Indiana Jones, make room for Irene Blum

January 7, 2013

Ballantine Books sent me an advanced, uncorrected proof of Kim Fay’s The Map of Lost Memories. Because I’m not going to check or read the finished book, note that the final novel may have been revised.

After reading the uncorrected proof, I think Kim Fay’s novel is brilliant at times, average at times and sometimes falls flat then revives to be brilliant again repeating the cycle. In fact, Fay’s descriptions were so vivid they transported me to Shanghai, Saigon and Cambodia, and I could smell and see these exotic places—some I have visited and Fay’s descriptions rang true.

The main character in The Map of Lost Memories is Irene Blum, who in 1925 slams into the glass ceiling and is passed over for a job she deserves, the curatorship of the museum where she grew up and then worked. Instead, the job goes to a man who has the proper credentials even though he does not have Irene’s experience or global connections.

This leads Irene to steam across the Pacific to resurrect her career by finding several copper scrolls that record the lost history of Cambodia’s ancient Khmer Empire (802 – 1431 AD).

Irene’s first stop is Shanghai where she is sucked into the power struggle between the nationalists and communists and barely escapes with her life. Her next stop is Saigon and from there she travels to Cambodia with her motley crew, visits Angkor Wat and then is off to discover a lost temple in Cambodia’s rugged northeast near Laos that may be the rival of Angkor Wat.

Along the way, she collects a crew of dysfunctional allies each with his or her own agenda. There is the drug-addicted Simone Merlin, who appears to be a dedicated communist out to save the poor Cambodians from being exploited by the French colonial powers.

Then there is Louis, a world renowned scholar of the Khmer civilization and Angkor Wat, who was a childhood friend and former lover of Simone.

Irene also finds romance with the mysterious Mark Rafferty, who is linked to her mentor Henry Simms, a wealthy and powerful old man dying of cancer and another reason why Irene is racing to find the copper scrolls that will reveal the history of the Khmer empire ruled by Jayavarman VII (1125–1218), the last of the great Angkor kings.

At one time, the Khmer Empire was one of the most, if not the most, powerful empires in Southeast Asia. In fact, recent satellite images have revealed that Angkor Wat, the capital of the Khmer Empire, was the largest pre-industrial urban center in the world at that time.

However, history reveals there will always be empires that rise to flatten other cultures and countries and then fall. For example: the Aztec, Han, Inca, Roman, Spanish, French, British, Greek, Persian, and Egyptian. I doubt that the future will ever see Italy rise to equal the Roman Empire.

The Khmer Empire of Jayavarman VII was no different.

I enjoyed this novel and if you enjoy an Indiana Jones adventure, this book is for you. At the end of the novel, I had a feeling that we may see more of Irene in subsequent novels as the adventure continues.

Discover China’s Three “Journeys to the West”


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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A “Fruitful Meeting” Between Civilizations – Part 2/2

May 12, 2011

Y Chan’s comment continued with, “In the English language, the word “Christianity” usually refers to the hundreds of religions (some estimate the total number of Christian sects to be about 38,000 worldwide) that are based on Jesus as their Savior… However, to the Chinese people, the words “Catholicism” and “Christianity” seem to refer to two different religions, which is wrong. The translation got lost somewhere.”

“In fact,” Chan wrote, “different Christian sects came to China at different times with different techniques. The Catholics first came to China under Father Matteo Ricci around 1582 “WITHOUT” weapons or gunboats.

“All Ricci brought was the Bible and scientific knowledge and thus gained the respect of the Chinese people [even today the Chinese respect him].

“Actually, the religious exchange went both ways. Whilst the Jesuits brought Christianity to China, they also introduced Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism to Europe, because Father Ricci studied and translated many Chinese texts and sent them back to the Vatican.

“On the other hand, the Protestants arrived in China [in the 19th century] with the assistance of Western gunboats and opium. The first Protestant missionary was Robert Morrison of the Scottish Presbyterian Church. He pioneered the translation of the Bible into Chinese. He actually was hired by the notorious British East India Company that sold opium in China.

“Therefore, Chinese historians usually give a much higher respect to Father Matteo Ricci than to Rev. Robert Morrison. Today, Morrison has largely been forgotten by most Chinese.

“Father Matteo Ricci was an Italian, came to China 400 years ago, arrived in Macao and learned to speak fluent Cantonese rather than Mandarin.

“He studied Buddhism, dressed as a Buddhist monk and talked as if he were one when he tried to introduce Christianity to the Chinese people. However, Ricci discovered to gain the trust of the Chinese Emperor, he had to understand Confucianism.

“Through the study of Confucianism, he was accepted into the Imperial Court and was the first Westerner to hold a high position in the Chinese Government.

“Father Ricci treated Chinese culture and religions “EQUALLY” as he introduced Christianity to China, whilst the British missionaries [Robert Morrison and the Protestants] looked down on China as a land of barbarians [heathens] to be “saved” as they came ashore supported by gunboats and opium.

Return to A “Fruitful Meeting” Between Civilizations – Part 1


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.

The Role of Religion

March 26, 2011

While reading Religion flourishes in political and historical titles by Henry L. Carrigan Jr. in ForeWord magazine, I thought of China’s history with religion, and saw no comparison as to how religion has influenced beliefs and politics in the West.

Carrigan wrote a seamless piece mentioning fourteen titles that deal with atheists and religion in America. After reading the piece, it’s obvious why Western religion plays such an important role in US politics.

However, in China, religion has never had a role and probably never will. In fact, religion never had an impact on China until after the First Opium War early in the 19th century. The result was the Taiping Rebellion led by a converted Christian known as God’s Chinese son.

