Halloween vs China’s Hungry Ghost Festival

October 31, 2018

The closest celebration in China to Halloween is The Hungry Ghost Festival celebrated the 14th or 15th night of the 7th lunar month. For 2018, the Hungry Ghost Festival started on August 25th.

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).

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 what’s known today 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.”

In America, children wear costumes and go door to door collecting free candy.  In China, for those who celebrate the Hungry Ghost Festival, the opposite takes place: food is offered to dead ancestors, joss paper is burned, and scriptures are chanted.

I stopped celebrating Halloween decades ago. As a teacher I was what all that candy was doing to my students the day after when they returned to school on a sugar high followed by a sugar low. At first, I handed out small boxes of very sweet organic raisons until a mother told me I was cheap.

If you are a parent of young children, here is why you should not celebrate Halloween with them. The Guardian.com reported, “Sugar is behind global explosion in type 2 diabetes, study finds. Researchers say link between consumption of sugar and diabetes is independent from obesity.”

In addition, the National Institutes of Health says, “Rates of new diagnosed cases of type 1 and type 2 diabetes are increasing among youth in the United States, according to a report …”

And if you don’t want to believe sugar is responisible, here’s what Stanford Medicine has to say, “Researchers examined data on sugar availability and diabetes rates from 175 countries over the past decade. They found that increased sugar in a population’s food supply was linked to higher diabetes rates, independent of obesity rates.”

Think about it: if you want to celebrate Halloween, replace it with China’s Hungry Ghost Festival and skip the candy.

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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Crazy Rich Asians – a Review

August 28, 2018

I saw “Crazy Rich Asians” on Wednesday, August 15, the day the film was released, near where I live, a few days before the film earned the #1 rank at the box office for its first weekend. The following Sunday I went to see another film and there was a long line waiting to see “Crazy Rich Asians”.

Opening Weekend: $26,510.140
(#1 rank, 3,384 theaters, $7,834 average)
Box Office Mojo

Crazy Rich Asians” is the 2nd film I’ve seen that I think reveals what goes on inside an overseas Chinese family. I haven’t read the books (a trilogy) the film was based on, but I plan to. The first book in the trilogy came out in 2013.

The first book and film was Amy Tan’s “Joy Luck Club”.

Both books and films reveal the inner workings of overseas Chinese families.

Chinese American New Yorker Rachel Chu flies to Singapore with her boyfriend, Nick Young, to attend his best friend’s wedding in Singapore where she runs into his Singapore Chinese family that’s split over accepting or rejecting Rachel. The elder and ruling members of the family do not approve of Nick’s girlfriend while some of the younger members of the family accept her without reservation as long as the elders don’t know they support Rachel.

In Amy Tan’s “Joy Luck Club” (Hardcover 1989) we are introduced to a tiger mother, who grew up and immigrated to the U.S. from China, and her rebellious American Chinese daughter. In 2009, I married into a Chinese family with an immigrant mother and American Chinese daughter.  I married the mother who is Anchee Min. The marriage survived for sixteen years and we are still friends. I think that qualifies me as a reliable witness to the inner working of an oversees Chinese family.

Although the film for “Crazy Rich Asians” focuses on the fact that Nick Young’s super wealthy and powerful Shanghai Chinese family thinks of themselves as “Chinese”, the fact is they are also overseas Chinese just like Rachel is, because most if not all Chinese in China think of everyone that is Chinese living outside of China as overseas Chinese.  Maybe Singapore Chinese are considered less overseas since they live closer to China than Rachel from New York.

Now, before you jump to conclusions, do not stereotype Chinese. Not all Chinese think and act the same as the family in “Joy Luck Club” or “Crazy Rich Asians”.  Not all Chinese are rich or are tiger parents. Another book I recommend is the Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua. But again, Chua is overseas Chinese born in the United States to immigrant parents. “Amy Chua argues that Western parenting tries to respect and nurture children’s individuality, while Chinese parents typically believe that arming children with skills, strong work habits, and inner confidence prepares them best for the future.”

