To Get Around, take the Bullet Trains and Use the Subways in China

July 26, 2017

Believe me when I suggest avoiding driving or taking a taxi in Beijing unless it is midnight and the city is sort-of sleeping. Beijing is one of the worst cities in the world to drive in. This is probably true for most of China’s crowded cities.

To give you an idea of what I mean by crowded, New York City has a population of about 8.5 million and is ranked #1 in the United States with Los Angeles #2 with less than 4 million people. There are 160 cities in China with a population of over 1 million vs only 10 in the United States.

Here are China’s top five cities ranked by population.

Shanghai – 22 million

Beijing – 10 million

Guangzhou – 11 million

Tianjin – 11 million

Shenzhen – 10 million

I have been to Shanghai and Beijing several times between 1999 – 2008, and have been stuck in Beijing traffic breathing toxic fumes and watching the taxi’s meter adding numbers to the cost of the trip when we could have walked faster for free.

The other choice is Beijing’s subway system built for the 2008 Beijing Olympics (and it’s still expanding), which I prefer using. It’s fast and efficient, but wear a money belt because it can become sardine-can crowded creating a perfect environment for pickpockets. I didn’t even wear my backpack on my back. I put it on my chest where I could keep an eye on it. To be fair, Smarter Travel.com warns us of the dangers of pickpockets in New York City. The same advice will help in any major city you visit.


This video was filmed in 2013 when only one subway line was open. Today, Xian has three subway lines with sixty-six stations and an average of 1.5 million people riding the subway daily. Last time I was in Xian in 2008, the subway system was still under construction.

Then there is China’s high-speed rail. It didn’t exist in 2008, and I haven’t been back to China since. Why fly when you can see China from a bullet train moving at 120 – 160 mph (or faster). The Economist reports, “Less than a decade ago China had yet to connect any of its cities by bullet train. Today, it has 20,000km (12,500 miles) of high-speed rail lines, more than the rest of the world combined. It is planning to lay another 15,000km by 2025.”


“China’s high speed trains make travelling the country easy and quick but there are certain things you should know that’ll make using the high speed trains in China a painless process!” – Learn how to ride high-speed rail in China from The Adventurer

Then Manufacturing.net asks, “Why is There No High-Speed Rail Network in America?”

Here is the simple answer. Since World War II, the U.S. has spent about $33-Trillion on its military budgets and fighting endless wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan causing millions to be killed and/or maimed. Without those wars, there would probably be no ISIS. Then there is the fact that since President Reagan in the 1980s, the focus in the United States has been on cutting taxes mostly for corporations and the wealthiest Americans. That has led to about $20 trillion in debt for the federal government. During this time, the U.S. has not kept its infrastructure up-to-date – improvements that would have provided millions of new jobs and benefited the American people.

If the United States had avoided starting so many wars and had a military budget equal to China (ranked #2 in the world), it would have saved about $32-Trillion since World War II. There would be no national debt and the U.S. might even have its own bullet trains speeding from coast to coast.

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 Evolution of the Three Teachings of China

July 25, 2017

China may be the only ancient culture that survived the spread of Islam and Christianity and managed to keep its unique identity. The following passage comes from My Splendid Concubine, my first published novel was historical fiction based on a real life story and it earned fifteen literary awards. In the novel, Guan-jiah is Robert Hart’s servant.

 

– the following scene is from CH-4 of My Splendid Concubine

“Guan-jiah,” Robert said, “before I came to China I read The Travels of Marco Polo. Do you know who he was?”

“No, Master,” Guan-jiah replied.

“He came to China from Europe more than six hundred years ago and served Kublai Khan during the Yuan Dynasty. Polo wrote that Hangzhou was the finest and noblest city in the world.”

“Hangzhou was the capital of the Southern Sung Dynasty, Master,” Guan-jiah said. “I’ve heard it is beautiful. Sung philosophy says that we have the power in our minds to overcome our emotions.”

“Marco Polo believed it was God’s will that he came back from China so others in the West might know what he’d seen.” Robert turned to his servant, who was the last in line. “Do you believe in this Sung philosophy, Guan-jiah?”

“The Sung said that if you know yourself and others, you would be able to adjust to the most unfavorable circumstances and prevail over them.”

“That’s admirable, Guan-jiah. You never mentioned you were a scholar. If the Sung Dynasty was that wise, I want to see Hangzhou one day.”

