TABOO IS THE NEW NORMAL

October 1, 2012

A review of “Behind the Red Door” by Richard Burger
Review by Tom Carter

Among the many misimpressions westerners tend to have of China, sex as some kind of taboo topic here seems to be the most common, if not clichéd.  Forgetting for a moment that, owing to a population of 1.3 billion, somebody must be doing it, what most of us don’t seem to know is that, at several points throughout the millennia, China has been a society of extreme sexual openness.

And now, according to author Richard Burger’s new book Behind the Red Door, the Chinese are once again on the verge of a sexual revolution.

Best known for his knives-out commentary on The Peking Duck, one of China’s longest-running expat blogs, Burger takes a similar approach to surveying the subject of sex among the Sinae, leaving no explicit ivory carving unexamined, no raunchy ancient poetry unrecited, and, ahem, no miniskirt unturned.

Opening (metaphorically and literally) with an introduction about hymen restoration surgery, Burger delves dàndàn-deep into the olden days of Daoism, those prurient practitioners of free love who encouraged multiple sex partners as the ultimate co-joining of Yin and Yang.  Promiscuity, along with prostitution, flourished during the Tang Dynasty – recognized as China’s cultural zenith – which Burger’s research surmises is no mere coincidence.

Enter the Yuan Dynasty, and its conservative customs of Confucianism, whereby sex became regarded only “for the purpose of producing heirs.”  As much as we love to hate him, Mao Zedong is credited as single-handedly wiping out all those nasty neo-Confucius doctrines, including eliminating foot binding, forbidding spousal abuse, allowing divorce, banning prostitution (except, of course, for Party parties), and encouraging women to work.  But in typical fashion, laws were taken too far; within 20 years, China under Mao became a wholly androgynous state.

We then transition from China’s red past into the pink-lit present, whence prostitution is just a karaoke bar away, yet possession of pornography is punishable by imprisonment – despite the fact that millions of single Chinese men (called bare branches) will never have wives or even girlfriends due to gross gender imbalance.

Burger laudably also tackles the sex trade from a female’s perspective, including an interview with a housewife-turned-hair-salon hostess who, ironically, finds greater success with foreigners than with her own sex-starved albeit ageist countrymen.

Western dating practices among hip, urban Chinese are duly contrasted with traditional courtship conventions, though, when it comes down to settling down, Burger points out that the Chinese are still generally resistant to the idea that marriage can be based on love.  This topic naturally segues into the all-but-acceptable custom of kept women (little third), as well as homowives, those tens of millions of straight women trapped in passionless unions with closeted gay men out of filial piety.

Behind the Red Door concludes by stressing that while the Chinese remain a sexually open society at heart, contradictive policies (enforced by dubious statistics) designed to discard human desire are written into law yet seldom enforced, simply because “sexual contentment is seen as an important pacifier to keep society stable and harmonious.”

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Travel Photographer Tom Carter traveled for 2 years across the 33 provinces of China to show the diversity of Chinese people in  China: Portrait of a People, the most comprehensive photography book on modern China published by a single author.

Also by Tom Carter Eating Smoke — a question and answer with author, Chris Thrall in addition to Harlequin Romance Invades China

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Note: This guest post by Tom Carter first appeared in China in City Weekend Magazine. Reblogged with permission of Tom Carter. Behind the Red Door was published by Earnshaw Books


My Mother Would Have Burned This Book – Part 5/5

April 3, 2011

In China, the concubine is a trophy showing a man’s success. No major religion on earth has had a lasting impact on the Chinese culture in more than a thousand years.

In fact, the concept that lust is a mortal sin does not exist in China unless a Chinese has adopted Christianity as his or her religion.

That does not mean China is without morals but the moral codes of China exist without the sin of mortal lust as Catholics and many devout Christians believe. In fact, I’ve known mainland Chinese that are extremely moral and would put most Puritans to shame.

The idea to focus on Robert Hart’s struggles with his Victorian, Christian morals while living in 19th century China’s concubine culture sprouted when I first read his journals and letters published by Harvard University Press.

Other influences were Anchee Min’s Empress Orchid and The Last Empress: A Novel, which go into detail about the lives of the more than three thousand concubines that belonged to the emperor.

After all, in 19th century China, the more power and wealth a man had, the more women he owned.

