Taoism – Part 1/3

March 27, 2012

“Those who know do not say; those who say do not know.” –Lao-tzu

I am no expert on Taoism.  I have a copy of Tao Te Ching and have read it in addition to a few pieces about it, but I was raised as a Christian in a Christian culture.  For this reason, Jean Delumeau, the narrator of the video and an honorary professor of the College de France, will tell you something about this religion.

Delumeau says by the time Buddhism arrived in China in the first century AD, Confucianism and Taoism had been widespread for several centuries.

Taoism was the popular religion of China while Confucianism was the official state religion of the Han Dynasty. In fact, the bureaucracy practiced Confucianism at work and turned to Taoist spiritual practices after work.

Even though Taoism and Buddhism have fundamental differences, Taoism helped spread Buddhism. While Taoism seeks the salvation of the individual, Buddhism seeks an escape from the cycle of personal existence.

However, certain practices of Taoism and Buddhism are similar, which are meditation, fasting, and breathing techniques.

The word “Tao” means both the order and totality of the universe and the pathway or road that allows the individual to enter into the rhythm of the world through a negation of self.

Two opposing but complementary forces of reality are fused in the Tao — Yin, which is passive, cold and feminine and Yang, which is active, hot and masculine.

The moon and the sun are the manifestations of Yin and Yang and all change is a result of these two dynamic forces such as day and night, the seasons, and life and death.

These two principals alternate in the five phases of a cycle, which are represented by water, fire, wood, metal and earth serving to define the five cardinal points, which are north, south, east, west and the center.

A contemporary of Confucius, Lao Tzu’s teachings were compiled in the fifth century BC into a collection called the Tao Te Ching or Dao De Jing, which have had a great influence on Chinese thought and medicine.

One example says, “The wise man does not seek to be known as a wise man but of his own free will remains in obscurity. Those who seek much knowledge enrich themselves daily. Those who seek Tao become poorer each day. Eventually, they become so poor they are incapable of action. Without action, nothing can be achieved.”

Continued on February 26, 2012 in Taoism – Part 2

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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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Note: This revised and edited post first appeared on December 5, 2010


Xi’an (Chang’ an) – China’s Ancient Capital – Part 1/5

October 21, 2011

Most people outside China only know of Beijing (once known as Peking) as the capital of China. However, another city was China’s capital for more than a thousand years.

In fact, Chang’ an (Xi’an) served as the capital for twelve dynasties, including the Western Zhou, Qin, Western Han, Sui and Tang dynasties, spanning more than eleven hundred years. It was also the cultural center of the Silk Road.

In 2008, the last time we visited Xi’an, subway construction was running behind schedule due to a law that does not allow the destruction of historical sites such as the tombs of emperors.  There are so many of these tombs below ground that the subway tunnels must be diverted to avoid them resulting in delays.

With such a long history, the Discovery Channel produced a documentary of Xi’an (Chang’ an) called China’s Most Honourable City.

To learn about Xi’an’s long history also teaches us much about China’s civilization. Discovery Channel’s Neville Gishford will take us on this historical journey leading to the present.

Gishford says, “It (Han Chang’ an) was more powerful than Rome. If any Roman army had actually gone there, they would have been absolutely annihilated.”

Han Chang’ an (Xi’an) was larger than Constantinople and richer than Egypt’s Alexandria.  It was a fortress so powerful that even 20th century artillery could not knock its walls down.

Today, Xi’an is home to millions of people and thousands of men made of clay, the Terra Cotta Warriors guarding China’s first emperor.

In addition, the massive city wall is more than six hundred years old and longer than 12 kilometers. Cracks are appearing and an engineering team keeps close watch and makes repairs

However, the Xi’an of today was first build over two thousand years ago and has been three cities—not one.  The Han Dynasty built the first city (Chang’ an), which is close to the modern city of Xi’an and the old eroding walls are still visible.

At 36 square kilometers, Han Chang’ an was more than one and a half times the size of Rome.

Continued on October 18, 2011, in Xi’an (Chang’ an) – China’s Ancient Capital – Part 2

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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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Births and Deaths – Part 1/2

August 12, 2011

If we study history, it does not take long to discover that all empires have births and deaths.

To name a few, the Persian Empire survived from 550 – 330 BC then fell to Alexander the Great as he built his vast but brief empire that survived from 346 to 323 BC.

After Alexander, there was the Roman Empire (27 BC – 476 AD in the West and 1453 AD in the East) and China’s Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) followed by other great dynasties such as the Tang, Sung, Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasty until it collapsed in 1911.

There was also the Mongol Empire (1206 – 1368 AD) followed by the British (1583 – 1997, when the British returned Hong Kong to China).

The concept of an American Empire was born in 1898, after the Spanish-American War and the annexation of the Philippines to the US.


You cannot run an empire without money.

However, some historians claim the process of expansion and empire for America dates to the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, which doubled the size of the US.

Bill Bonner writes of America’s Imperial Suicide and offers compelling evidence that the sunset of another empire has arrived.

Bonner mentions that the end started under President Richard Nixon in 1971 when the US stopped backing the dollar with gold and replaced it with paper and the good intentions of a government that is now burdened by a National Debt well beyond $14 trillion.