“I am no scholar, Master, but I must believe in the Sung philosophy to survive. I have read and contemplated much literature. However, I am like a peasant and have never mastered calligraphy. It is a skill that has eluded me.”

“How old were you when you studied this philosophy?”

“I was eleven, Master, two years after I was sent to Peking.”

The 3 teachings of Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism have been the backbone of Chinese culture since the bronze age, and are still intertwined strongly with today’s China. They are different interpretations to China’s core philosophies of life. Over time, different dynasties favored different ideas, if only to define themselves against their predecessor. Ultimately though, it’s all about the philosophy of combining spirituality with the reality of everyday life.

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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Should the Chinese Communist Party be concerned about the Mandate of Heaven?

July 19, 2017

Due to the Mandate of Heaven, many of China’s people see rebellion as a birthright under the right circumstances. The Mandate of Heaven has been traced back to 1753 B.C. or earlier.

With the Mandate of Heaven, the right to rule from divine legitimization to one based on ‘evenhanded’ rule was born. Whenever a dynasty fell, the reason offered by China’s wise men was the loss of the moral right to rule given by Heaven alone, because, for a good government, Heaven sends down all blessings, but on the evildoer, Heaven sends down all miseries.

However, China’s leaders, like leaders all over the world, were free to rule unjustly and could harm the people they ruled but the thinking was that their rule would come to a swift end as Heaven passed its mandate to another family or group. It’s thought that Heaven blessed the authority of a just ruler, but would be displeased with a despotic ruler and would withdraw its mandate. In addition, severe floods or famines might be considered evidence of divine repeal of the Mandate of Heaven.

As long as the ruling family or political party rules fairly and justly, the majority of Chinese people will see no need to call for change or rebel.

What is the closest thinking to the Mandate of Heaven in the West? Here’s my choice for the United States. Thomas Jefferson, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, said, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”?

Since I started this post with a question, I’ll end with one. Should the 45th President of the United States be concerned about the Mandate of Heaven and Thomas Jefferson’s advice? Please let me know what you think in the comment section.

Discover China’s First Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi, the man that unified China more than 2,000 years ago.

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 Supreme Art of War is to subdue the Enemy without Fighting

July 11, 2017

Teddy Roosevelt said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Compare what this American President said to China’s Sun Tzu, who wrote the Art of War (recommended reading at West Point) more than 500-years before the birth of Jesus Christ. Sun Tzu said, “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

I’m not sure that America speaks all that softly and that stick has been around the world several times in too many countries and using that stick as a huge club has been costly.  I did a bit of internet sleuthing and the military budgets approved by the Congress from 1946 to 2009 cost the American tax-payer about 23-Trillion dollars, and that’s not counting the years from 2009 – 2017. These figures also do not include the cost of wars since World War II.

In today’s dollars:

  • the Korean War cost the U.S. taxpayer more than $340 billion
  • the Vietnam War cost $740 Billion
  • By 2013, the cost of war in Iraq had cost more than $2 Trillion, and that was four years ago
  • And, also in 2013, Afghanistan has cost between $4 – $6 Trillion

China intervened in the Korean War and sent hundreds-of-thousands of troops to fight with North Korea against the United States and NATO. To understand why the Chinese got involved, Mao said,”Vietnam (and Korea) is the gums to our teeth. What happens when the gums are gone?” At the time, China was surrounded by Communist-hating enemies except for the USSR.

In addition, between 1965 and 1970, over 320,000 Chinese soldiers served in North Vietnam.

The Guardian reports China increased its defense spending by 7-8 percent in 2016 to about $150 billion vs. almost $600 billion for the United States.

Based on Sun Tzu’s “subdue the enemy without fighting”, how is the United States doing compared to
China?

The United States had a stalemate in Korea (and North Korea is a much larger hostile threat today to world peace than it was back in the 1950s), lost in Vietnam, and can’t seem to win or end the wars the U.S. started in Iraq and Afghanistan compared to China that fought a brief war in Vietnam in 1979 a few years after the U.S. left and then pulled out a few weeks later, and fought an earlier war with India in 1962 that also lasted a few weeks, and once China’s objectives were met, that war ended.

Discover China’s First Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi, the man that unified China more than 2,000 years ago.

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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Are Empires Built on a Mountain of Lies?