Another influence was the movie directed by director Zhang Yimou in 1991, Raise the Red Lantern, which “focuses on the ever-shifting balance of power between the various concubines while the husband ignores much of what is going on — taking his pleasures when he feels like it.”

For anyone that might agree with “colorado outback” or my “mother” that My Splendid Concubine should be censored, burned or put on a “DON’T BUY LIST”, Amazon Kindle offers a free preview of the first few chapters as does the Websites for My Splendid Concubine and the sequel, Our Hart, Elegy for a Concubine.

Read the first few chapters of the novel free and learn if you agree with “colorado outback” that this novel is “soft porn” and should be banned. Why spend money for something you may want to burn unless you really want to burn it?

Return to Part 4 or start with Part 1

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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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My Mother Would Have Burned This Book – Part 4/5

April 2, 2011

After first reading The Midwest Book Review for My Splendid Concubine, I thought, “Maybe I can write, but what happens if this is the only person that enjoys the book?”

Then a reviewer from the Historical Novels Review Online, wrote, “Some readers may be uncomfortable with the frank sexuality of the novel, as well as Hart’s simultaneous romantic relationship with both Ayaou and Shao-Mei, but those who are interested in unconventional romances with an out-of-the-ordinary setting will find plenty to enjoy.”

If I did not write such a lusty novel from personal sexual fantasies as “outback” claims, why did I write it?

The answer is simple.

I wanted to show the clash between different cultures and Sterling Seagrave showed me the way when he wrote in Dragon Lady, “To take the pain out of learning, his Chinese tutor suggested that (Robert) Hart might buy a concubine and study the local dialect with her.

“Hart wrote in his journal, ‘Here is a great temptation.  Now, some of the China women are very good looking: You can make one your absolute possession for from 50 to 100 dollars and support her at a cost of 2 or 3 dollars per month…. Shall I hold out or shall I give way?'”

Seagrave writes in the next paragraph, “By early May he (Robert Hart) had a sleep-in dictionary, his concubine, Ayaou. He had just turned twenty; Ayaou was barely past puberty…”

Then the editors of Entering China’s Service – Robert Hart’s Journals, 1854-1863, wrote on page 8, “But anyone who reads the journals through knows that his mental struggles about women were not soon or lightly won; whether the relpase was to daydreams or to a Chinese mistriess, it caused him ambivalence and anguish.”

China has had a concubine culture for thousands of years and that culture, although changed in form, is still active today, which I wrote of in Concubines Return to China Riding Capitalism’s Wave of Wealth.

To be continued on April 3, 2011 in Part 5 or return to Part 3

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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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My Mother Would Have Burned This Book – Part 3/5

April 1, 2011

Since writing My Splendid Concubine was not motivated by sexual fantasies, I responded to “outback’s” biased opinion, and he counterattacked saying my book does not “come up to par with Anchee Min, John Steinbeck, Kurt Vonnegut, Alice Walker, Charles Dickens, Amy Tan, Pearl S. Buck, James Michener, Eudora Welty, Harper Lee, Isabel Allende, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Tom Robbins and so on….”

I’d have to agree. I have never even fantasized that I was equal or better than these authors were.

Outback claimed to have read all of the books by the above authors and thousands more yet he only has two, one-star reviews posted on Amazon (at the time I wrote this post).

Where are all those five-star reviews extolling the virtues of the work he admires?

Outback has a right to “his or her” opinion, but I do not have to agree or stay silent as he indicated when “outback” wrote, “P.S. You may want to grow a thicker skin.”

There are other opinions of My Splendid Concubine that do not agree with “colorado outback” that demonstrate a better understanding of why I wrote the novel.

Since “colorado outback” may argue (if he, she or it ever reads this) I quoted a friend’s biased review to defend my “thin skin”, I will use a review from a nonbiased source — the Midwest Book Review, which has posted almost 60,000 reviews on Amazon and compiled about 200,000 helpful votes compared to “outback’s” two reviews with two helpful votes.

The Midwest Book Review has a policy that if a reviewer does not like a book, he or she is to stop reading and find a book they enjoy.  Good thing “colorado outback” doesn’t write reviews here.

The Midwest Book Reviewer wrote of My Splendid Concubine, “Love for ones wives’ sister is typically forbidden by most western religions, but the most successful westerner in Chinese history is faced with this conflict.

“‘My Splendid Concubine’ is the tale of Robert Hart who deals with the matters of his lust and how to deal with them the Chinese way, which so conflict with his upbringing.

