A Dramatic Shift in China’s Cultural Values

September 4, 2011

Before 1949, Chinese culture was heavily influenced by Confucian thought and poetry, and the arts were extremely popular for their aesthetic and moral importance.

The goal of Confucianism was to create gentlemen that carried themselves with grace, spoke correctly and demonstrated integrity in all things.

Confucius believed that the most important lessons for obtaining a moral education were to be found in the Book of Songs, because many of its poems were both beautiful and good.

In fact, to Confucius, the role of poetry and art played an important role in the moral education of a gentleman as well as that of society in general.

For this reason, before 1949, the cultivation of poetry and the arts was considered more important than that of science or business.

Prior to 1949, to have a son majoring in the arts was a source of pride for most Chinese parents.

However, today, if a parent says his or her son is majoring in the arts (such as poetry, literature, or painting) at this or that university, (shocked) silence is the usual response and many Chinese parents would not want a daughter to marry such a man since this career choice may often lead to a dismal future.

A better choice today might be to see one’s daughter marry a banker or an I.T. major working for Alibaba, China’s e-Bay, or Baidu, China’s Google.

This cultural shift may best be seen by popular majors in China’s modern universities.

According to a recent survey conducted by Beijing University, the 10 most popular college majors in China recently were I.T. (information technology, which refers to anything related to computing technology, such as networking, hardware, software, and the Internet), electronics, languages (study of foreign languages such as  English), law, mechanics, architecture, accounting and finance, journalism, medicine, environment and business management.

In comparison, according to College Stats.org , the most popular college majors in the United States are biology, business, communications (journalism), computer science, criminal justice (law), elementary education, marketing, nursing, psychology, and political science and/or sociology.

If we compare popular college majors in China to those in the United States, which country appears to be on the right track?

Discover China Investing BIG in Education

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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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Ancient Chinese Inventions that Changed the World

July 24, 2011

The first Seismograph

When critics accuse the Chinese of stealing technology from the West, consider that China was the most technologically advanced nation in the world for more than two thousand years until the middle of the 19th century.

One example of China’s technological abilities was when the first seismograph was invented in 132 AD.

When Zhang Heng‘s device measured an earthquake in 134 AD, he predicted the location.

Han Ministers did not believe the scientist. Then a courier arrived and reported that an earthquake had taken place where Zhang said it did.

In 1951, Chinese scientists from China’s National Museum worked on recreating Zhang Heng’s seismograph. Since there was a limited amount of information, it took until 2007 to complete the reconstruction.

In comparison, it wasn’t until the 18th century (AD), about seventeen hundred years later, that there was any record that Western scientists even worked on developing a seismograph.

The Compass

The Chinese were the first to notice that the lodestone pointed one way, which led to the invention of the compass. The first compass was on a square slab, which had markings for the cardinal points and the constellations. The needle was a spoon-shaped device, with a handle always pointing south.

Archeologists have not been able to discover the exact time the ancient Chinese discovered magnets. However, it was first recorded in the Guanzi, a book written between 722 – 481 BC.

Later in the 8th century AD, magnetized needles would become common navigational devices on ships.

The first person given credit for using the compass in this way was Zheng He (1371 – 1435 AD), who went on the voyages made famous in a book by Louise Levathes, When China Ruled the Seas.

Since the Chinese value education above business and the military, it makes sense that Chinese invented and used devices such as the compass and the seismograph centuries before the West did.

The Compass was also considered a symbol of wisdom. About the 12th century, through trading, the technology spread to Arabia and then reached Europe.

Paper

Imagine the rise of civilization without paper.

In fact, without paper to print books that spread ideas, would men have walked on the moon?

Papermaking is one of the four significant inventions from ancient China. Almost 2,000 years ago, Chinese discovered how to make paper.

In 105 AD, Cai Lon invented a way to make paper and submitted his discovery to the Han emperor.

This method soon spread to the rest of China, and the emperor rewarded Cai Lon by making him a member of the nobility.

