The Concubine’s Journey

January 17, 2011

In 1999, I was introduced to two dead people. One was a white guy from Ireland that died a hundred years ago and the other was Ayaou, a Chinese woman that was a mystery since Robert Hart tried to erase her from his personal history.

I’m fortunate that Hart failed and traces of Ayaou survived.

Since I was a child of seven or eight, I’ve been writing stories. They were short with lots of bad drawings.

Soon after I was honorably discharged from the US Marine Corps in 1968, I took my first writing workshop at a community college. Then Ray Bradbury came to the campus to speak and although I never read his work, what he said inspired me to never stop writing.

Although I did receive a few encouraging rejections through the decades and was represented by two or three reputable agents before and eBooks were born, nothing I wrote was picked up by a traditional publisher.

Believing I wasn’t good enough, I decided to learn more of the writing craft by earning a BA in journalism. An MFA with a focus in twentieth century American literature came much later.

Between earning the two college degrees, I drove about 150 miles one day each week for seven years to attend a workshop out of UCLA’s writing extension program.

The teacher was a chain smoker with an explosive tempter but she was sharp and several of the writers in her workshop went on to publish their work. When she felt one of her students was ready, she went all out and even found an agent for the author. She found one for me, but that’s another story.

When I published My Splendid Concubine in 2008, I held my breath wondering if anyone would read it and enjoy the lusty, violent story of Robert Hart and Ayaou in the middle of 19th century China immersed in the smoke of the Opium Wars and the oceans of blood of the Taiping Rebellion.

On May 12, 2009, an Amazon reader, an anonymous person in Hong Kong, posted a one-star review of My Splendid Concubine.

The anonymous reader wrote, “As a great fan of Robert Hart’s, I was very eager to get my hands on this book. And what a huge disappointment it proved to be, for many reasons…”

One of those reasons was a “g” missing from one of five “Tang Dynasties” in the novel.

This one-star review was of the first edition. By the time it appeared on Amazon, the second revised edition was out and some of the anonymous reader’s complaints had been corrected.

In three years, My Splendid Concubine earned three honorable mentions in city book festival literary contests then Our Hart earned another four honorable mentions and became a finalist for a national writing award.

About a year ago, the sequel, Our Hart, was submitted to the 18th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards.

Recently, an envelope arrived from Writer’s Digest.

Jessica Strawser, the editor of Writer’s Digest, wrote that the competition was particularly fierce this year…

Our Hart didn’t win.

This is the book trailer I produced in 2008 of the first edition of
My Splendid Concubine. My wife has been telling me I need a better one and to delete this version.


However, when you enter a book to this Writer’s Digest literary award, a judge writes a commentary of your work and ranks it for plot, grammar, character development, production quality and cover design, which helped dispel the criticism of that one-star review that discovered a missing “g” from one of five “Tang Dynasties” in My Splendid Concubine.

The Writer’s Digest judge, a professional in the publishing industry, awarded grammar a five with five being the highest score.

The judge wrote, “In Our Hart, Elegy for a Concubine, author Lloyd Lofthouse has penned an intriguing story set in an ancient Chinese dynasty. Political intrigue and matters of the heart are both fully explored. The book is meticulously researched and the author’s enthusiasm for his subject is evident.… The author has an ear for natural-sounding dialogue, making Our Hart an engaging read.… That said, readers who enjoy vicariously experiencing other times and cultures will find Our Hart a fascinating journey.”


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The Economist on China – Seriously – Part 4/4

January 13, 2011

Although I feel that some of the advice from The Economist (ET) of The dangers of a rising China is flawed, the most important advice for America is to abide by its own rules — and if it must break them, it should factor in the real cost of doing so.

I say that the problem here is the fact that every few years, the leadership of America changes and the new leadership (depending on political agendas and promises made to win votes) often does not respect agreements made by previous administrations.

However, China’s central government tends to be much more stable than that of the US. This may help.

Since the US has a history of breaking rules (and treaties), The Economist (TE) does offer valuable advice but I doubt if the US government will listen. The nature of US politics and much ignorance of China among many American voters increases the risk of making a costly mistake.

In fact, there are political factions in the US that do not care how many die or suffer to achieve their political/religious goals.

TE also offers important advice for the Chinese Communist Party to stop using censors… and to draw less on historic grievances.

I suspect that as long as life in China continues to improve, the majority of Chinese could care less about the censored topics.

However, what TE means by historic grievances is more important and a larger challenge for the Chinese to overcome. There are 19th century invasions of China by Western powers that led to the Opium Wars; the devastation of the Taiping Rebellion caused by a Christian convert; the results of the Boxer Rebellion and what happened in World War II when Japan invaded China slaughtering millions of innocent people.

In the 18th and 19th century, China wanted to avoid contact with the West but the West due to its politics and religious beliefs refused and forced China to open its doors to trade resulting in much suffering in China.

Forgetting those grievances, which smashed China’s “collective” pride, may be difficult for many Chinese to do now that the pride that was lost has been found again.

In fact, do not forget that many in China feel a serious connection to the ancestors who suffered at the hands of Western countries and Japan between the Opium Wars and the conclusion of World War II.

It may be difficult and even impossible for people in an “individualist” culture such as the US to understand why many Chinese may have difficulty letting go of these historic grievances.

After all, in America, it is easy to forget about the ancestors, the past and history. Many even believe it is a waste of time to learn of history.

