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.

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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 Amazon.com 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 Last Empress Dowager

December 14, 2010

The Last Empress of China ruled the Qing Dynasty as a coregent after her husband, The Xianfeng Emperor died in 1861, and her son, The Tongzhi Emperor (1856 – 1875), was too young to rule China.

Technically, The Empress Dowanger Tzu Hsi (Cixi) wasn’t the last empress.

However, she was the last empress to rule China as a regent for her son then her nephew after her son died at 19.

Sterling Seagrave, the author of Dragon Lady, writes, “absurdly little was known about her life. The New York Times printed a long, error filled obituary calling her Tzu An, the title of her coregent who had died twenty-seven years earlier.”

Many current history texts have slandered the Dowager Empress Tzu Hsi (1835 – 1908) without much evidence as one of history’s most monstrous women—a ruthless Manchu concubine who seduced and murdered her way to the throne in 1861 to rule China through prevision, corruption and intrigue.

This is how many still think of Tzu Hsi.

She has been accused of murdering her son then years later her nephew, who died the day before she did.

Instead, her son may have died of syphilis because it was rumored he preferred prostitutes to his virgin concubines.

Some rumors claim that Tzu Hsi had her nephew poisoned, but Yuan Shikai may also have poisoned him. There is no evidence to support either theory.

How did the Tzu Hsi earn such a bad reputation? It seems that she earned this reputation similar to how today’s China has been smeared in the Western media.

To understand how this came about, I will make a comparison to Jayson Blair, a young reporter for the New York Times that wrote more than 600 articles for the newspaper. During his short career with the New York Times, Blair committed repeated “acts of journalistic fraud”, including stealing material from other papers and inventing quotes.

Blair’s fraud was revealed in 2003 while he still worked for the newspaper. Source: BBC News 

However, Jayson Blair was not the first reporter to commit “acts of journalistic fraud”.

Edmund Backhouse did the same writing about the Tzu Hsi at the beginning of the 20th century, and his lies and deceit wouldn’t be discovered until Sterling Seagrave was researching Dragon Lady decades later.

Backhouse’s journalistic fraud served as the foundation for most history texts that have slandered Tzu Hsi.

To do Tzu Hsi justice and to discover the truth, one should read Seagrave’s Dragon Lady, The Life and Legend of the Last Empress of China

To learn whom the real woman was we may want to consider what Robert Hart had to say about Hzu Hsi in his letters and journals.  Robert Hart arrived in China from Ireland in 1854. He returned to England in 1908.

For most of his stay in China, Hart was Inspector General of Chinese Maritime Customs and worked closely with the Imperial ministers and Manchu princes. Before returning to England, Hart met with the Dowager Empress in a private audience.

Hart referred to Tzu Hsi as “the Buddha” and later “the old Buddha” since she was a devout Buddhist and it is obvious that he thought of her with affection and admiration.

In fact, Hart, who is considered the Godfather of China’s modernization, at no time indicated in anything he wrote that Tzu Hsi was conspiratorial, sinister or manipulative. However, he did indicate that she was strong-willed and hot-tempered but she was clever and had ability.

Tzu Hsi died in 1908 a few weeks after Robert Hart left China. The Qing Dynasty collapsed in 1911.

Discover more of The Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911)

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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.

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.


The “Da Mo” and a “Concubine”

November 25, 2010

Late one recent afternoon, I checked an e-mail account I haven’t visited for weeks. To my surprise, I discovered good news—which in this case adds truth to better late than never.

On October 25, 2010, The National Best Books 2010 Awards sent me an e-mail letting me know that my second novel, Our Hart, Elegy for a Concubine, was one of eight Finalists in Fiction & Literature: Historical Fiction.

The winner was A Sudden Dawn, YMAA Publication Center, Inc.
ISBN: 978-1-594391989

A Sudden Dawn must be an incredible book. When I checked, it had 32 customer reviews on Amazon with an average of five stars.

I learned that the winning author was Goran Powell, 4th dan, GojuRyu Karate.

He is author of two martial arts books, a freelance writer in London and recipient of numerous advertising awards.

Powell is a regular contributor to martial arts magazines and has twice appeared on the cover of Traditional Karate magazine. This is his first novel. Powell resides in London with his wife and three children.

A Sudden Dawn is an epic historical fiction novel that opens with a young man named Sardili born of the Indian warrior caste in 507 AD.

Sardili realizes that he would rather seek enlightenment than follow his family’s military legacy and sets out on a life-long quest for truth and wisdom.

Sardili becomes the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma, known as Da Mo in China.
 
He travels throughout India, brings Buddhism to China, and establishes the Shaolin Temple as the birthplace of Zen and the Martial Arts.

It’s ironic that the winning novel was set in India then China but centuries apart from the China where Robert Hart lived and worked for more than five decades.

Our Hart, Elegy for a Concubine, is the sequel to My Splendid Concubine, and continues the love story that Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

The woman was Hart’s concubine, Ayaou. She remained a mystery for more than a century.

Hart arrived in China in 1854. By 1908, he was the godfather of China’s modernization. The Qing Dynasty royalty called him “Our Hart”.

Both Powell’s novel and Our Hart are based on the lives of real men who had an impact on the history of China.

Then there is Ayaou, Hart’s Chinese concubine. Hart once wrote to a friend in England that Ayaou was the most sensible person he’d ever known and he was a fool.

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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.

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar. 


An Insider’s View from Speak Without Interruption

March 30, 2010

In this post, instead of hearing form an outsider who has visited China and studied the culture for a decade while writing two novels about Robert Hart, the Godfather of China’s modernization, let’s see what Will Liu writes about China, his home.

Lunar New Year in China

“This Chinese New Year Season, something did surprise me. As a rule, every year…, I must make the trip to the hometown of my wife, where her father still lives…. What astonished me is that I could not find anybody smoke in the bus! Just last year and before, that was what tortured me most. You cannot avoid smoke, no matter on a bus or in a cab.”

Liu write about the differences he sees between cities.

Then in Part II, Liu writes, “Now, more and more people, especially young people celebrate Christmas Day. Nevertheless, we still take the Chinese New Year as our major … holiday, which we call the Spring Festival. Like the Christmas Season, we have a long Chinese New Year Season, typically the government approves a legal vacation of 3 days from New Year’s Eve till January the 2nd according to the Chinese lunar calendar.”

See another point-of-view from and expatriate, Tom Carter’s Teaching English in the Middle Kingdom http://wp.me/pN4pY-is