The basic principles of papermaking invented by Cai Lon are still in use today.

To make paper was a six-step process, and properly manufactured paper lasts for centuries.

In fact, Buddhism arrived in China about the time of the invention of paper and this helped spread Buddhist ideas, which contributed to the spread of civilization.

By the 12th century, more than a thousand years later, the paper making process reached Europe, which may have contributed to the Renaissance of the 12th century and what followed.

The Printing Press

Six hundred years after paper was invented, the Chinese invented printing and the first printed books were Buddhist scripture during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 906 AD). The most basic printing techniques are older. Engraving came later and the carving, printing technique originated during the Tang Dynasty.

When we talk about paper and printing, we are talking about collecting knowledge, preserving and sharing it.

In fact, Ancient Chinese culture was preserved due to the invention of paper and these printing methods, which wouldn’t reach Europe until after 1300 AD, centuries later.

Once there were mass produced paper books being printed to share Buddhist ideas, the religion spread through China into Korea and Japan. The same happened in the West with the Gutenberg Bible and the spread of Christianity in the 1450s.

In China, for a thousand years, printing techniques improved until there were multi-colored printings.

Then during the Sung Dynasty (960 -1276 AD), the printing board was invented, which used clay characters. One character was carved into a small block of clay. Then the clay was put in a kiln to heat into a solid block. This method was efficient for printing thousands of sheets. These blocks would be placed together to create sentences and paragraphs of Chinese characters.

Later, the characters were carved into wood and over time, printing developed into an art.

Without the Chinese invention of printing, Christianity, Islam and Buddhism may not have spread to the extent that they have.

Gunpowder

Sulfur is the main ingredient for gunpowder, which was first developed during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD).

During the Northern Sung Dynasty, in 1044 AD, the book “Essentials of Military Art” published several formulas for gunpowder production.

It is ironic that the Sung Dynasty (960 – 1276 AD) used a Tang Dynasty invention to defeat them.

Several ingredients for gunpowder were in wide use for medicinal purposes during the Spring and Autumn Period of China’s history (722 – 481 BC).

According to the famous book “Records of History”, Chang Sangjun shared secret prescriptions with Pien Ch’iao (around 500 BC), who promised not to give the secret away, and then he became famous as a doctor of Chinese medicine.

In fact, gunpowder was discovered by accident.

While mixing ingredients to find an elixir for immortality, Chinese scientists stumbled on the formula.

Fireworks and rockets were invented but were first used to scare away evil spirits.

The irony is that gunpowder, which has killed millions when used as weapons, was discovered during the search for immortality.

One theory says that the knowledge of gunpowder came to Europe along the Silk Road around the beginning of the 13th century, hundreds of years after being discovered in China.

It is also ironic, that Britain and France used advanced gunpowder weapons to defeat China during the 19th century during the Opium Wars.

Note: There were more inventions than this short list shows. If you read the comments for this post, you will discover a few more.

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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 lusty love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Jocelyn Eikenburg’s “Speaking of China”

June 28, 2011

Eikenburg says, ” ‘I love you’ is a meaningless phrase if you can’t ‘show me the love’.”

Since I write about China, I often discover other Blogs and Websites about China and in May, I discovered Jocelyn Eikenburg’s Blog, Speaking of China, and felt it was worth recommending and to show-case a taste of what she has to offer from her rare perspective of China and the Chinese.

If you are tired of reading criticisms of China and the Chinese in the Sinophobe dominated Western Media/Blogs, I suggest visiting Eikenburg’s Blog for a breath of honest air.

When I stumbled on Eikenburg’s Blog, I was researching how peer pressure among teens causes depression for one of my other Blogs, Crazy Normal, and discovered an interview with Jocelyn Eikenburg on My New Chinese Love, which you may also find interesting.