Since the Chinese appear poised to become the next world empire, will they accept the crown or follow in the footsteps of Han Dynasty, which transformed itself into the Tang, Sung, Yuan, Ming then Qing Dynasties by not attempting to swallow or control a vast global empire with constant expansion and intimidation of others on a scale equal to the Romans, the British Empire and the United States.

Are the Chinese wise enough to avoid the mistakes made by the others that have blazed this trail of empire before them?

Continued on July 13, 2011 in Births and Deaths – Part 2

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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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The “Vanishing” Street Art of Chinese Calligraphy

June 19, 2011

Chinese calligraphy is not vanishing. What I’m talking about is demonstrated in the videos included with this post. In China, many artists use sidewalks as a canvas and a brush with water to paint the beauty of calligraphy. As the water evaporates, the art vanishes.

In fact, calligraphy is more popular than ever. After the Cultural Revolution, many people turned to calligraphy in the hope of finding solace in the calm repetition of its exercises. Then, in 1981, the authorities took the lead in setting up a Chinese Calligraphers’ Association, the first such nationwide body ever to be established in the country. Source: Fathom.com, The British Museum

Both a language and an art, Chinese calligraphy has been traced back more than 4,000 years to the crude form called “Jia Gu Wen” found on turtle shells from the Shang Dynasty.

Calligraphy first bloomed as an art during the Han Dynasty but by the time of the Tang Dynasty, it had declined as an art. Source: Chinese Calligraphy History

It would be difficult to talk about Chinese art without understanding Chinese calligraphy and its artistic inspiration. A painting has to convey an object, but a well-written character conveys only its beauty through line and structure.

In Shanghai on sidewalks, or Beijing at The Summer Palace, I’ve watched men with long handled brushes, as seen in the first video, using water for ink and concrete for paper. With grace, they exhibit the skills of a Rembrandt breathing life into the characters.

America’s so called street artists should copy the Chinese that practice calligraphy and trade in their cans of spray paint for brushes and water, which would save US taxpayers much money.

Lin Yutang writes in My Country and My People that Western art is more sensual, more passionate, fuller of the artist’s ego, while the Chinese artist and art-lover contemplates a dragonfly, a frog, a grasshopper or a piece of jagged rock—more in harmony with nature.

Owing to the use of writing calligraphy with a brush, which is more subtle and more responsive than the pen, calligraphy as art is equal to Chinese painting.

Through calligraphy, the scholar is trained to appreciate, as regards line, qualities like force, suppleness, reserved strength, exquisite tenderness, swiftness, neatness, massiveness, ruggedness, and restraint or freedom.

Maybe this helps explain why the Chinese are not as warlike as Christian and Islamic cultures.

This revised and edited post first appeared on July 3, 2010 as Caressing Nature with Chinese Calligraphy

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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 “Mandate of Heaven’s” Gobal Revelation – Part 2/2

May 15, 2011

Global history shows that not all previous civilizations collapsed at the same time.

After the Western Roman Empire (500 AD) and the Han Dynasty (219 AD) were gone, the Byzantine Empire thrived in the Middle East for almost a thousand years (500 – 1453 AD), while the Tang Dynasty survived until 906 AD and the Yuan Dynasty (the Mongols) to 1368 AD to be replaced by the Ming then Qing Dynasties.

The British Empire survived until 1947 then vanished as an empire as the United States became a global super power after World War II.

However, many people are not aware of The Mandate of Heaven’s cycle, which leads to behavior that repeats the same mistakes that caused the fall of other civilizations.

American style democracy, capitalism, socialism, jet planes, the combustion engine, telephones, electricity, the Internet, and the iPad are not going to save civilization, as we know it today.

The reason for this is that human nature is what causes the downfall of civilizations.

History shows that during the good times at the height of a civilization such as Rome or the Han Dynasty, most people take the quality of life for granted as if it will never end.  Once that happens, the end begins.


The Mandate of Heaven explained on a global scale by Warren Edward Pollock

In the video, Warren Pollack explains how the Communist Party returned China to stability after chaos and anarchy swept China after the fall of the Qing Dynasty. If the Party continues to maintain domestic stability and keep people working, China may survive as the civilization it is becoming for a few centuries before the next collapse.

Since Mao died in 1976, the internal goal of the People’s Republic of China has been domestic stability. With domestic stability, we see China returning to that period in the dynastic cycle where harmony and prosperity rules leading to a period of stability.

To understand what happened in China, I suggest reading The Roots of Madness.

Edward Pollock says, “If China stood as the world’s top country, it would not act like the United States, which has been irresponsible, lazy and greedy and engaged in robbery and cheating. They (US)  have brought economic recession to the whole world.”

If we look to the dynastic cycle as a guide, it would seem that the United States has entered the cycle’s stage of decay moving toward a collapse.

However, with the weapons of mass destruction that America has in its arsenal (more than any other nation even the USSR), could the US, like a drowning man, pull the rest of global civilization down with it?

Return to The Mandate of Heaven’s Global Revelation – Part 1

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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.