July 5, 2017

The sun never set on the British Empire until endless wars brought that empire to its knees. I’m sure that at one time, a British citizen could easily say with arrogance, “If Russia (or China, or Germany, or Italy, or France or Spain) doesn’t behave, we will spank them.” And Britain did spank these countries and others for centuries until the empire was bankrupt and burdened with debt—sound familiar?

I read a piece in The Huffington Post and was reminded how power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  Then I remembered what an old friend said in an e-mail.  This friend is a conservative, born-again Christian. He claims to be guided by scripture. He believes that George W. Bush (GWB) was the greatest if not one of the greatest American presidents. He also believes in the nation building that GWB attempted in Iraq.

That former friend makes part of his living as a handyman. He lives alone in a one-bedroom apartment and drives a very-used car that he keeps running by visiting junk yards for parts and doing the work himself. He also votes Republican and often bashes evil liberals while listening to radio-talk shows like Dennis Prager and reading authors like Ann Coulter.

This former friend also voted for Donald Trump knowing the man was a crook and a liar.

This former friend wrote once that Communism was evil. My reply was that individuals like Mao or Stalin were corrupted by their power and did evil things, but not all communists were or are evil. In fact, if Communism was evil why has the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) been responsible for reducing 90-percent of global poverty? In 1949, about 95-percent of people in China lived in extreme poverty. Today, according to the CIA Factbook, 3.3 percent of people in China live below the poverty line.

How can the CCP be so evil if it also doing good things for China’s people?

I always thought that ‘power corrupts’ was only abused by people in powerful positions like corporate CEOs or elected officials.  I was wrong. A nation’s power may also corrupt the thinking of its people. That brings me to Donald Trump and a piece in the June 2017 National Geographic Magazine on Why We Lie. Trump is mentioned because of his lie about the size of the crowd at his inauguration. And later in the piece, it is mentioned by Dan Ariely, a psychologist at Duke University and one of the world’s foremost experts on lying said that “we want to see ourselves as honest, because we have, to some degree, internalized honesty as a value taught to us by society. Which is why, unless one is a sociopath (Trump is not a sociopath. He is a malignant narcissist and psychopath. There is a difference between a sociopath and a psychopath), most of us place limits on how much we are willing to lie.

Donald Trump does not place limits on how many lies he says. He is a world class serial liar. In fact, Politifact.com has a file on Trump’s lies, and according to Politifact, 84-percent of what comes out of Trump’s mouth or through his rabid tweets are lies.

What does that say about the United States?

I wonder how many empires are built on lies. Winston Churchill once said, “There are a terrible lot of lies going about the world, and the worst of it is that half of them are true.”

One of those lies is that the United States is not an empire.  The National Interest says (and I agree), “The United States is an empire – indeed, one of the most powerful empires in all history-but refuses to acknowledge the obvious (Is this refusal a lie?). This is part of the problem, for at present, America is a colossus with an attention deficit disorder, practicing cut-price colonization.”

And if you doubt that, explain this: “We know that roughly 750 military bases and installations staffed by American military personnel exist in approximately 130 countries around the world.”

How many military bases does China have in other countries?

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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With High Stakes Tests Comes Cheating

July 4, 2017

I guess I’m naïve, stupid, or something else. During the nine years I attended colleges and universities to earn my BA in journalism and MFA in writing, I did my own work. It didn’t occur to me that I could pay someone else to do it for me. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway. I didn’t have the money to pay to cheat.

And when I read, “Rampant cheating hurts China’s research ambitions” (from Yahoo news), I was disappointed at the lack of balance. There was no mention that cheating is a global problem. But cheating on exams didn’t start in Communist China. For instance, the South China Morning Post reported about a tiny book that was used for centuries by Chinese students to cheat on civil service exams.

I taught journalism and was an adviser for an award winning high-school newspaper for several years, and the student reporters learned to write balanced pieces, even for the opinion page. I said that both sides of an issue should be heard even if the balance isn’t perfect and one side is not politically correct.

Since Yahoo is or was an American company (I read recently that Yahoo was sold to another company), I’m going to start with cheating in America to correct this imbalance. It’s worth noting that since student test results are being used and abused in America’s k-12 public schools to rank teachers and schools and then fire or close them, the odds are that someone who was once honest will cheat to survive. Imagine punishing a child’s teacher for the results of a test the child took. This is insanity, and it is a crime. No other country in the world, even China, uses student tests to rank-and-fire teachers and close public schools.

