China’s Four Most Popular River Cruises

November 6, 2019

First: The Yangtze River Cruise

Cruise Critic.com says, “A China river cruise on the Yangtze tops the bucket list for most sophisticated travelers. … Once you’re on the Yangtze, expect to see mysterious temples and pagodas, small towns and rural life and the dramatic scenery of Three Gorges.”

At 3,900 miles, the Yangtze is the longest river in Asia, the third-longest in the world and the longest in the world to flow entirely within one country. The Yangtze has played a major role in the history, culture, and economy of China. For thousands of years, the river has been used for water, irrigation, sanitation, transportation, industry, boundary-marking, and war.

The Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze is the largest hydro-electric power station in the world. The Telegraph reports, “The dam, now the world’s biggest electricity-generating facility, supplies 15 per cent of China’s hydroelectricity power.”

To cruise beyond the Three Georges Dam, there is a vertical-hoisting elevator (the largest in the world) that lifts cruise ships weighing up to 3,000 tons up-or-down 370 feet. There is also a lock for larger ships.

Second: Li River Cruise

Since I have already written about this one-day, four to five hour cruise, Here is the link to that post, but I added a newer video with this post. Much shorter than the Yangtze River, the Li River flows 102 miles and is located in southeast China near the city of Guilin.

Third: the Huangpu River Cruise

I have taken this cruise, too, and this link will take you to that post. The Huangpu River is 71 miles long making it shorter than the Li River. The Huangpu flows through Shanghai and was excavated and created when Lord Chunshen (died in 238 BC) ruled one of the Four Warring States of that era. This river is the last significant tributary flowing into the Yangtze before it reaches the East China Sea.

The Huangpu River, one of the earliest rivers in China to be dredged by man, originates at Dianshan Lake, in the Qingpu District of Shanghai.

Fourth: the Grand Canal Cruise

The Grand Canal is the oldest and longest man-made waterway in the world. The canal starts in Beijing in the north and ends at Hangzhou in the south with a length of 1,104 miles. You may read my post about the Grand Canal by clicking this link. The Canal is ten times the length of the Suez Canal and twenty-two times that of the Panama Canal. It also connects the two major rivers of China: the Yellow River and the Yangtze River.

Travel China Guide says, “The most popular section to cruise on the Grand Canal passes through Jiangsu and Zhejiang Provinces.”

This cruise does not travel the length of the Grand Canal from Beijing to Hangzhou and lasts less than two hours. The Grand Canal was built during the Sui Dynasty (581 – 618 AD), and about 2.5 million slaves and criminals died during its construction. The brutality and suffering angered many Chinese that rebelled and left the country in ruins. Emperor Yang was assassinated in 618 ending the Sui Dynasty, and the rebels took control. This was the beginning of the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907), one of the most-successful dynasties in China’s history.

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 October Golden Week Holiday

October 2, 2019

China and the United States have at least one thing in common, a holiday that celebrates the founding of a country.

For the United States, that day is July 4. History.com says, “On July 2nd, 1776, the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence, and two days later on (July 4th) delegates from the 13 (British) colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, a historic document drafted by Thomas Jefferson.”

Of course, the United States would end up fighting its war for independence with the British Empire from 1775 – 1783. A war that lasted eight years until the country was really independent. During this conflict, the United States lost an estimated 25,000 – 70,000 killed vs 78,200 British, German and Loyalist troops that lost their lives.

China, on the other hand, waited until after the civil war to celebrate, and it was a long wait from 1927 – 1949, twenty-two years if we do not count the so-called time-out to fight World War II from 1937 – 1945. Some eight million Chinese were killed during a Civil War that was complicated by the Japanese invasion of China that killed an additional twenty-million Chinese.

Imagine what it must have been like to be fighting a Civil War and then getting invaded by another country at the same time.

In China, “National Day holiday is fixed at October 1–7 with adjacent weekend days being mandatory workdays to make up for lost time. This period is also called ‘golden week’ because of the biggest week for tourism in China, when people have a week off to reunite with families and take trips.”

China Highlights.com reports, “Due to preparations for the celebration of China’s 70th Anniversary, many top attractions in Beijing will be closed for a certain period in 2019.” Click the link in this paragraph to discover those facts.

The History of China’s National Day

After the Civil War ended, the People’s Republic of China was established, and an official victory celebration and ceremony was held in Tiananmen Square on October 1, 1949.

The South China Morning Post reported, “Twice a year China sees a mass migration of its citizens as it celebrates Golden Week. … In 1999, an estimated 28-million people travelled for the first Golden Week. In October 2017, 705-million people travelled around China and spent 583.6-billion yuan (US$85 billion).”