Return to The Economist on China – Seriously – Part 3


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.

New Year’s Recap

January 1, 2011

There’s much about China that I did not know when we started this journey on January 28, 2010. 

We visited China’s early dynasties (the Xia, Shang and Zhou) before Qin Shi Huangdi became the first emperor and unified China.

Then we visited the Han, Tang, Sung, Ming and Qing Dynasties while learning of the chaos and anarchy between the dynasties.

We met Confucius and Wu Zetian, China’s only woman emperor during the Tang Dynasty.

We discovered China’s music, art and opera while meeting one of China’s national treasures, Mao Wei-Tao.

Learning about the 19th century Opium Wars started by the British and French opened my eyes to evils I had not known of.

What shocked me most was how the West forced China to allow Christian missionaries into China along with opium.

One reader challenged me in a comment saying that couldn’t be true then didn’t respond when I provided links to the evidence that missionaries and opium were included in the same treaty, which forced the emperor to accept against his will.

Then I sat spellbound as I joined Mao and the Communists on the Long March where more than 80,000 started out and about 6,000 survived — the only choice was to fight or die.

Along the way, I learned that Sun Yat-sen was the father of China’s republic and how Chiang Kai-shek started the Civil War in 1925 when he ordered his army to slaughter the Chinese Communists.

I didn’t know that the Communist and Nationalist Parties were the two political parties of China’s first republic and how it was the US supported Nationalists that fired the first shot that shattered Sun Yat-sen’s dream for China.

After the Communists won the Civil War in 1949, I saw the suffering and death from Mao’s mistakes during the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution that ended in 1976.

Then we learned how Deng Xiaoping saved China from the Revolutionary Maoists and launched the Capitalist Revolution, which led to the Tiananmen Square incident then China’s Sexual Revolution.

And there was my continued attempt to explain China’s Collective Culture. One comment basically said, “Yea, sure!” as if there were no such thing as cultural differences such as this.

We also were introduced to other Blogs about China such as the China Law Blog.

Of course, with more than a thousand posts in a year, what I have mentioned here is but a small part of the 2010 journey of China.


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.

Returning Lost Honor

November 22, 2010

I’ve been reading the news of the Qing Dynasty vase that sold for $85.9 million recently. That vase may have belonged to the Qianlong Emperor, who ruled China from 1735 to 1795.

Blogs and the Western media are gushing about the auction price as if that were all that counts.

The New York Times said, “The vase’s price exceeded the record for Chinese antiquities set just last month in Hong Kong, when another Qianlong vase sold for $34.2 million.”

Posh Stuff Online says the (bidding) at Bainbridge’s auction was a battle among Asians.

Instead of focusing on the price, we should understand the reason why Chinese buyers would spend so much for a piece of China’s history with an imperial seal on it.


One theory says that the vase may have been among the treasures looted by British troops when they sacked (and destroyed) the imperial palaces in Beijing during the second Opium War, from 1856 to 1860.

I think the theft of the 85.9 million dollar vase is a fact.

There is no other way to explain how an imperial vase from the Qianlong Emperor ended in England.

The Opium Wars, which started in 1839, were the beginning of a long dark period in China’s history that would not end until after 1976 when stability returned and China started rebuilding.

A once proud and powerful culture that has survived from the Qin Dynasty in 221 B.C. to 1839 (nineteen dynasties) was brought low and the Chinese were treated by the West as if they were second class savages to be indoctrinated (another word for brainwashed) into Western, Christian ways.

No, it wasn’t about the money. Whoever won the vases at those two auctions has returned some honor to a modern China discovering how to stand tall and proud again.

Why did the winning bidders do it? Because they can.


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.

Hong Kong Triads

November 19, 2010

After China lost the first Opium War, started by Britain and France, Hong Kong was awarded to the British in January 1841.

Soon after the British established Hong Kong as a colony, the number of Triad members grew considerably.

In 1900, the Boxer Rebellion even had allies among some of the Hong Kong Triads.

Britain returned Hong Kong to China on July 1, 1997.

Today, Hong Kong, like Macao, is a Special Administrative Region and Hong Kong basic law runs the region instead of the law of the People’s Republic of China.

Beijing calls it the most democratic legal system in the PRC. Pro-democracy activists say it is not democratic enough.

As in Macao, the Chinese Triads have been very active for more than a century.

In fact, when China fell to the Chinese Communists in 1949, hordes of Shanghai triads fled for their lives to Hong Kong, establishing the British colony as the world headquarters of Chinese organized crime. Source: Partners in Crime

Chinese Triads have members in nearly every country in the world and are especially strong in China, Southeast Asia, and the United States.

In the early 1980s, when China opened to global trade, the Triads started to return to the mainland.

Triad criminal activity includes but is not limited to street-level crime such as gambling, extortion and prostitution, and international activities such as narcotics trafficking, counterfeiting and smuggling goods and people.

It is estimated that there are 50 Triad societies in Hong Kong with a total membership of about 80,000.

Of these societies, about fifteen are criminally active… Sun Yee On is the largest Triad in Hong Kong with an estimated 25,000 members. In addition to criminal activities in Hong Kong, intelligence reports since 1994 indicate Triads dominate the government of Guangdong Province on the mainland. Source: Illuminated

Learn more about organized crime in Macao


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.