The Impact of Cultural and Lifestyle Choices during a Pandemic

May 13, 2020

China is a collectivist culture based on valuing the needs of a group or a community over the individual.

Better the Future.org says, “The traditional Chinese diet consists of low or moderate amounts of meat or fish and plenty of vegetables accompanied by starches like rice or noodles. Tea is often served with dinner instead of soft drinks. Desserts are generally not part of the meal but fresh fruits can be served to help with digestion.”

The BBC reported, “China reported the cases to the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN’s global health agency, on 31 December.… The mayor of Wuhan has previously admitted there was a lack of action between the start of January – when about 100 cases had been confirmed – and 23 January, when city-wide restrictions were enacted. …

“WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has hailed China for the ‘speed with which [it] detected the outbreak’ and its ‘commitment to transparency’.”

The United States is an individualist culture. Very Well Mind.com says, “Individualistic cultures are those that stress the needs of the individual over the needs of the group as a whole.”

Health.gov tells us about the Current Eating Patterns in the United States. “The typical eating patterns currently consumed by many in the United States do not align with the Dietary Guidelines. … About three-fourths of the population has an eating pattern that is low in vegetables, fruits, dairy, and oils.

“More than half of the population is meeting or exceeding total grain and total protein foods recommendations (and) … are not meeting the recommendations for the subgroups within each of these food groups.

“Most Americans exceed the recommendations for added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium.

“The high percentage of the population that is overweight or obese suggests that many in the United States overconsume calories. As documented, more than two-thirds of all adults and nearly one-third of all children and youth in the United States are either overweight or obese.”

How do these cultural and lifestyle choices translate to death by COVID-19?

On May 6, 2020, Statista reported that the United States was 1st place for COVID-19 deaths worldwide.

1st Place: The United States with 72,284 deaths

2nd place: the UK with 29,427 deaths (the UK is also an individualist culture)

11th place: China with 4,633 deaths (where the pandemic started)

The Smithsonian Magazine reports that “U.S. Life Expectancy Drops for Third Year in a Row, Reflecting Rising Drug Overdoses, Suicides,” and Global News reported, “The novel coronavirus is a bundle of proteins. It doesn’t care about faith, freedom, jobs or right-wing conspiracy theories, but that hasn’t stopped hundreds of Americans from defying all medical advice to protest against lockdown measures meant to keep them safe — often while standing unmasked and shoulder to shoulder.”

What about life expectancy in China? Macrotrends says, “The Current Life expectancy for China in 2020 is 76.96 years, a 0.22 percent increase from 2019.”  In fact, China has seen a slow and steady increase in life expectancy since 1950. Click the link in this paragraph to see for yourself.

It is apparent that the price for individual freedoms in the U.S. means shorter lifespans and a higher risk of death by COVID-19. What freedom means in the United States depends on each individual.

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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Who was the Real Anna May Wong?

April 22, 2020

Anna May Wong was born an American citizen on January 3, 1905, and died February 3, 1961. She was the first Chinese-American movie star and the first Asian-American actress to gain international fame.

On March 1, 2003, Bill Moyers reported, Anna was American-born, confident in ways her father’s generation could never be, still she lived suspended between two countries, starting with how people saw her.

“Americans regard [us] as a dark, mysterious race,” Anna May once said, “impossible to understand. Why is it that the screen Chinese is always the villain? And so crude a villain — murderous, treacherous, a snake in the grass. I was so tired of the parts I had to play.”

In fact, because if the films she appeared in, she became known as The Woman that Died a Thousand Times.

By the time she was 32, and an established Hollywood star, in August 1937, Japan invaded Shanghai. Anna’s younger sister was living there at the time and managed to escape, but their family couldn’t get out. In 1938, Anna managed to get her family back in the United States. Then she started working with Chinatown communities to get rid of the Chinese Exclusion Act.

Five years later in 1943, this racist legislation that targeted Chinese was repealed.

The Exclusion Act (1882 – 1943) made it virtually impossible for Chinese to have a normal family life inside the United States. The Exclusion law applied to Chinese laborers. It exempted merchants, travelers and students. What this meant to the Chinese who could not become a merchant, and what it meant was not a student or a traveler what it meant was that he could not bring his wife. – Stanford Lyman (Historian)

As a young girl, Anna skipped school to watch silent films at local theaters. By the time she was 9, she had set a goal to become a movie star.  She hung around the studios, including MGM, asking for extra work instead of going to school. Eventually, she landed some rolls. At 17, it’s rumored that she had an affair with an older but married director.

In 1924, at 19, Anna had her first success when she played a Mongol slave in the classic film “The Thief of Bagdad” cast alongside Douglas Fairbanks.

According to Cal Van Vechten’s daughter, Anna May had a brief affair with co-star Vincent Price. – Anna May Wong: From Laundryman’s Daughter to Hollywood Legend, page 164. While acting on stage in Turandot, she also had a brief affair with her costar. – Vincent Price: A Daughter’s Biography, page 77.