More than twenty million died due to God’s Chinese son. Imagine how that influenced opinions regarding Christianity in China. The first major contact with a Western religion ends in bloodshed and much suffering.

The Exodus of the Jews from Egypt took place around 1504 to 1254 BC about the time of the Shang Dynasty (1783 – 1123 BC). A few Jews (not enough to establish the religion in China and have a lasting impact) would reach China almost twenty-four hundred years later.

In 312 AD, Constantine adopted Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire, and he did it for political reasons.

Next came the rise of Islam after Mohammad proclaimed the message of believing in one God about 610 AD.

Freedom of religion in America wouldn’t be guaranteed until July 4, 1776.

The evolution of religion in the West spans thousands of years, yet China’s Western critics expect the Chinese to accept these religions and allow them to have an important role in Chinese culture almost overnight.

Carrigan writes, “Over the past decade, most polls have consistently found that 95 percent of Americans say they believe in God…”

However, more than a billion Chinese do not belong to any organized religion. It is estimated that the number of Christians in China number 40 to 100 million depending on whom you believe. If the high number is correct, that’s still less than ten percent of the population compared to America’s 95%.

In fact, religion in China has mostly been family-oriented for thousands of years.

Some scholars doubt the use of the term “religion” in reference to Buddhism and Taoism, and suggest “cultural practices” or “thought systems” as more appropriate.

Generally, the percentage of people in China that call themselves religious is the lowest in the world compared to America, which is probably the highest number.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.

Democracy, Deceit and Mob Rule

October 14, 2010

In 1999, I had no idea that I was about to begin a journey of discovery that would lead to China.

It all started when my wife said, “You might be interested in Robert Hart, an Irishman who went to China in 1854.  He worked for the emperor.”

Since my ancestors were Irish, I was curious.

I learned about Robert Hart through his letters and journals and more than a decade later, I’m still learning about China’s history and culture.

In 1999, I was a member of the ignorant democratic American mob in a country that was born as a republic in 1776 with slavery while women and children were considered chattel.

The slaves would be free eighty-nine years later after a bloody Civil War.  The women and children would have to wait longer for their freedom.

While writing about China, I learned that America’s Founding Fathers built a republic because they despised democracies with good reason. The following You Tube video offers an explanation.

Before 1999, like those Americans who have called me a “Panda Lover” and “Pro China”, I believed China was an evil place with a horrible dictatorship and everyone was brainwashed, miserable and Godless.

Little did I know that the Chinese were closer to heaven and God than most Christians and Muslims were, since these Western and Middle Eastern religions act as the intermediary telling people how to think, act, worship and who to kill when it comes time to convert the heathens and non-believers.

In 19th century America, racial prejudice was so strong that sayings like, “The only good Indian is a dead Indian” were taken seriously. See: Counter Currents

Substitute “Chinese” for the word “Indian” and that was another slogan that led to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

Many European immigrants to the Americas worked hard to make those slogans true.

Once finished with the North American natives, those people moved on to Hawaii, the Philippines, Japan and China where the killing continued.

See: An American Genocide

In 1999, I knew nothing about the 19th century Opium Wars where Western Imperial powers, including Americans, went to war with China so the West could sell opium to the Chinese people. 

After China lost the Opium Wars, the treaties also forced China to allow Christian missionaries to enter China and go wherever they wanted to save the savage even if it meant more death.

A once proud people with a long history were humbled and crushed as their two thousand year old civilization was torn apart by Western greed and religions.

Then I learned about the Taiping Rebellion fought by Chinese Christian converts. When that rebellion ended, another twenty million Chinese had been killed in the name of the West’s God.

There were also Muslim led rebellions where millions died following a prophet shouting the word of God.

Growing up, the Hollywood movies I watched about China supported the stereotypes. The men were either coolies pulling rickshaws, or owned a Chinese restaurant or laundry and the woman were all concubines or whores.

Thanks to Robert Hart, I learned that the stereotypes about China I was fed as a child were wrong.

I’ve learned that China is recovering its position (one held for more than two thousand years) as a world power.

At the same time, the West continues making the same mistakes that led to the collapse of the Roman Empire — the same mistakes that led to wars in Europe where Christians killed Christians and then Christians invaded the Middle East to fight with Islam where the West is still fighting.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. 

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.

The Tang Dynasty (618 – 906 AD) – Part 2/4

September 24, 2010

During the Sui (589-617) and Tang Dynasties, China went through a period of cultural and spiritual development.

The country’s ethnic groups along with Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism coexisted peacefully with foreign religions such as Islam.

Literature and the arts developed more than before.

The Han Dynasty (206 BC to 219 AD) opened the Silk Road for trade, and the civilizations of Rome, Ancient Egypt, of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers and India continued trade with the Tang Dynasty.

According to Tang Dynasty records contact was maintained with more than 300 countries and regions across the known world, so the Silk Road was also known as the Envoy Road.

People from countries such as Japan, Korea, and India as well as Tehran came to China.

Many foreigners had positions in the central government of the Tang Dynasty, and they served both as civil officials and military officers.

The Tang Dynasty demonstrated respect for all foreign religions.  During this time, Christianity was introduced to China.

The Imperial family of the Tang Dynasty had been a military family in Northwest China for generations and they made Taoism the national religion.

Laozi, the founder of Taoism, advocated harmony between people and nature, which was reflected in the beliefs of the first rulers of the Tang Dynasty.

Continue with Tang Dynasty – Part 3 or return to The Tang Dynasty (618 – 906 AD) – Part 1


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. 

To subscribe to “iLook China”, look for the “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar, click on it then follow directions.