China is the Misunderstood Dragon

January 30, 2019

If you want to make an attempt to understand China, I suggest starting with the differences between Chinese dragons vs. Western ones.

Kid World Citizen.org tells us, “(Chinese) Dragons symbolize importance, power and strength, represent all things male, and were the symbol of the Emperor of China (who was said to sit on the dragon throne). The imperial dragon is shown with 5 claws instead of the usual 4, to distinguish him from lesser beasts.”

Chinese “Dragons are essential in agricultural life, since they are seen to control the seasons and the weather.  Although they (Chinese dragons) have no wings, the fiery pearl sometimes displayed in their mouths gives them the power to fly to heaven.  The male air and weather dragons would bring rains and winds to help the harvest, while the female earth dragons would preserve the waters in rivers and underground wells.” …

If you are interested, there’s more about Chinese dragons at Kid World Citizens dot org (find the link above).

Compare what you have learned about China’s dragons to the West’s. The Vintage News.com says, “From ancient Greek myths to Game of Thrones, the legend of the dragon is one of the most enduring and romanticized throughout history. It has been traced back as far as 4000 BC and exists in all parts of the world.” …

In the West, dragons were generally treated as violent monsters that must be slain by heroes and saints. European dragons could have four legs, two legs, or none, and often had wings.

“In Asia, and especially China,” The Vintage News continues, “the view of these creatures was very different. … They breathed clouds and moved the seasons. The dragon was the symbol of the Chinese Emperor, and the Imperial throne was called the Dragon Throne. Known as the Dragon, the emperor ruled in harmony, and brought peace and prosperity to all. … Chinese dragons are depicted as being more serpent-like, with long, snaking bodies and usually had four legs. They are generally seen as wingless.”

There are also a few other differences to compare.

China is a collective culture vs Europe and North America that are individualistic cultures. It is possible that the reason China’s dragons are different is because of the influence of a collective culture.

Does that mean we can explain the evil and danger of Western dragons to the influence of individualistic thinking?

European and North American cultures are influenced mostly by Christianity, Judaism, and philosophers from ancient Greece and Renaissance Europe. Ancient Athens in Greece is among the first recorded and one of the most important democracies in ancient times; the word “democracy” ( Greek: δημοκρατία – “rule by the people”) was invented by Athenians in order to define their system of government, around 508 BC.

Christianity, Islam, and Judaism have never been a major political or religious influence in China.

Religious and/or philosophical influences in China come from Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism.

Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism have never been a major political or religious influence in Europe or North America.

Because of these differences, mainland China has never had a republic or democracy similar to Europe or North America.

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 Xinjiang Challenge

September 12, 2018

Xinjiang is a province in the Northwest corner of China. It is also an Uyghur Autonomous Region. This area shares its border with Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India.

In the next video, you will watch 3,000 years of Chinese history in a minute and discover that China first ruled over the Xingjian area during the Tang Dynasty more than 1300 years ago. When the Tang Dynasty collapsed a few centuries later, China lost control of this area and it wouldn’t be reoccupied and ruled by China again until the Qing Dynasty in the early 18th century (1720s). When the Chinese Communist Party came to power in China in 1949, China continued to rule over Xinjiang.

The BBC reports, “Most Uighurs are Muslim and Islam is an important part of their life and identity. Their language is related to Turkish, and they regard themselves as culturally and ethnically close to Central Asian nations. … But development has brought new residents. In the 2000 census, Han Chinese made up 40% of the population, as well as large numbers of troops stationed in the region and unknown numbers of unregistered migrants.” …

“The region has had intermittent autonomy and occasional independence, but what is now known as Xinjiang came under Chinese rule in the 18th Century.” …

“In the 1990s, open support for separatist groups increased after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the emergence of independent Muslim states in Central Asia.” …

“China has often blamed ETIM – the East Turkestan Islamic Movement – or people inspired by ETIM for violent incidents both in Xinjiang and beyond the region’s borders.

The ETIM has been linked to Al-Qaeda and is allied with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan along with the Pakistani Taliban (Tehreek i Taliban Pakistan).

The Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party Organization for Freeing Eastern Turkistan, and the Islamic Party of Turkistan were outlawed by Kyrgyzstan’s Lenin District Court and its Supreme Court in November 2003. Kazakhstan, Russia, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, China, the United States, and Pakistan outlawed the group.

Foreign Policy Magazine reported in 2017 that “the Islamic State pledges to attack China next. ISIS tries to curry favor with China’s repressed Muslim minority groups. The Islamic State is now setting its sights on China, releasing on Monday a half-hour video in which they pledged to ‘shed blood like rivers’ in attacks against Chinese targets. Experts say it’s the first threat the terrorist organization has leveled against China.

“Ethnic Uighurs have carried out terrorist attacks already, including a May 2014 attack in the Xin­jiang region’s capital of Urumqi that killed 43 and wounded 90. But for the most part, Uighur extremists carry out attacks on a much smaller and less coordinated scale. That likely won’t change, despite newfound ISIS-backing, Gladney said.”


Xinjiang is rich in coal, natural gas, and oil.