“The Taiping Rebellion doesn’t help matters, him making enemies of established and skilled mercenaries in the process of protecting his interest and the women he loves. ‘My Splendid Concubine’ is packed cover to cover with intriguing characters and plot, a must read for historical fiction fans and a fine addition to any collection on the genre.”

To be continued on April 2, 2011 in Part 4 or return to Part 2

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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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My Mother Would Have Burned This Book – Part 2/5

March 31, 2011

My reason for writing this series of posts was to show how cultural differences bring about biased opinions due to religious, spiritual and/or cultural beliefs.

In fact, for that reason, I know my mother would have burned my first novel. Books have been written on the subject of sex in America that explains why she would have burned it.

America’s War on Sex: The Attack on Law, Lust, and Liberty by Marty Klein, Ph D. is one example, which “Spotlights the political, legal and civic battles raging in this country against what is arguably our most private and pluralistic right – sexual freedom.”

In Cultural Differences Defined by Written Language, I attempted to explain why cultures around the globe are not all the same as I have in the past when I wrote of The Collective Culture versus Individualism.

An anonymous reviewer known as “colorado outback” posted a one-star review on Amazon of My Splendid Concubine, “You should Not Buy This Book – Seriously, just Soft Porn.”

My mother would have agreed with “colorado outback”, but that was because she was influenced by her religion.

Outback said, “this seemed more like the sexual fantasy of the author and NOT the historical novel it is purported to be.”

However, “outback” was wrong. The idea to write The Concubine Saga did not bloom from a sexual fantasy or a wet dream, and I’ll explain the real reason later.

To be continued on April 1, 2011 in Part 3 or return to Part 1

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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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Exporting Western Romance to China

December 8, 2010

When Tom Carter’s guest post arrived about Harlequin Romance Invades China, my first thought was China is doomed.

First, American fast food arrived and now China is having a weight problem leading to poor health and the explosion of China’s Fat Camps

Then there is America’s car culture, which is catching on fast in a country that doesn’t have the strict environmental pollution laws that exist in the US and rural China is choked with smog.

Now, I learn that romance American style arrived in China as another blow to China’s ability to survive as a civilization. Weren’t the 19th century Opium Wars bad enough?

Eating fast food that destroys bodies, smoking cigarettes, reading Harlequin Romances and driving carbon-spewing cars cannot be a good thing. 

Is this how “democracy” is going to make life better for the Chinese?

Since Harlequin romance novels flew into China on collagen-filled lips, attitudes toward love have changed.

“According to Enjoy Reading Era, a Beijing-based cultural company specializing in publishing romantic novels, 1,500 love stories by writers in the mainland were published last year, an all-time high. The company exported 50 romance novels to Hong Kong and Taiwan, while it only imported three novels from Taiwan.” Source: Show China.org

Reading romance novels may explain the increase in the divorce rate in China and the high divorce rate in the US. After all, how can any real man compare to the ink and paper men on the pages of a Harlequin romance?

However, I may be wrong about what the West has exported to China. Thanks to Romance novels, China may no longer need the one-child policy since all those wheezing, unhealthy fat people driving cars instead of riding bicycles or walking will be reading trashy romance novels instead of making love.

This may end China’s population challenge.

In fact, GM and Ford are making huge profits in China as is McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut and Starbucks. Even Hooters is in China along with Wal-Mart.

Think of the profits these American corporations are earning to help make the rich richer.

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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 First of all Virtues – Part 5/9

January 31, 2010

During the summer of 2007, a teen with his supposed girlfriend, both strangers, wanted to rent a room for an hour or two at a motel. We had just pulled into that motel’s parking lot in Southern California after driving several hundred miles. We heard the motel manager say, “No way!”

The boy turned to me as I was getting out of the car, and he said, “Hey, old man, can you give us a ride to the next motel? They will not rent us a room here.”

I’m sure this adolescent was out for quick sex. He probably didn’t even know the girl’s name or care. But the lack of respect for an older person was obvious. And of course, conservatives don’t help any when they promote their brand of brainwashing like this blog post Liberal Brainwashing for Dummies.

Mudslinging isn’t going to solve anything. What America needs is both ideologies to work together to strengthen the family by teaching parents how to say “NO” and stop encouraging kids to do what feels good.

Go to The First of All Virtues Part 6 or return to Part 4

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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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