In fact, the interview ended with a WARNING: Her writing is a delicious blend of a highly personal China travelogue and a juicy romance novel that will leave you wanting more. Way too easy to get hooked – so if you’re easily addicted then *stay away*!

However, who is Jocelyn Eikenburg? Well, for starters, she lived in China more than six years and speaks Mandarin.

Writer and Chinese translator, Eikenburg is one of the most prominent voices on the web for Chinese men and Western women in love. Married to John, a Chinese national from Hangzhou, Jocelyn writes offbeat stories about Chinese culture, and advice about cross-cultural love, dating, marriage and family.

She’s lived and worked in Zhengzhou, Hangzhou and Shanghai. A Cleveland, Ohio native that resides in Idaho, Jocelyn is currently working on her memoir about love and marriage in China.

For a preview of her writing, I offer a glimpse from three of Eikenburg’s posts. Ask the Yangxifu: Chinese Parents, Pressure and a Preemie Baby

“Welcome to the world of Chinese families, where the parents rule.” (Note: maybe the average American parent could learn something valuable  from this “Speaking of China” post.)

“Chinese have lived for thousands of years with the Confucian value of filial piety — showing respect for family elders and ancestors. The flip side to this is Chinese parents expect to have a lot of control over the lives of their children (and even, in many cases, grandchildren). One Chinese once described it to me like this: ‘Chinese parents think of their children as furniture’ — something they own, something they should be able to ‘move around’ as they please.”

Then there is the post where she writes On the Rarity of Foreign Women and Chinese Boyfriends/Chinese Husbands, and says, “When I’m in China, I tend to turn a lot of heads, especially in the countryside — and that’s not just because I’m a foreigner. It’s because I’m often seen holding hands with my Chinese husband.”

Then in Chinese Men are Sexy, she says, “In October, 1999, it was as if I’d finally met my long lost locker pinup guy in the flesh. A sullen, James Dean type in a black leather jacket with a perfect ass. The kind of guy that made clichés like “tall, dark and handsome” drip from your mouth.… He drove me so crazy, I spent weeks taking cold showers and long bicycle rides just to cool down.”

Discover the 2008 China Trip

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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.


Closed Minds and Culturally Blind Missionary Zeal

June 21, 2011

Recently, my wife bought me a copy of Henry Kissinger On China. She said if you read anyone that is not Chinese writing about China, Henry Kissinger is the only Westerner to trust.  The reason, she explained, was that the leaders of China trust and respect few in the West.

However, Kissinger is the exception, and from what I’ve discovered since 1999, I don’t blame most Chinese or China’s leaders.

I haven’t read that far into the book but Kissinger’s Preface has a revealing quote in it.

Kissinger said, “American exceptionalism is missionary. It holds that the United States has an obligation to spread its values to every part of the world. China’s exceptionalism is cultural. China does not proselytize; it does not claim that its contemporary institutions are relevant outside China.”

What Kissinger didn’t say, which I may discover later as I read further into the book, is that America is spreading more than its spiritual, ethical, and moral values but is also importing its middle class unsustainable, consumer, debt-ridden, fast food, disease ridden lifestyle, which is more popular outside America than US cultural values.

The Economist for May 21, 2011 reviewed Kissinger’s book and said, “The Western politician who understands China best tries to explain it–but doesn’t quite succeed.”

In fact, it isn’t easy to overcome the Western prejudices that refuse to accept that people from other cultures are different from America and the West, which may be one reason why The Economist is so cynical and critical of almost everything they write about that does not fit their British cultural bias.

Another example is when a friend and expatriate living in China sent me a link to a Site called The Middle Kingdom Life written by a person that lived and taught at universities in China for seven years then left feeling bitter and disappointed, because China didn’t measure up to what he felt it should be, which is a reaction that has a lot to do with that American obligation to spread its values to every part of the world (even when other countries and cultures are not interested in those American and/or Western values).

Then another Blog I follow (but hold little respect for) sent me a notice that someone had left a similar comment.