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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Seventy-five percent of the world’s indigenous people live in China

May 15, 2019

If this post focused only on the United States, the topic would be about that country’s Native Americans and how the European invaders took away their land, slaughtered them, and forced the few survivors on reservations monitored by the FBI today. For a time, Native American children were forcebably taken from their families and sent to religious boarding schools. “As part of this federal push for assimilation, boarding schools forbid Native American children from using their own languages and names, as well as from practicing their religion and culture. They were given new Anglo-American names, clothes, and haircuts, and told they must abandon their way of life because it was inferior to white people’s.”

Back to China where 91.5-percent of the population of 1,418,984,771 is Han Chinese, and its native minority population represents about 8.5-percent of the total or more than 120.5 million compared to 5.2 million native Americans in the U.S. Please take note that recognized native minorities in China are equal to 36.7-percent of the total U.S. population of 327-million.

The World Bank defines the word “indigenous” as people recognized in international or national legislation as having a set of specific rights based on their historical ties to a particular territory, and their cultural, linguistic or historical distinctiveness from other populations that are often politically dominant.

When the U.S. media criticizes China for allegedly cracking down on China’s Uyghur Muslim minority in northwest China, there is seldom any mention of the other recognized indigenous groups in China. The World Bank says, “The research found that in every country studied, Indigenous peoples are poorer. The Indigenous poverty headcount (the percent of the population living below the poverty line) is much larger than for the non-indigenous population, and the poverty gap (the distance from the poverty line) is far larger than the national average.” In fact, in the United States Indian Youth.org reports, “Many American Indian communities are impoverished, with some tribes reporting unemployment as high as 85%.”

Travel China Guide.com says, “As a large united multi-national state, China is composed of 56 ethnic groups. … Although they make up only a small proportion of the overall Chinese population, the … minority ethnic groups are distributed extensively throughout different regions of China.”

One of the 56-ethnic monitories lives primarily in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China, where they are one of the officially-recognized ethnic groups. The Uyghur indigenous population represents about 0.8 percent of the country’s total population.

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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Healthcare in China

May 8, 2019

After 1949, China’s government established the country’s first national health system more or less from scratch. However, the US National Library of Medicine reports, “the well-established cooperative medical system for the rural areas collapsed within a short time period after the economic reforms in China in the late 1970s, leaving the vast majority of the rural population without health care. In 1999, only 7% of the 900 million rural residents had some kind of health insurance coverage.”

Then in 2003, China’s government again took steps to reform the health care system that had collapsed in the late 1970s, and as you read this post, you will discover that today 95-percent of China’s population has some level of health care.

InterNations.org says, In 2011, new social insurance legislation set out to reform China’s healthcare system, and there are now three insurance programs providing basic coverage for 95% of the population.”

One: The Urban Employee Basic Medical Insurance (UEBMI) applies to workers and employees living in cities. Their contributions are deducted from their salary via payroll taxes.

Two: The Urban Resident Basic Medical Insurance (URBMI) covers the non-working population in Chinese cities, such as children, the elderly, etc. The scheme is partly financed through contributions from individual households, but mostly through government subsidies.

Three: The New Rural Cooperative Medical System (NRCMS) is supposed to revitalize healthcare in China’s countryside. Funds are raised through a mixture of individual contributions, support from collective enterprises, and government subsidies.

In 1949, the life expectancy in China was only 37 years. In 2018, Reuters reported that China has overtaken the United States in healthy life expectancy at birth for the first time, according to World Health Organization data. Chinese newborns can look forward to 68.7 years of healthy life ahead of them, compared with 68.5 years for American babies, the data – which relates to 2016 – showed.” …

While the quality of lifestyles and health care is improving for China’s citizens, what is happening in the United States? “The United States was one of only five countries, along with Somalia, Afghanistan, Georgia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, where healthy life expectancy at birth fell in 2016, according to a Reuters analysis of the WHO data, which was published without year-on-year comparisons in mid-May.”

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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Winter Fun in China

January 2, 2019

The annual winter Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival (January 5 – February 5) was first celebrated in 1963 and is now the largest ice and snow festival in the world. The average temperature is a (minus) – 16.8 degrees Celsius or 1.76 Fahrenheit. On the Fahrenheit scale, the freezing point of water is 32 degrees, so the cold is below frigid.

“Traditionally, the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival open around Dec 24-25 and lasts to the end of February. But its official opening ceremony is usually held on January 5th each year.” According to IceFestivalHarbin.com, if you plan to visit, avoid February 4 – 10, 2019, and escape the crush during the Chinese New Year that is based on the lunar calendar.

The annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival was first held in 1963, but it was interrupted during Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Mao died in 1976, and it took time for China’s economic engine to recover. The fact that the festival resumed in 1985 was an early sign of the changes soon to take place in China.

Since 1985, China has transformed itself by rebuilding the old cities while building more than a hundred new ones in addition to the explosion of a middle class that equals or surpasses the entire population of the United States with plans to double that middle class in the next decade or two.

