The Dizi, a Chinese bamboo flute

May 29, 2010

The Dizi is a traditional Chinese musical instrument that was popular during the Warring States period (472-221 BC) and was used in opera during the late Ming and early Qing Dynasties.

There are two opinions about where the Dizi came from. Official Imperial documents say that a messenger for Han Emperor Wudi brought one with him from western China in 199 BC.

Chen Yue – “Touching Dizi”

However, older bone and bamboo flutes have been found in ancient tombs. One was found in an Eastern Han tomb (206BC – 9 AD).  Several bone flutes were found in Zhejiang province and more than thirty flutes have been found that were nine thousand years old.  The number of holes varies.

Discover more about Chinese music. See the Gu Zheng


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

His latest novel is the multiple-award winning Running with the Enemy.

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An Unhealthy War of Words

March 17, 2010

Both China and America face a crises in health care, because many in both countries cannot afford it.

Emperor Wudi (Han Dynasty, 141 BCE) may have made the right choice. Wudi wanted to make sure that peasants could afford salt and iron so his government controlled the prices. The private sector that sold these commodities was upset, because they couldn’t amass the great fortunes they wanted.

Emperor Wudi - Han Dynasty

After Emperor Wudi’s death in 87 BCE, a great debate (similar to the debate over health care in America today) took place.  It was called the “Debate on Salt and Iron”.  It pitted the advocates of a strong central state against those favoring more autonomy for local elites—people who owned businesses in the private sector. In the end, the government program that controlled the prices of essential commodities was abolished.

The results—

1. The imperial court became more concerned with an extravagant social life and stopped doing their job running the country. Greed became rampant.

2. Powerful families manipulated the emperor and his ministers—like corporate and special-interest lobbyists in America today. For a few, fortunes grew while many peasants had to go without.

3. Revenues declined and military affairs were neglected.

4. The Han Dynasty collapsed.

Health is an essential commodity, and Bill Maher makes a good case for this in his piece at the Huffington Post.

To learn more, read “China’s Health Care During Mao’s Time”

Basic Health Care in China

March 1, 2010

Basic care in China does not include a stay in a hospital, which would cost about $100 a night compared to a thousand or more in America. Since the best doctors live in the major cities, the best-equipped hospitals are there too.

If a peasant living in the countryside becomes seriously ill, he may have to travel a long distance to get proper medical care. That is, if he has the money. Medical care in China is all about money just like in the United States. Money opens hospital doors and pays the rent for the surgeon’s scalpel.  To understand the challenges that come with living in China’s rural areas, I suggest reading this post on Mark’s China Blog.

Chinese pharmacy

However, when it comes to drugs, the Chinese government has factories in every province that manufactures drugs at a low cost. This is one commodity where the prices are controlled. For example, a bottle of antibiotics in the U.S. that costs $80 would cost $14 in China. That cost is still out of reach for many rural peasants living on an average hundred dollars a year (six or seven hundred yuan). 

Maybe Emperor Wudi from the Han Dyansty had the right idea when he decided that certain necessary commodities and services should not be part of the private market economy.


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. 

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Learning from China’s History

February 27, 2010


I’m weighing in on the health care debate. I’m an impartial observer, because I already have socialized medicine through the VA. Serving in Vietnam earned me that benefit, and the VA works better than most systems.

VA Medical Facility, San Francisco

We can learn from history if we pay attention. In 141 B.C.E., a new Han emperor sat on the Dragon Throne in China. His name was Wudi. He ruled for fifty-four years. Wudi believed that all people should have the right to buy certain commodities essential to survival and they should not be included in the free-market system. He implemented government monopolies in certain critical areas like salt, alcohol and iron. Prices were controlled so everyone paid the same low price.

After his death, a national debate known as the “Debate on Salt and Iron” took place. The government monopolies were abolished, and the poor could no longer afford many essentials. The rich grew wealthier. Soon after that, the Han Dynasty entered a period of stagnation like what is taking place in America today, and the Han Dynasty eventually collapsed. 

What could we learn from what happened in China during the Han Dynasty?
Isn’t health care a commodity essential to survival?

Learn about China Investing Big in Education


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.

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Education Chinese Style – Part 3

February 10, 2010

It seems that many of the six-thousand students I taught over thirty years felt the same way—that learning would make them mad like Acts says in the New Testament: 26:24 And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.

Emperor Wudi

In China, during the early Han Dynasty, a different moral standard was set where earning an education was valued. Emperor Wudi from 141-187 BCE (two hundred years before Jesus Christ and five hundred years before Constantine), solidified the ideological framework of official Confucianism with a blending of Confucian, Taoist, and Legalist elements.

It looks like China may be officially returning to Confucianism or some form of it. Confucius taught that a ‘gentleman’ is the ideal figure. Among the traits of this ideal man is continued learning to develop moral character and to gain knowledge that is useful in serving others.

In China, teachers are treated with respect. Not so in the United States. Although a few students were respectful when I was a teacher, many were not. To understand what I mean, read the prologue from my memoir, Crazy Normal.

See Part 1

Lloyd Lofthouse is the author of the award winning novels My Splendid Concubine and Our Hart.