through Jiangsu and Zhejiang Provinces.”

This cruise does not travel the length of the Grand Canal from Beijing to Hangzhou and lasts less than two hours. The Grand Canal was built during the Sui Dynasty (581 – 618 AD), and about 2.5 million slaves and criminals died during its construction. The brutality and suffering angered many Chinese that rebelled and left the country in ruins. Emperor Yang was assassinated in 618 ending the Sui Dynasty, and the rebels took control. This was the beginning of the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907), one of the most-successful dynasties in China’s history.

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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Rice and its History

August 28, 2019

When you think of rice, do you think of China? If not, you should. China is the world’s largest producer of rice with 208-million metric tons in 2017, and the crop makes up a little less than half of the country’s total grain output.

Ricepedia.org reports, “Based on archeological evidence, rice was believed to have first been domesticated in the region of the Yangtze River Valley in China.” Then “In the late 3rd millennium BC, there was a rapid expansion of rice cultivation into mainland Southeast Asia and westwards across India and Nepal.”

Fast forward ten-to-eleven thousand years from the domestication of rice in China to 2017, and Statista reported, that almost 496-million metric tons of husked rice were produced in the last harvest year worldwide, and China’s share was almost 42-percent of the global total.

When we compare rice to wheat production, “the global amount of wheat produced came to about 755-million metric tons in crop year 2016-2017.”

World Atlas.com says, China is (also) the largest producer of wheat in the world. “China produces more wheat than any other country, followed by India, Russia, and the United States.”

How difficult is it to grow rice? “All rice cultivation is highly labour intensive. Rice is generally grown as a wetland crop in fields flooded to supply water during the growing season. Transplanting seedlings requires many hours of labor, as does harvesting. Mechanization of rice cultivation is only minimally advanced. Rice cultivation also demands more of other inputs, such as fertilizer, than most other crops.”

When comparing the benefits of rice to wheat, “A study published … by a group of psychologists in the journal Science finds that China’s noodle-slurping northerners are more individualistic, show more ‘analytic thought’ and divorce more frequently. By contrast, the authors write, rice-eating southerners show more hallmarks traditionally associated with East Asian culture, including more ‘holistic thought’ and lower divorce rates. The reason? Cultivating rice, the authors say, is a lot harder.”

How important is rice when it comes to feeding the world? Thought Co.com tells us: “Today, rice feeds more than half the world’s population and accounts for 20-percent of the world’s total calorie intake.”

Next time you eat a bowl of rice, you might want to thank the Chinese for domesticating it for the world?

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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