That other Blog is called Understanding China, One Blog at a Time (should be “One Post” at a Time).

One Blog at a Time doesn’t understand China or the Chinese and is another emotional, biased rant criticizing China for not being a mirror image of American culture and does not take into account that China is a different culture with a different history and is still a developing third-world country with a large segment of its population that, until a few years ago (as early at the 1980s), lived as people had for centuries with a medieval lifestyle—meaning no electricity, no running water, no schools, no toilets, no sewers, or paved roads, etc.

It seems that little has changed from the 19th century when Robert Hart was the same as Kissinger is today to the Chinese except that today China stands on its own feet and is powerful enough militarily not to be bullied to cave in to Western demands to change the Chinese culture due to that American (and Western) obligation to spread its values to every part of the world, which may explain why we are fighting Islamic fundamentalists that wants to destroy Western Civilization.

That same Western missionary zeal (from Europe) that drives America today destroyed the Aztecs and Incas, enslaved tens of millions of Africans, colonized North America leading to the American Indian Wars of the 19th century, started two Opium Wars in China, killed a quarter of a million in the Philippines, meddled with Japan’s culture leading to World War II in the Pacific and China where The Rape of Nanking  took place, invaded Vietnam where millions died, fought the Korean Conflict, and imported American values with nation building by invading Iraq and Afghanistan.

What’s next?

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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.


The Chinese in America – Part 3/3

June 9, 2011

Almost half a century after her death, Anna May Wong (1905 to 1961) has not been forgotten.

In fact, her life is another example of the continued discrimination against Asian-Americans and Chinese in the US by other ethnic groups, which includes Caucasions, African Americans and Latinos.

The first indication of this discrimination and racisim in the US against Chinese and/or Asian Americans appeared during the  California Gold Rush, which John Putnam wrote of in Chinese in the Gold Rush.

As a child, Anna loved going to the movies and even cut school to go to the show.

Between 1919 and 1961, she acted in 62 films. The Internet Movie Data Base says she was the “first Chinese-American movie star”.

However, to act, Anna had to play the roles she was given. The Western stereotype cast her as a sneaky, untrustworthy woman that always fell for a Caucasian man. The dark side of achieving her dream of acting in movies was that Anna had to die so the characters she played got what they deserved.

Anna often joked that her tombstone should read, “Here lies the woman who died a thousand times.”

Until Chinese started to emigrate to the U.S. in the mid-19th century, they had never encountered a people who considered them racially and culturally inferior.

The discrimination against the Chinese in America was only exceeded by the racism and hatred directed at African-Americans.

Then in the 1960s, many of the anti racist laws enacted during the Civil Rights era focused on protecting African-Americans, which created a protected class.

Since the Chinese—due to cultural differences—often did not complain, they were left behind.

In many respects, racism toward the Chinese still exists in the US and manifests itself through the media as China bashing, which supports the old stereotype.

When Anna May Wong visited China in 1936, she had to abandon a trip to her parent’s ancestral village when a mob accused her of disgracing China.

After her return to Hollywood, she was determined to play Chinese characters that were not stereotypes, but it was a losing battle. To escape the hateful racism, she lived in Europe for a few years.

Since U.S. law did not allow her to marry the Caucasian man she loved, and she was afraid that if she married a Chinese man he would force her to give up acting since Chinese culture judged actresses to be the same as prostitutes, she never married.

Anna May Wong smoked and drank too much. She died of a heart attack in Santa Monica, California at age 56.

Return to Part 2 or start with The Chinese in America – Part 1

This post first appeared on November 10, 2010 as Anna May Wong – The Woman Who Died a Thousand Times

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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.


The Importance of Guanxi to Chinese Civilization

May 23, 2011

In lieu of a Western style legal system for most of China’s history, Guanxi offered an alternative to foster innovation, develop trust and contribute to trade and commerce for thousands of years.

