A mutual preference for baby boys

August 22, 2011

Imagine what it would be like to live in the United States if the population was China’s 1,339,724,852, which is 4.3 times the population of the US.

According to the US Bureau of Transit Statistics, there were 255,917,664 vehicles registered for use on the highways in the
US in 2008.

Multiply that number by 4.3 and we might have more than 1 billion vehicles on US roads today if our population matched China’s.

What would your commute to work look like if you lived in a city such as Los Angeles, New York or Chicago, but there were four times as many vehicles on the roads?

At this point, as a reader, you may be wondering what the significance of this post’s title is, which was influenced from an article, Americans Like Baby Boys Best, written by Stephanie Pappas for “Live Science”.

Pappas wrote, “If they (US families) were only allowed to have one child, more Americans would prefer it be a boy rather than a girl, a new survey finds.”

For China, providing enough food has always been a challenge since China’s arable land covers about 15% of total land area, but China’s 300 million farmers today rank first in worldwide farm output. Source: Agriculture in China (Wikipedia).

America, on the other hand, is blessed with farmland covering about 41% of total land area. Source: USDA

Between 108 BC and 1911 AD, there were no fewer than 1,828 major famines in China. In fact, four of those famines happened between 1810 and 1849 killing about 45 million. Source: List of famines (Wikipedia)

Then between 1959 to 1961, during The Great Chinese Famine (according to Chinese government statistics) about 15 million died while unofficial estimates of scholars puts the toll between 20 to 43 million that may have starved to death.

However, the United States has never suffered a famine. If people in the US go hungry, it is not because there isn’t enough food. It is because those people live in poverty and do not have enough money to buy food.

When Americans criticize China’s one-child policy, remember, China has survived about 1,800 major famines in the last 2,000 years and five of those famines killed 88 million.

However, the US and China do seem to have one thing in common. Most Chinese also prefer baby boys to girls. Have you ever watched a child starve?

To discover more facts about China’s one-child policy, visit One Child, The One-Child Tragedy, Exemptions in China’s ‘one-child policy’, Reversing China’s “one-child” Policy, and Avoiding China’s “one-child” Policy


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.

Ancient Chinese Inventions that Changed the World

July 24, 2011

The first Seismograph

When critics accuse the Chinese of stealing technology from the West, consider that China was the most technologically advanced nation in the world for more than two thousand years until the middle of the 19th century.

One example of China’s technological abilities was when the first seismograph was invented in 132 AD.

When Zhang Heng‘s device measured an earthquake in 134 AD, he predicted the location.

Han Ministers did not believe the scientist. Then a courier arrived and reported that an earthquake had taken place where Zhang said it did.

In 1951, Chinese scientists from China’s National Museum worked on recreating Zhang Heng’s seismograph. Since there was a limited amount of information, it took until 2007 to complete the reconstruction.

In comparison, it wasn’t until the 18th century (AD), about seventeen hundred years later, that there was any record that Western scientists even worked on developing a seismograph.

The Compass

The Chinese were the first to notice that the lodestone pointed one way, which led to the invention of the compass. The first compass was on a square slab, which had markings for the cardinal points and the constellations. The needle was a spoon-shaped device, with a handle always pointing south.

Archeologists have not been able to discover the exact time the ancient Chinese discovered magnets. However, it was first recorded in the Guanzi, a book written between 722 – 481 BC.

Later in the 8th century AD, magnetized needles would become common navigational devices on ships.

The first person given credit for using the compass in this way was Zheng He (1371 – 1435 AD), who went on the voyages made famous in a book by Louise Levathes, When China Ruled the Seas.

Since the Chinese value education above business and the military, it makes sense that Chinese invented and used devices such as the compass and the seismograph centuries before the West did.

The Compass was also considered a symbol of wisdom. About the 12th century, through trading, the technology spread to Arabia and then reached Europe.


Imagine the rise of civilization without paper.

In fact, without paper to print books that spread ideas, would men have walked on the moon?

Papermaking is one of the four significant inventions from ancient China. Almost 2,000 years ago, Chinese discovered how to make paper.

In 105 AD, Cai Lon invented a way to make paper and submitted his discovery to the Han emperor.

This method soon spread to the rest of China, and the emperor rewarded Cai Lon by making him a member of the nobility.

The basic principles of papermaking invented by Cai Lon are still in use today.

To make paper was a six-step process, and properly manufactured paper lasts for centuries.

In fact, Buddhism arrived in China about the time of the invention of paper and this helped spread Buddhist ideas, which contributed to the spread of civilization.

By the 12th century, more than a thousand years later, the paper making process reached Europe, which may have contributed to the Renaissance of the 12th century and what followed.

The Printing Press

Six hundred years after paper was invented, the Chinese invented printing and the first printed books were Buddhist scripture during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 906 AD). The most basic printing techniques are older. Engraving came later and the carving, printing technique originated during the Tang Dynasty.

When we talk about paper and printing, we are talking about collecting knowledge, preserving and sharing it.

In fact, Ancient Chinese culture was preserved due to the invention of paper and these printing methods, which wouldn’t reach Europe until after 1300 AD, centuries later.