The first Chinese film star in Hollywood, the rolls she could play were limited. The Hays Code did not permit the portrayal of interracial relationships on-screen. However, Anna’s rumored lovers, from Vincent Price to Marlene Dietrich, were white, and Douglas Fairbanks called her the “Chink in my amour”. Her most famous movies were denounced as “ghost films” and banned in China. – The Fortunes by Peter Ho Davies.

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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What does it take to bring about change?

March 11, 2020

One thing I know for a fact is that Americans complaining about China will not change that country.

The Chinese choose to reflect the views of their leaders and ancient traditions rather than their own personal views. Americans, on the other hand, seek independence and pursue personal goals above the goals of society. As such, China can be described as a collectivist society, while most Americans are individualistic.

Traditional Chinese cultural values harmony, benevolence, righteousness, courtesy, wisdom, honesty, loyalty, and filial piety. The concept of harmony is the most important Chinese traditional value. This has been unchanged for thousands of years in spite of the influence from outside cultures and numerous invasions.

What does American culture value?

The Declaration of Independence states that “all [people] are created equal,” and this belief is deeply embedded in America’s cultural values. Americans believe that all people are of equal standing. That means the most important thing to understand about U.S. culture would be individualism. Americans are trained from childhood to become separate individuals responsible for their actions and the consequences of those actions. That individualism also helps explains why someone like Donald Trump is doing everything he can to destroy the country he now leads. With Trump, everything is about him.

The BBC reports, “Nonviolent protests are twice as likely to succeed as armed conflicts – and those engaging a threshold of 3.5% of the population have never failed to bring about change.”

Recently, I had an e-mail conversation with another American that said she’s spent some time in China more than a decade ago. It really bothered her that the Muslim Uyghurs in the Northwest province of Xinjiang did not have the freedom to protest and cause problems. The total population of Uyghurs in China is 11,303,155, and that is less than one percent of China’s population. In addition, the Uyghur’s engagement with China has been violent since the 1960s. The odds are against the Uyghurs.

What my internet friend did not take into account was the fact that the Chinese are not Americans. Her judgment was based on the culture she grew up in.

Maybe that internet friend filled with condemnation for China should take this advice: “When in Rome, Do as the Romans Do.”  This phrase refers to the importance of adapting yourself to the customs of another country instead of imposing your values on them.  In fact, all of her energy should be focused on saving her own country from destruction.

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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2020 is the Year of the Rat

February 5, 2020

China’s Lunar New Year officially started several days ago on January 24th and ended yesterday on February 4, 2020.

Webexhibs.org reports, “The beginnings of the Chinese calendar can be traced back to the 14th century B.C.E. Legend has it that the Emperor Huangdi invented the calendar in 2637 B.C.E. The Chinese calendar is based on exact astronomical observations of the longitude of the sun and the phases of the moon.”

But centuries passed before the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) modernized the calendar and made it official. The first lunar calendar used 10 months with 36 days each, as calculated through observation of the night sky. “It didn’t take long, however, for them to make the switch to a lunisolar 12-month calendar – a system they stuck to ever since.” – Military Time Chart.com

The Han Dynasty was one of the longest of China’s major dynasties. In terms of power and prestige, the Han Dynasty in the East rivaled its almost contemporary Roman Empire in the West.

SupChina.com says, “One of the greatest joys of celebrating the new lunar year is the feast on the eve of the holiday. In Chinese culture specifically, superstitions intertwine with food to bring about special dishes intended to bring good luck. Auspicious meanings are represented by a food’s appearance or pronunciation, and common homophones include words for prosperity, success, and family togetherness. …

“A whole fish is a staple for New Year celebrations in China and is intended to welcome prosperity for the entire year. …

“Dumplings represent wealth because of their close appearance to Chinese gold ingots, which are oval, boat-shaped hunks of gold used as currency in imperial China. …

“A whole chicken is usually served to represent family togetherness. …

“Spring rolls … are also a traditional food of the Lunar New Year. … Like dumplings, spring roll filling can be made based on personal preference. …

“Exceptionally long noodles … represent a long, long life. It’s customary to slurp down the noodle without chewing so that the strands aren’t severed. …

“The star dessert is glutinous rice cake … the word for cake sounds like the word for ‘tall,’ or ‘to grow,’ so eating glutinous rice on Lunar New Year symbolizes growth, whether it be in career, income, health, or even height. …

“Following the circular concept, certain round fruits are eaten during Lunar New Year to encourage family unity. Oranges and tangerines are especially popular because their golden color is believed to attract wealth … ”


But this year, the BBC reports that Beijing has canceled Chinese New Year celebrations in some provinces to control the spread of the dangerous new coronavirus.

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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