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

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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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Walking on a Glass Sky

January 31, 2013

My wife forwarded me an e-mail with photographs attached of walking on glass on Tianmen Mountain, China.  After looking at the photos, I searched YouTube and found a few videos worth sharing.

In the first two videos, you will see tourists walking on glass attached to the side of a cliff 4,700 feet above sea level.

The Daily Mail says, “Don’t look down!”

Another perilous site may be found on the slopes of China’s Shifou Mountain. Thousands of feet up, these Chinese workers are building another cliff-walkway with little or no safety gear.

Shifou Mountain is located 82 miles from Tianmen Mountain. When finished the wooden ‘road’ – which is the width of a dinner table – will stretch for 1.8 miles making it China’s longest sightseeing path.

Then there is walking on air at Huang Shan in the Yellow Mountains.

Next to last but not least, the Hua Han plank walk.  At my age, I’d rather walk on glass. Huckberry.com says, “This is no pirate’s plank walk. Located 7,000 feet above sea level on China’s Hua Shan Mountain, the Huashan Plank Walk embodies peril of a different kind.

“The ascent begins with a short set of steps carved into the side of a mountain. Soon after, the steps turn into a “ladder” of iron rods. Both require very, very careful steps to compensate for precarious footing. Then comes the notorious plank.”

Hua Shan has also been named the “Most Dangerous Hiking Trail in the World” by tourists.

Last, we join trekkers on their way to the top of Huangshan. Is that girl—the one that sits down—in high heels? You may notice that they are not letting go of the rope. Would you?

China Mike says, “Since Huangshan is a top tourist attraction and popular travel destination for the Chinese, book ahead, especially on summer weekends.” The photographs on Mike’s site are worth seeing.

Discover the Huangpu River Tour – Shanghai

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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 Complex Evolution of Sex in China

October 10, 2012

A Guest Post by Richard Burger of The Peking Duck

One of the questions I hear the most is whether the Chinese people’s attitude toward sex is conservative or open-minded. And the answer is that it’s complicated.

First, there is more than one China: there’s rich China and poor China, urban and rural China, young China and older China.

Generalizations are tricky, and there always have to be qualifiers. It’s safe to say that in the larger cities like Beijing and Shanghai people are far less hung up than they were about sex twenty years ago.

Even in most of the second-tier cities you’ll find gay bars, sex shops, young couples holding hands and a lot of young people finding one-night stands over the Internet.

Sexologist Li Yinhe estimates that more than 50 percent of young urban Chinese have premarital sex, something that was unheard of thirty-five years ago. In the countryside that number is probably far lower, but most young people are leaving their rural hometowns to find work in the larger cities.

At the same time, however, traditional Chinese beliefs still hold sway over many of these young people.

For example, sex is not something you talk about openly.

In addition, when it comes time to choose a spouse, nearly all young Chinese will include their parents in the process, striving to make it a family decision.

Many if not most husbands still place a high premium on virginity and expect to see blood on the sheets the night of their honeymoon. This attitude is so fixed that every year hundreds of thousands of Chinese women have an operation to restore their hymens, or buy inexpensive artificial hymens that seep artificial blood.

This is an anomaly: more Chinese young people are having premarital sex yet men still expect their wives to be virgins.

China is in a tug of war between its conservative past and the lure of Western-style sexual freedom.

Looking at the trends and how quickly China’s sexual revolution has progressed, I would have to predict that sexual openness and tolerance will increase, and eventually China will shake off the vestiges of the sexual puritanism that prevailed under Mao.

However, for now, sex remains a touchy subject, even in the cities. Sex education, for example, is mandatory but often biology teachers who are supposed to teach it are too squeamish and simply skip to the next chapter. When they do teach this subject, the focus is on biology and anatomy, with little or no reference to contraception or sexual morality, such as the woman’s right to say no.

Here, too, there are signs of improvement in the larger cities, but it is very slow going. Sex remains a taboo subject that most Chinese are not comfortable discussing outside of their bedroom.

Discover more of China’s Sexual Revolution

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China’s sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

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China’s Noodle Culture

September 18, 2012

China has a unique food culture. My wife loves noodles. I’ve followed her down narrow Shanghai streets to a famous won-ton and noodle shop on the corner of Chang-le and Shang-yang Road. The front is open and the ceiling low with each narrow table crowded with Chinese sitting on small chairs shoveling noodles in with chopsticks.

My wife orders a small bowl of noodles with peanut sauce for me and a bowl of blood soup and another bowl of noodles with spicy hot Sichuan peppercorn sauce for her.  As she eats, sweat beads her face but there is not one word of complaint—not one sign that she suffers. Instead, this seriously satisfied look spreads across her face as if she has entered a Chinese noodle heaven.

When we are visiting Nanjing Road in Shanghai between People Square and the Bund, we always stop at the same food shop where my wife orders steaming hot noodles with the same peppercorn sauce, and I order deep fried, fresh chou dofu (stinky tofu) with the same sauce that makes me sweat.

At celebration feasts, a wider variety of food will be served from whole fish, crab, a variety of vegetable dishes and tofu.

Discover China’s Invasion of Fat from the West

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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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Shanghai Teahouse

June 20, 2012

This is where I enjoy shopping when in Shanghai.

It wasn’t crowded yet!

The Huxinting Teahouse has been around for awhile (several centuries–it was restored in 1784).  This pavilion was turned into the tea house in 1855. Nice place to stop and have a cup of tea.  Go early.  It gets crowded.


famous Shanghai tea house on the water

The area in Shanghai around the Huxinting Teahouse is a good place to shop. Many small shops. Do not pay asking price. Be willing to bargain.  Start low and meet in the middle. Don’t be too cheap either.

Shopping before it gets crowded.

The following video gives you a musical tour of the sights of Shanghai’s Old District including Yu Yuan Garden and Huxinting Tea House.

For more about Shanghai, also see:
Shanghai
Shanghai’s History & Culture
Shanghai Huangpu River Tour
Eating Gourmet in Shanghai
Chinese Pavilion, Shanghai World Expo

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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 edited and revised post first appeared on February 20, 2010 (Note: the author took the photos but did not produce the video)