China has also crisscrossed the country with new highways and railroads that include more high speed rail than the rest of the world combined. China has also built more than 500 new airports while America’s airports are way overdue for an upgrade along with the rest of U.S. infrastructure that is out of date and falling apart. In fact, Money reports the U.S. is ranked #28 for average mobile internet speed.

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 happened to Macao Four-Hundred-and-Forty-Two years later

August 15, 2018

In 1535, Portuguese traders obtained the rights to anchor ships in Macau’s harbors and to carry out trade.  Then in 1557, they established a permanent settlement there.  In 1999, 442 years later, the same year China banned the Falun Gong religious cult, Macao was back.

Since Macau was returned to China in 1999, it has overtaken Las Vegas to become the world’s biggest gambling mecca. Since 1999, Macau, along with Hong Kong, is one of the two special administrative regions of the People’s Republic of China, and it is situated on the western side of the Pearl River Delta across from Hong-Kong.

The next building trend expanded Macao into a global entertainment and high-end shopping hub along with leisure activities, but that has not matched the success of gambling that remains Macau’s main money maker. In fact, almost every business depends on the gambling to survive.

However, the days of Chinese Triads having shooting wars on Macau’s streets are histroy. The Chinese Communist Party will not tolerate the violence and the People’s Liberation Army is much larger than any triad gang. If the CCP will ban the Falun Gong for illegally protesting in China, imagine what it would do to the triads.

Macao is not China even though it is technically part of the People’s Republic. The World History Blog provides a short history of the former Portuguese colony, which is a Special Administrative Region in China today but has more in common with the Principality of Monaco or Las Vegas.

Macao’s location was first settled by members of the South Sung Dynasty escaping invading Mongols in 1277. Centuries later, Portuguese traders built a staging port there, the oldest European settlement in the Far East.

The Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1643) did not recognize that Macao belonged to Portugal and collected rent until 1849 when the Portuguese, taking advantage of China’s defeat during the first opium war with England and France, declared Macau’s independence from China.

Britannica reports the 1999 transfer agreement allowed Macao to govern itself with a one-house legislature and a legal system based on Portuguese law, not China’s legal system.

David Campion writes, “As in Havana and Las Vegas, the gambling economy in Macau was first built up and its rules enforced by clever and well-organized gangsters, here called Triads. Once a date was set for the departure of the Portuguese, the Triads fought amongst each other viciously for greater control over the territory before the PRC was due to come in and rain on their parade (which it didn’t, as it turned out).”

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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Climate Change and Development in Tibet Creates Lifestyle Challenges

July 17, 2018

In 1949, 99 percent of Tibetans were mostly illiterate serfs. Serfs have always been treated as an inferior element in society. As serfs, most Tibetans depended entirely upon the few landowners for survival. In this system of serfdom, peasants could be traded, punished without due process of law, and made to pay tribute to the lord with labor. When China occupied Tibet, all those serfs were freed just like they were throughout China.

Tibet is part of China. Rural Life in China reported, “A typical family of seven described by Business Week in 2000 lived in a four-room house, used 0.64 of an acre for growing rice, used 0.59 an acre for growing other crops and owned four pigs, one horse, and 20 ducks. Their expenditures were $546: $217 for food, $96 for transportation, $72 for fertilizer and pesticides, $48 for medicine, medical services, $36 for local taxes; $7 for road building and improvement; $4 for power station maintenance; $6 for education and culture and $60 for cloth and clothes.”

Did you notice there was no mention of rent or a mortgage payment? My mortgage payment in the United States is almost 38 percent of my income and a friend and his family of three pay more in rent for less space in the same area. But in urban China,, renting or owning a home is not free. Tibet is mostly a rural area of China.

“Since 2006, the Tibetan government has mandated that Tibetan farmers, herders, and nomads use government subsidies to build new homes closer to roads. New concrete homes with traditional Tibetan decorations dot the stark brown countryside. But the base government subsidy for building the new homes is usually $1,500 per household, far short of the total needed. Families have generally had to take out multiple times that amount in interest-free three-year loans from state banks as well as private loans from relatives or friends.” [Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, July 24, 2010]”

Even the lives of Tibetan Nomads that makeup about a quarter of the population is changing. “Tibetan nomads have a lot in common with Mongolian nomads. Tibetan nomad culture is quickly disappearing as more Tibetans each year are being relocated off of the grasslands.”  But that might have more to do with climate change.

Nature.com reports, “A comprehensive environmental assessment of the Plateau of Tibet has found that the region is getting hotter, wetter and more polluted, threatening its fragile ecosystems and those who rely on them.

The plateau and its surrounding mountains cover 5 million square kilometers and hold the largest stock of ice outside the Arctic and Antarctic; the region is thus often referred to as the Third Pole. And like the actual poles, it is increasingly feeling the effects of climate change, but rapid development is putting it doubly at risk and is also changing lifestyle choices.

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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