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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China’s Ancient Capital that Served Twelve Dynasties

February 13, 2018

Most people outside China only know of Beijing (once called Peking) as the capital of China. However, another city was China’s capital for more than a thousand years, and there were others. The top five are: Xi’an (called Chang’an in ancient times), Beijing, Nanjing, Luoyang, and Kaifeng.

Chang’an (Xi’an) served as the capital for twelve dynasties, including the Western Zhou, Qin, Western Han, Sui and Tang dynasties, spanning more than eleven-hundred years. It was also the cultural center of the Silk Road.

To discover Chang’an’s long history also teaches us much about China’s civilization. Discovery Channel’s Neville Gishford said, “It (Han Chang’an) was more powerful than Rome. If any Roman army had actually gone there, they would have been absolutely annihilated.”

Han Chang’an was larger than Constantinople and richer than Egypt’s Alexandria. It was a fortress so powerful that even 20th-century artillery could not knock its walls down.

Today, Xi’an (once Chang’an) is home to almost nine million people and thousands of men made of clay, the Terra Cotta Warriors guarding China’s first emperor.

In addition, the massive city wall is more than six-hundred years old and longer than 12-kilometers. Cracks are appearing and an engineering team keeps close watch and makes repairs

However, the Xi’an of today was first built over two thousand years ago and has been three cities, not one. The Han Dynasty built the first city (Chang’an), which is located close to the modern city of Xi’an, and the old eroding walls of the Han Dynasty capital are still visible.

At 36 square kilometers, Han Chang’an was more than one-and-a-half-times the size of Rome.

Archaeologist Charles Higham, a world famous authority on ancient Asian cities, said, “A delegation of jugglers from Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180 AD), who is regarded as one of the greatest emperors in Roman history) traveled and performed in the Han Court of Chang’an.”

More than two thousand years ago, the walls of Chang’an (Xi’an) were made of rammed (compressed) earth and most of the city was built of kiln-fired clay bricks, which was a revolutionary building material at the time.

The builders of Han Chang’an used this new technology in revolutionary ways such as building an underground sewer system connected to the moat that surrounded the city.

From the Qin to the Tang Dynasty, 62 emperors ruled China from Chang’an. The China Daily says in and around Xi’an, there are about 500 burial mounds where the remains of emperors and aristocrats rest.

The largest tombs mark the passing of Emperors Qin Shi Huangdi (259 – 210 BC), Tang Gaozong (628 – 683 AD), and his wife Empress Tang Wu Zetian (624 – 705 AD).

The Daming Palace, where the Tang Emperors ruled China, was eight-hundred years older and nearly five times larger than Beijing’s Forbidden City. The Daming Palace was built in one year.

However, it wasn’t the Daming Palace that made Chang’an powerful. Long before Manhattan, Hong Kong, Paris, and Dubai, Chang’an was where the world came to shop.

Over a thousand years ago, the wealth of the West poured into China. But wealth wasn’t the only thing China gained. Several major religions were also introduced to China.

For instance, Islam was barely a hundred years old, when Silk Road traders brought this religion to Chang’an. Today’s Xi’an claims it has a Muslim history going back thirteen hundred years when Islam was first introduced to China in 650 AD.

In fact, the oldest mosque in China was built in 685-762 AD in Chang’an during the reign of Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty.

Although Christianity and Islam were both introduced to China during the Tang Dynasty, Buddhism has deeper roots since it first arrived in China from India about 200 BC.

Christianity arrived in China in 635 AD (more than eight hundred years after Buddhism and only a few years before Islam), when a Nestorian monk called Alopen reached the ancient capital city of Tang Chang’an.

During the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1643 AD), China isolated itself from the world by rebuilding the Great Wall and a string of impregnable fortresses to protect China’s heartland from Mongol invasion.

One of those fortresses was a new military city built on the ruins of Tang Chang’an, and the Ming named this city “Western Peace” that in Mandarin is “Xi’an”.

Xi’an was one-sixth the size of Tang Chang’an, but nearly six hundred years later,  Xi’an’s walls still stand representing the largest, best-preserved set of ancient defensive walls in the world.

History records that when the walls of this third city faced its first attack, they stood firm, but the attack took place from April – November in 1926. The 20th-century artillery rounds only dented the walls.

The newest enemy to Xi’an’s ancient walls comes from modernization and the millions of inhabitants of the city. As the water table below the city is sucked dry from too many people, this has caused the earth to sink, which is pulling down the walls, and engineers and scientists work to discover ways to save them.

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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Buddhism’s Journey to China

January 30, 2018

An Indian prince became the Buddha around the 6th Century BC, but Buddhism would not arrived in China for several centuries. The Buddha’s original name was Siddartha Guatama.

After he died, Buddhism split into two major branches that divided again several times over the centuries.

Today, Buddhism has almost 380-million followers and is the world’s fifth largest religion. Christianity is the largest with 2.4 billion followers. Islam is ranked #2 with 1.6 billion. Christianity and Islam also split into different sects after the founders died although Jesus Christ isn’t the real founder of Christianity. Jesus was a Jew and he died a Jew. There is no evidence that Jesus Christ wanted to launch a new religion that wasn’t Jewish. Hinduism (#3) has 1.15 billion followers with four-major sects.