Lawyers.com reports, “In a 2005 research study, 75 percent of (U.S.) students admitted to cheating in school; 90 percent admitted to copying another student’s test paper or homework. A 2009 study of 2,000 middle and high school students showed 35 percent of them used cell phones to cheat and 52 percent used the internet to cheat.”

But Chinese and U.S. students aren’t the only ones that cheat. The Conversation.com says, “Students at a medical college in Thailand have been caught using spy cameras linked to smartwatches to cheat during exams. They used wireless spycams in eyeglasses to capture exam questions, transmit them to associates elsewhere and receive responses through linked smartwatches.”

CBS News reported that Indian parents scale school walls to help students cheat on exams.

In addition, there was this about cheating in the UK. The Telegraph says, “Invisible ink revealed as the latest university exam scam.”

News24 reports “Cheating students on the rise … Johannesburg (South Africa) – A survey has found that universities are battling a rising tide of cheating by students who brazenly take the easy route to a qualification, reports the Sunday Times.”

And just to make a point, I decided to include South America. Peru This Week.com says,”Imposters arrested for cheating on teachers’ exams in Peru.”  All I did was Google the same question, “Cheating on school exams (name of country)” and changed the name of the country each time.

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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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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Meet the Last Empress-Regent of China

June 20, 2017

The Last Emperor of China was Pu-Yi, but he never had the power of an emperor. Pu-Yi was born in 1906 and became emperor in 1908 when he was two-years old. His Empress was Wanrong and she was also born in 1906.  Pu-Yi married Wanrong in 1922 when they were both 16, ten years after the end of the Qing Dynasty. Wanrong might have technically been the last empress of China but she never had the power of one.

The real Last Empress of China was the Empress Dowager Tzu Hsi (Cixi). She ruled the Qing Dynasty as a coregent after her husband, the Xianfeng Emperor died in 1861, because her son, The Tongzhi Emperor (1856 – 1875), was too young to rule.

Tzu Hsi was the last empress to rule China as a regent. Pu-Yi was in a branch of the Manchu Aisin Gioro clan with close ties to Empress Dowager Cixi, who was from the Manchu Yehenara clan.

Sterling Seagrave, the author of Dragon Lady, wrote, “Absurdly little was known about her (Cixi) life. The New York Times printed a long, error-filled obituary calling her Tzu An, the title of her coregent, who had died twenty-seven years earlier.”

Many current history texts have slandered the Dowager Empress Tzu Hsi (1835 – 1908) without much evidence as one of history’s most monstrous women, a ruthless Manchu concubine who seduced and allegedly murdered her way to the throne in 1861 to rule China through perversion, corruption, and intrigue.

She was even accused of murdering her son and then years later her nephew, who died the day before she did.

Instead, the evidence suggests her son died of syphilis because it was alleged he preferred prostitutes to the hundreds of concubines that were his property, young virgins that were selected for their beauty.

The allegations that Tzu Hsi was a monster was started by Edmund Backhouse, a reporter working in China for The London Times. His lies and deceit wouldn’t be discovered until Sterling Seagrave was doing research for his book about Tzu Hsi.

Backhouse’s journalistic fraud is still used as the foundation of most history textbooks that continue to slander Tzu Hsi.

To do Tzu Hsi justice and to discover the truth, read Seagrave’s Dragon Lady, The Life and Legend of the Last Empress of China.

Also, read what Robert Hart wrote about her in his letters and journals.  Robert Hart arrived in China from Ireland in 1854 to work as an interpreter for the British consulate in Ningpo. Five years later Hart quit that job and went to work for the Emperor of China. He didn’t retire and return to England until 1908.

Hart was Inspector General of Chinese Maritime Customs and worked closely with the Imperial ministers and Manchu princes. Before returning to England, he met with the Dowager Empress in a private audience where witnesses said she cried.

Hart referred to Tzu Hsi as “the Buddha” and later “the old Buddha,” because she was a devout Buddhist.

Hart, who is considered the Godfather of China’s modernization, at no time indicated in anything he wrote that Tzu Hsi was conspiratorial, sinister, or manipulative. However, he did indicate that she was strong-willed and hot-tempered, clever, and had ability. In fact, it’s obvious from what he wrote about her that he thought of her with affection and admiration.

Tzu Hsi died in 1908 a few weeks after Robert Hart left China. China’s last Imperial Dynasty, the Qing Dynasty, collapsed in 1911.

Discover Wu Zetian, China’s only female emperor

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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