Once there were mass produced paper books being printed to share Buddhist ideas, the religion spread through China into Korea and Japan. The same happened in the West with the Gutenberg Bible and the spread of Christianity in the 1450s.

In China, for a thousand years, printing techniques improved until there were multi-colored printings.

Then during the Sung Dynasty (960 -1276 AD), the printing board was invented, which used clay characters. One character was carved into a small block of clay. Then the clay was put in a kiln to heat into a solid block. This method was efficient for printing thousands of sheets. These blocks would be placed together to create sentences and paragraphs of Chinese characters.

Later, the characters were carved into wood and over time, printing developed into an art.

Without the Chinese invention of printing, Christianity, Islam and Buddhism may not have spread to the extent that they have.


Sulfur is the main ingredient for gunpowder, which was first developed during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD).

During the Northern Sung Dynasty, in 1044 AD, the book “Essentials of Military Art” published several formulas for gunpowder production.

It is ironic that the Sung Dynasty (960 – 1276 AD) used a Tang Dynasty invention to defeat them.

Several ingredients for gunpowder were in wide use for medicinal purposes during the Spring and Autumn Period of China’s history (722 – 481 BC).

According to the famous book “Records of History”, Chang Sangjun shared secret prescriptions with Pien Ch’iao (around 500 BC), who promised not to give the secret away, and then he became famous as a doctor of Chinese medicine.

In fact, gunpowder was discovered by accident.

While mixing ingredients to find an elixir for immortality, Chinese scientists stumbled on the formula.

Fireworks and rockets were invented but were first used to scare away evil spirits.

The irony is that gunpowder, which has killed millions when used as weapons, was discovered during the search for immortality.

One theory says that the knowledge of gunpowder came to Europe along the Silk Road around the beginning of the 13th century, hundreds of years after being discovered in China.

It is also ironic, that Britain and France used advanced gunpowder weapons to defeat China during the 19th century during the Opium Wars.

Note: There were more inventions than this short list shows. If you read the comments for this post, you will discover a few more.


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.

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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline

The Qing – China’s Last Dynasty – Part 2/3

December 12, 2010

This segment of the travelogue takes us to the Wong family compound in Lingshi county, Shanxi province. The Wong mansion offers another example of China’s ancient collective culture.

Twenty-seven generations of the Wong family lived in this mansion for 680 years.

To build the mansion and the wall that protects it took more than fifty years.

The narrator points out that the buildings and gardens are well arranged (according to feng shui) and adapted to the geographical conditions.

Three architectural complexes were part of the Wong family compound completed during the Qing Dynasty. This included the Red Gate Fort and an ancestral temple. The area covered 45,000 square meters (almost 54 thousand square yards).

Although the narrator in the video doesn’t mention this, for more than two millennia the Chinese raised their children to follow the Chinese ethical and moral system based on the family and Confucius’s Five Great Relationships.

1. between ruler and subject
2. father and son
3. husband and wife
4. elder and younger brother
5. friend and friend

Instead of being taught from a church pulpit, these values are part of child rearing.

Of the five relationships, in each pair, one role was superior and one inferior; one role led and the other followed. Yet each involved mutual obligations and responsibilities.

When most children married, the newlyweds lived with the groom’s family. Failure to properly fulfill one’s role according to this Chinese ethical and moral system could lead to the end of the relationship.

In fact, when the ruler didn’t fulfill his role, bloody rebellions often gave rise to new dynasties after a period of chaos and violence that in some cases lasted decades or centuries.

China’s history is also littered with failed rebellions often citing the Mandate of Heaven as the right to rebel and challenge the ruling dynasty.

During the Qing Dynasty, there were several failed rebellions. The bloodiest was the Taiping Rebellion, which lasted more than a decade with more than twenty million killed.

Continued in The Qing – China’s Last Dynasty – Part 3 or return to China’s Last Dynasty – Part 1


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.

SONG DYNASTY (960 – 1279 A.D.) – Part 1/6

September 26, 2010

Fifty-three years after the Tang Dynasty collapsed, Zhao Kuangyin, a general in the latter Zhou Dynasty (951-960) led a mutiny resulting in the Song Dynasty being established in Kaifeng City, Henan Province that would survive for 319 years.

During the Song Dynasty, China experienced developments in science and technology.

For example, the four great inventions of China were developed during the Song Dynasty—paper, printing, the compass and gunpowder

The Song Dynasty is considered a great period in ancient China and a continuation of what took place during the Tang Dynasty.

A striking feature of Song politics was the way greater importance was attached to civil administration than to military arts.

Under such circumstances, education, merit, and talent were encouraged and the imperial examination system was improved.

Astronomy was also an area where advances were made.

In July 1054, an unknown nova appeared in the sky. The sudden appearance of this nova alarmed the bureau of astronomy. A year later, the star vanished.

The nova was important because astronomers discovered the Crab Nebula near Taurus and careful records were kept during the Song Dynasty that benefits science today.

By the year 1072, Shen Kuo had been appointed head of the bureau of astronomy, and he took charge of the design of astronomical instruments leading to further scientific advances in this field

See the Tang Dynasty


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.

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.