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.

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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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