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.

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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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China’s Transition Years – Discovering History through Film

July 18, 2017

Farewell, My Concubine covers more than 50-years of Chinese history from 1924 – 1977.

In 1924, prostitute Yanhong sees no other alternative than leaving her son Douzi at a training school for Chinese opera where the boys are beaten, and tortured for forgetting their lines. The only escape is suicide. China’s decades long Civil War between the Communists and Nationalist rages on and then Japan invades China in 1937 and the challenges to survive become worse. After World War II, the Chinese Civil War continues and doesn’t end until 1949.

Two of the boys at the training school, Douzi and Shitou, become friends destined to be great actors, and they impress audiences by performing together. Through the years, with the political situation in China ever changing and not always for the good, Shitou and Douzi remain close.

Chen Kaige, self-trained as a filmmaker, was the director for this award-winning 1993 film. Prior to “Farewell, My Concubine”, Chen received modest acclaim for the “Yellow Earth” and “The Big Parade”. With “Farewell, My Concubine,” he won the Palme d-or in Cannes.

Although the film is in Mandarin with English subtitles, the story captured me from the beginning. If you are interested in Chinese history, this film spans several decades beginning soon after the end of the Qing Dynasty. On the surface, it is a story of two boys that happen to become famous, but they have difficulties and challenges like most of us do. However, the film takes us from the Qing Dynasty to a warlord dominated, struggling republic, the Japanese invasion of World War II, and through Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

I saw this movie more than a decade ago and I remember this powerful, dramatic story of one man’s life from the day his mother took a knife and chopped off an extra finger on each hand so he would have five instead of the six he was born with.

Discover Anna May Wong, the American actress who died a thousand times.

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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Discovering Mao’s Cultural Revolution through Books and Film

July 12, 2017

I read Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie soon after its English translation came out in 2002.  A few years later in 2005, we drove about sixty miles to see the Mandarin language film with English subtitles. Checking Amazon recently, I saw 344 customer reviews with an average of 4.2 out of 5 stars for the novel. The film had a 4.5 average.

This short novel spent twenty-three weeks on the New York Times best-seller list. The author, born in China, moved to France where he learned to read, speak, and write French. The book was originally written in French and translated into English by Ina Rilke.

The story is about two likable, teenage boys and their struggle after being banished to a peasant village for “re-education” during Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Sons of doctors and dentists, the boys work at muscling buckets of excrement up the mountainside and mining coal. Then there is the little seamstress of the title, whom Luo, one of the boys, falls in love with. He dreams of transforming the seamstress from a simple country girl into a sophisticated lover. He succeeds beyond his expectations, but the result is not what he expected.

Discover more about Mao’s Cultural Revolution in China through Joan Chen’s film Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl and Anchee Min’s memoir Red Azalea. Joan Chen’s film earned high marks on Rotten Tomatoes from both critics and the audience.  Min’s Red Azalea was a national bestseller. The Vogue Review said, “”The book sings. It is a small masterpiece. . . [No one] has written more honestly and poignantly than Anchee Min about the desert of solitude and human alienation at the center of the Chinese Communist revolution.”  The New York Times called it “[An] extraordinary story. . . . This memoir of sexual freedom is [both] a powerful political as well as literary statement.” And the Miami Herald said Min’s memoir was “Brave and heartbreaking.”

The best way to learn about the Mao era in Chinese history is to read it from those who were there and lived through it; not from some foreigner that wasn’t there and/or has never been to China.

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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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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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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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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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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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.

Where to Buy

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”.

About iLook China

China’s Holistic Historical Timeline