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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A short-and-simple intro to Confucius and his impact on China

January 31, 2018

Confucius (551-470 B.C.E.) lived during the warring states period before China was unified as one nation. Confucius is considered the founder of the Chinese ethical and moral system based on the family and his Five Great Relationships:

1. between ruler and subject
2. father and son
3. husband and wife
4. elder and younger brother
5. friend and friend

In each pair, one role was superior and one inferior; one led and the other followed. Yet each involved mutual obligations and responsibilities. Failure to properly fulfill one’s role could lead to the end of the relationship.

In Fact, Confucius taught that responsibility was not given just because you had wealth or power.  Responsibility had to be earned through compassion for others and to live in moderation and not strive for excess.

Did you notice that religion and God are not mentioned among the Five Great Relationships?

Discover The Return of Confucious

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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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline


Where have so many parents gone?

December 5, 2017

American Jobs Alliance.com reports, “China’s economic miracle is having a less than miraculous effect on nearly 60 million children growing up in the countryside with their absentee parents stuck at work in the big cities. …

“According to a 2010 survey by the All-China Women’s Federation, 80 percent of Chinese children being reared by non-parents are being raised by grandparents with a little over 4 million left to their own devices.”

In rural China, it is predicted that by 2025 another 243 million will migrate. The benefit for these rural to urban migrants is increased income, access to education and a higher standard of living.

However, many parents do not have  the money to take their children with them.

Rural Life in China says, “Researchers estimate that … nearly a quarter of the nation’s children and almost a third of its rural children are growing up without one or both of their parents, who have migrated in search of work.”

In the US, we call these children Latchkey Kids. In fact, Jareb Collins at Associated Content says as many as 77 percent of American youth are Latchkey Kids. If accurate, that adds up to more than 57 million American children.

In addition, in 2009, there were about 18.1 million children in the United States living in single-mother families. Source: prb.org

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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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline


Homosexuals and Transsexuals don’t have it easy in China

November 29, 2017

A Guest Post by Richard Burger of The Peking Duck

Like homosexuals, transsexuals, too, have a difficult time in China. The first male-to-female transsexual surgery was performed in 1983 at the Third Hospital of Beijing Medical University. But most transsexuals are turned down for the operation, and the number of those who undergo surgery is estimated at one thousand although more than three thousand apply each year.

Applicants must undergo a battery of tests and psychiatric evaluations and prove they have wanted the operation for at least five years. Explaining their situation to parents and family is next to impossible, and that further dissuades many transsexuals from applying. Those who go ahead with the sex change usually leave their hometowns to avoid discrimination.

The price, which can range from 57,000 yuan to 76,000 yuan ($9,000 to $12,000), is another deterrent.

China has the medical facilities to easily perform both male-to-female and female-to-male operations, but the problem is one of ideology.

Like homosexuality, transsexualism is viewed by many as a form of spiritual pollution imported from the West. There is a profound lack of understanding about transsexualism and, subsequently, a lot of discrimination.

One notable example of a transsexual who has been accepted by the Chinese people is the world-famous Jin Xing, born as a male to ethnic Korean parents in 1967 in the industrial city of Shenyang.

A talented dancer, at the age of nine Jin joined the People’s Liberation Army’s dance troupe and rose up the ranks to become a colonel.

However, from an early age Jin had felt she was a woman.

After ten years of traveling around the world performing and teaching dance, she underwent a sex-change operation in 1996 at the age of 29. She now lives in Shanghai with her German husband and works as a choreographer and dance trainer.

Jin was brought to front pages around the world in the fall of 2011 when she was dropped as a judge of a Chinese reality TV show because she was transgendered. She spoke out to the Chinese media, condemning the prejudice of local officials in Zhejiang province who insisted she be thrown off the show.

She is one of China’s most renowned celebrities and is credited with giving a face to transsexualism and helping raise public acceptance of a person’s right to undergo a sex change.

____________________________

Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China’s sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

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