Sir Robert Hart (1835 – 1911), the godfather of China’s modernization and the main character of my first two historical fiction novels, discovered the importance of Guanxi soon after he left the employ of the British and went to work for the Emperor.

He quickly learned that a “supreme value of loyalty glued together China’s structure of personal relationships.” Source: Entering China’s Service

In addition, Hart wrote in a letter in 1891, “These people (referring to the Chinese) never act too soon, and, so far, I have not known of their losing anything by being late. To glide naturally, easily and seasonably into the safe position sequence as circumstances make, is probably a sounder though less heroic policy for a state than to be forever experimenting—”

To translate, it takes time to develop a relationship/friendship/trust (Guanxi) that all invovled may benefit from.


Warning: This is a Promotional Video. However, it offers a perspective on Guanxi worth seeing.

However, I did not learn about Guanxi from Robert Hart. I first learned of it from the China Law Blog, which quoted the Silicon Hutong Blog.

Then I did more research and watched a few videos on the subject. I learned that Guanxi is one of those complexities of Chinese
culture that does not translate easily.

There are several elements and layers to Guanxi. First, Guanxi is based on a Confucian hierarchy of familial relationships, long-term friendships, classmates, and schoolmates and to those no stranger – Chinese or foreign – will ever have access. Source: Silicon Hutong

Guanxi developed over millennia because China did not have a stable and effective legal system as it developed in the West.

In fact, the legal system in China today is relatively new and made its appearance after the 1982 Chinese Constitution became the law of the land.

Since 1982, there have been several amendments to the Constitution as China adapts its evolving legal system, which was modeled after the German legal system.

In time, this Western influenced legal system may replace Guanxi since business law modeled on Western law with Chinese characteristic has developed faster than civil law.

There are a several opinions about Guanxi. I learned that Guanxi is similar to a gate that opens to a network of human beings but it isn’t that simple.

Maintaining Guanxi is different than how relationships are maintained in other cultures. The embedded videos with this post offer a more detailed explanation.

The China Law Blog copied the post from the Silicon Hutong Blog. The post on the China Law Blog had more than twenty comments and it was a lively discussion worth reading if you are interested in discovering more.

Learn more of Chinese Culture from The Mental and Emotional State of “Face”

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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, use the “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.

This revised and edited post first appeared here on October 18, 2010 as Guanxi in China


Wu Zetian, China’s Female Emperor – Part 3/4

November 10, 2010

After the death of Emperor Taizong, Wu’s first husband, she lived in a Buddhist monastery as a nun and was a faithful follower of Buddhism.

Some scholars claim that she became a Buddhist for political reasons.

In fact, she did have many Buddhist temples built and sculptures of Buddha made.  This cost a great deal.

However, as far as affairs of state were concerned, she made good decisions without hesitation.

She did not allow her Buddhist beliefs to influence her decisions.

For example, she only promoted officials who earned the right to be promoted. There is no evidence of favoritism.


Mandarin with English Subtitles

She also did not rule as a tyrant. Before making decisions, she listened to all views. Today, historians study her ruling style, and the evidence says her political decisions were wise ones.

During the fifty years that Wu ruled the Tang Dynasty, China’s borders expanded north, south and west and she did not lose any of the territory won.

Wu understood that with the people’s support, political stability was guaranteed. When there were tragedies such as floods, the dynasty offered relief so the people recovered.

Although imperial family members attempted to restore the Tang Dynasty, most of the rebellions were suppressed in two or three months.

Officials who were convicted of failing in their duties to the people were punished and often beheaded.

While Wu ruled China, the role of women in Chinese society changed drastically. Women didn’t have to worry about the clothing they wore. Women wrote poetry, rode horses, played Chinese chess, made music and practiced archery as men did.

Even after Wu was forced to retire at eighty, there were officials that called for her to return. The historical records show that the Tang emperors that followed here were not as open as she was.

Return to Wu Zetian, China’s Female Emperor – Part 2 or continue to Part 4

View as Single Page

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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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