The Bodhi-dharma was a Buddhist monk and a teacher who lived during the fifty and/or sixth century AD, more than a thousand years after Buddha died in India. The Bodhi-dharma traveled from India to China where he lived in a cave for 9 years.

A Sudden Dawn by Goran Powell is an epic historical fiction novel that opens with a young man named Sardili born in 507 AD to the Indian warrior caste. Sardili realizes that he would rather seek enlightenment than follow his family’s military legacy and he sets out on a life-long quest for truth and wisdom that leads him to China where he becomes the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma, known as Da Mo in China.

Da Mo establishes the Shaolin Temple as the birthplace of Zen and the Martial Arts. In ancient China, bandits and thieves were widespread and Buddhist temples were vulnerable to attack. The Da Mo taught a fighting system for the monks to defend themselves, and it proved successful. Over time, the Buddhist Shaolin style of martial arts evolved to what it is today.

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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An Islamic Pilgrimage from China: Part 2 of 2

June 1, 2016

Al Jazeera introduces us to another devout Chinese Muslim in Xian who is proudly transcribing the Quran into Chinese using traditional Chinese brush calligraphy. He says it took him over a year to transcribe the entire Quran this way. Now he is working on a second copy.

Wanting to pass down this tradition to the next generation, he has also taught his son and his grandsons how to write with the Chinese brush .

His son says that every generation should try their best to transcribe the Quran with the Chinese brush, as it is also a good way to reinforce their faith.

The original copy of the Quran in this family is over four hundred years old, a priceless relic transcribed by the Chinese imams. There are only a few remaining copies left in the world.

Jia Wen Yi, a hajj pilgrim, says the trip to Mecca is important to him and his wife, an elderly couple. They have done a lot of preparation for the hajj, and Mr. Jia goes into detail about the planning.

Going on the hajj for Yi and his wife, Jia Wang Yi, has been a dream for over two decades as they saved to have enough money.

Mr. and Mrs. Jia will be part of a group of 250 pilgrims leaving for the hajj from the city of Xian. It was a matter of saving most of their lives until they could afford the trip.

Since these Muslims are considered a minority in China, they are not restricted by the one-child policy, as you would see in the video when the family and friends gather to say goodbye before Mr. and Mrs. Jia leave on the long journey to Mecca.

There is no direct flight from Xian to Mecca, so the pilgrims will take a train to Beijing where they will board a flight to Saudi Arabia.

Whenever pilgrims leave Xian to go on the hajj to Mecca, thousands of Chinese Muslims show up at the railway station to say goodbye. This is the first time Mr. and Mrs. Jia have left China. They have never been apart from their family before.

Return to Part 1

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

A1 on March 13 - 2016 Cover Image with BLurbs to promote novel

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An Islamic Pilgrimage from China: Part 1 of 2

May 31, 2016

The hajj is an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, and a mandatory religious duty for Muslims that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by all adult Muslims who are physically and financially capable of undertaking the journey, and can support their family during their absence.

From Xian in China to Mecca in Saudi Arabia it is a distance of 6,812 km or 4,232.781 miles.

This post might be a surprise to many in the West that think there is no religious freedom in China, but China handles religious freedom similar to how Singapore does it. And Singapore is seldom if ever criticized in the Western media for its religious restrictions.

The U.S. Department of State says that Singapore’s government has broad powers to limit citizens’ rights and handicap political opposition, and it does. One of those restrictions is a limited freedom of religion.

For instance, Singapore bans the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Unification Church by making public meetings illegal. The Falun Gong, banned in China, also has problems in Singapore.

China recognizes five religions — Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism but has banned certain new religious movements that are considered cults. China does not recognize cults as religions.

In the video embedded with this post, Al Jazeera follows Chinese Muslims as they prepare to undertake the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca from Xian in China.

The ancient city of Xian in Shaanxi province is home to about 60,000 ethnic Chinese Muslims.

Xian claims it has a Muslim history going back more than thirteen hundred years when Islam was first introduced to China in 650 AD, and the oldest mosque in China was built in 685-762 AD in Xian during the reign of Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty.

Chinese Imam Ma Yi Ping speaks both Chinese and Arabic. He studied at the Islamic University of Medina and has made the hajj several times. He was taught in secret to be a devout Muslim by his parents when Mao ruled China and the mosques in China were closed.

Despite the persecutions that took place during China Cultural Revolution (1966 – 1976) for all religons, Islam survived.

Ma Yi Ping says that after Mao and the Gang of Four were gone and China opened for trade with the world, he did not have to study the Quran in secret anymore.

Since the 15th century, Xian Muslims have been going to Mecca in Saudi Arabia for the annual hajj pilgrimage.

In the past, during the ancient days of the Silk Road, these journeys started and ended in Xian’s Muslim quarter. Today is no different.

Continued in Part 2 starting June 1, 2016

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

#1 - Joanna Daneman review posted June 19 2014

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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline