What Honor Means to Most Chinese: part 3 of 3

February 12, 2015

In 1935, Lin Yutang said, “Face cannot be translated or defined. It is like honor and is not honor. It cannot be purchased with money, and gives a man or a woman a material pride. It is hollow and is what men fight for and what many women die for.

“It is invisible and yet by definition exists by being shown to the public. It exists in the ether and yet can be heard, and sounds eminently respectable and solid. It is amenable, not to reason but to social convention.

“It protracts lawsuits, breaks up family fortunes, causes murders and suicides, and yet it often makes man out of a renegade who has been insulted by his fellow townsmen, and it is prized above all earthy possession.”

“It is more powerful than fate and favor,” Lin Yutang said, “and more respected than the constitution. It often decides a military victory or defeat, and can demolish a whole government ministry. It is that hollow thing which men in China live by.” (Lin Yutang, My Country and My People, Halcyon House, New York, NY, 1938, page 200)

Chinese like Yue Fei and Guan Yu were honorable men and gained much face/respect because of their beliefs and behavior.

When anyone in China reacts to anything, politically or personally, honor plays a large role. It doesn’t matter if one is a member of the Communist Party, a farmer or a factory worker or one of the wealthiest members of the new capitalist elite.

Most Chinese measure what is important in life by a different standard than the rest of the world.

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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.

Finalist in Fiction & Literature – Historical Fiction
The National “Best Books 2010” Awards

Low-Res_E-book_cover_MSC_July_24_2013

Honorable Mentions in General Fiction
2012 San Francisco Book Festival
2012 New York Book Festival
2012 London Book Festival
2009 Los Angeles Book Festival
2009 Hollywood Book Festival

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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline

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Lin Yutang explains Christianity from a Chinese viewpoint

September 26, 2013

Lin Yutang (1895 – 1976) was a Chinese writer, translator, linguist and inventor. He was one of the most influential writers of his generation. In 1933, he met Pearl S. Buck in Shanghai and she introduced him, and his writings to her American publisher.

For most Chinese the end of life lies not in life after death, for the idea that we live in order to die, as taught by Christianity, is incomprehensible, nor in Nirvana, for that is too metaphysical, not in the satisfaction of accomplishment, for that is too vainglorious, nor yet in progress for progress’ sake, for that is meaningless.

The true end, the Chinese have decided in a singularly clear manner, lies in the enjoyment of a simple life, especially the family life, and in harmonious social relationships.

My Country and My People by Lin Yutang

“The Chinese are a nation of individualists. They are family-minded, not social-minded…. It is curious that the word society does not exist as an idea in Chinese thought. In the Confucian social and political philosophy we see a direct transition from family, ‘chia’, to the state, ‘kuo’, as successive stages of human organization.…

lin-yu-tang

Lin Yutang

“The Chinese, therefore, make rather poor Christian converts, and if they are to be converted they should all become Quakers, for that is the only sort of Christianity that the Chinese can understand. Christianity as a way of life can impress the Chinese, but Christian creeds and dogmas will be crushed, not by a superior Confucian logic but by ordinary Confucian common sense. Buddhism itself, when absorbed by the educated Chinese, became nothing but a system of mental hygiene, which is the essence of Sung philosophy.” Source: My Country and My PeopleLin Yutang. Halcyon House, New York. 1938. Pgs 94; 101; 103; 172, and 108

Discover China’s Holistic Historical Timeline

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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 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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Lin Yutang’s “My Country and My People”

March 19, 2013

If you haven’t spent time in China, your opinions about that country are probably wrong. I’ve traveled there often, and I’m married to a woman who was born and lived in China during Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

That’s why I found it interesting to read “The Non-Existence Of A Chinese World View” at Two Fish’s Blog, where Lin YuTang was quoted.

My-Country-and-My-People-Lin-Yutang-9781849026642

While writing “My Splendid Concubine and the sequel, “Our Hart”, about Robert Hart in China, I read “My Country and My People“. Hart is mentioned on page eleven of the 1938 edition. Pearl S. Buck, who wrote the introduction to Lin’s book, felt that someone who knows the Chinese should write a book about the people and culture. She urged Lin YuTang to be that author. Even though YuTang’s book was published years before the Communist Revolution, this book is still relevant in all things Chinese.

YuTang’s style is a mixture of history, philosophy, psychology, sociology with wit and wisdom.

Lin Yu Tang

I smiled when he pointed out contradictions about the Chinese way of thinking and helped me discover what motivates many Chinese to act the way they do—even the Chinese in a government often blamed for what they do because they are Communists when in fact, they act that way because they are Chinese.

To learn more of China, discover Tom Carter’s “China: Portrait of a People”

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

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Caressing nature with a long handled brush

March 4, 2013

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, or Beijing, I’ve watched men with longed 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 in the characters.

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, massivness, ruggedness, and restraint or freedom.

This helps explain why the Chinese may not be as warlike as Christian and Islamic cultures.

Discover Chinese Yu Opera with Mao Wei-tao

_______________

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.

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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.

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The Mental and Emotional state of “Face”

May 18, 2011

No, this is not about looks or Botox or face-lifting creams or hairstyles, or tanning salons, or the desire to have a rounder, paler moon face—the standard of beauty to most Chinese.

What I am writing about is the meaning of “face” to the Chinese

Dr. Martha Lee wrote, “Nobody ever said what you do with those who have ‘disgraced’ the family name by getting divorced.” Dr. Lee was writing of the ‘hongbao’ dilemma.

In China, if you do something that is considered a disgrace, like getting divorced, that may be considered a “loss of face” for everyone in the family.

Lin Yutang wrote in My Country and My People, “it is easier to give an example of Chinese ‘face’ than to define it.

“The ‘face’ is psychological and not physiological.  Interesting as the Chinese physiological face is, the psychological ‘face’ makes a still more fascinating study.  It is not a face that can be washed or shaved, but a ‘face’ that can be ‘granted’ and ‘lost’ and ‘fought for’ and ‘presented as a gift’.”

When our daughter was a pre-teen, we went on weekend hikes in the hills behind our home. The end of the hike was a large park across the street from the La Puente Mall. On one fateful day, when she was nine or ten, she was the first to discover a dead man. She came running back with a shocked look.

It turned out the dead man was an architect from Taiwan and his company had gone broke. His “loss of face” for failing had driven him to take an extension cord from his mother’s house, find a suitable tree in an isolated portion of that park, and hang himself.

He was dead when we reached him.

Do not stereotype. The meaning of “face” may vary between Chinese. It depends on the balance between Confucianism and Daoism along with factors like Buddhism or belief in the Christian, Islamic or Jewish God.

“Face” is why most Chinese mothers ride their children hard to do well in school while telling everyone they know that their kid is stupid and/or lazy and has no chance to succeed.

Chinese mothers may often tell their children the same thing. However, if the child is accepted to a prestigious university, that Chinese mother has now earned bragging rights and “gained much face” for the job she did as a mother

To get a better idea, I recommend reading Amy Tan‘s “The Joy Luck Club” or watching the movie.

We had a house full of my wife’s Chinese friends over for dinner. After eating, the children gathered in our downstairs TV room to watch a movie. They picked “The Joy Luck Club“, and during one scene, when the Chinese mother was acting very Chinese, all the children looked at each other, nodded ‘yes’ and laughed ironically. Since my wife is Chinese, I knew why they reacted that way. They all had Chinese mothers.

“Face” is why the Chinese businessman will take great risks or take only a few risks and if given a chance may steal another person blind—that is if they believe they can get away with it. If they are caught and it is against the law, that is a “loss of face”—one reason for suicide.

Most Chinese men will wait until they are successful before they let others know. If they fail, it’s possible no one will hear about it beyond the family unit.

“Face” is why Chinese men often work twelve to sixteen hour days, seven days a week earning small but saving large. The Chinese will do without luxuries and save to pay for their child’s university education. Chinese women will work just as hard.

Studies in today’s China show that the average family saves/spends a third of its income for a child’s education.

Regaining “face” may be one reason why Mao reoccupied Tibet for China in 1949. Look closely, and you may discover that even Taiwan claims Tibet for the same reason.

The other reason may have been tactical—to control the high ground as Israel controls the Golan Heights.

Having control over the Tibetan plateau was one of the tactical reasons Britain convinced the Dalai Lama to declare freedom from China in 1912.

“Face” may be why China’s leaders get so angry over Taiwan. As long as Taiwan is not ruled by the mainland, it may be seen as a “loss of face”.

It’s why the Chinese want to walk on the moon and reach the other planets before anyone else. In China, “face” is universal to most of the population and different for each person.

For the Chinese, taking risks is no stranger. It’s probably the reason the Chinese invented paper, the crossbow, the compass, the stirrup, developed a cure for scurvy, the printing press, gunpowder, and built multi-stage rockets centuries before anyone in the West did.

China’s list of revolutionary inventions is longer than this. Many of these inventions eventually appeared in the West where Westerners took credit for them.

Now you know the truth.

In “What the Chinese Want even More than Oil or Gold“, the focus was on Chinese gambling and about illegal lotteries going legal and national. Since I married into a Chinese family, I understand what the author of this piece was saying, but the topic is more complex than that.

To learn more, I suggest you read the Investoralist, “Where Curious Minds Meet”. The Investorilist piece says that gambling is China’s Achilles heel.

I disagree.

I believe it is risk taking that brought China to greatness in the past. It’s when most Chinese stopped taking risks that China lost its spot as a regional superpower. It’s all about ‘face’. Take a risk and win but make a mistake and get caught, you “lose face” and maybe your life too, which may explain many of the suicides in countries such as China, Japan and Korea.

This revised and edited post first appeared as a four-part series starting February 17, 2010 at Chinese “Face” – 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.


Conquest

July 9, 2010

I woke up this morning thinking that many in the West want nothing less than China to be something he or she understands, which means a capitalist, multi-party republic, Christian nation with a culture based on individualism rather than China’s more than two-thousand year old collective culture without religion. 

To help dispel this atmosphere of ignorance in the West, Pearl S. Buck urged Lin Yutang to write a book about China and its people. In the Preface for My Country and My People (1935), Lin Yutang wrote, “I write only for men of simple common sense…” Later, in the Prologue, he mentions how for every Sir Robert Hart, the Irish godfather of China’s modernization, there are ten thousand who do not understand the Chinese and do not care to learn.

Then in the Introduction for Lin’s book, Buck wrote, “It (My Country and My People) is truthful and not ashamed of the truth: it is written proudly and humorously and with beauty, seriously and with gaiety, appreciative and understanding of both old and new.”

It is unfortunate that most Sinophobes have no concept of China and its culture and do not want to learn, and men and women of simple common sense are as rare today as in Lin Yutan and Pearl S. Buck’s time.

Discover more about Lin YuTang’s “My Country and My People

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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. 

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