Finding Balance through Yin and Yang

March 10, 2015

In many ethical systems, the right path is the one that does not stray far from the middle. Aristotle preached that virtue was striking a balance between the vices of excess and of defect. A similar concept was presented by Plato, who was influenced by Pythagorean (570 -495 BC) ideas.

The concept of  balance is also an important aspect of  Confucianism since the philosophy of Yin Yang appeared about the same time as Confucius (551 – 479 BC), who wrote of a harmonious life that avoids excesses and deficiencies where wisdom was learned from both the old and the young, the high and the low.

Since Lao Tzu (the founder of Taoism and the concept of Yin and Yang) and Confucius lived about the same time, they may have met and shared thoughts.

The Doctrine of the Mean was a basis for civil service examinations in China from 1312 to 1905.

The concept of Yin and Yang applies to many aspects of life. In Taoism heaven is masculine and earth is feminine suggesting the dependence of the entire creation upon the Creator.

A whole series of possible interactions between the Yin and Yang in life is contained in the Chinese Book of Changes, the i Ching.

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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 lusty love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

Finalist in Fiction & Literature – Historical Fiction
The National “Best Books 2010” Awards

Low-Res_E-book_cover_MSC_July_24_2013

Honorable Mentions in General Fiction
2012 San Francisco Book Festival
2012 New York Book Festival
2012 London Book Festival
2009 Los Angeles Book Festival
2009 Hollywood Book Festival

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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline


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


Taoism – Part 1/3

March 27, 2012

“Those who know do not say; those who say do not know.” –Lao-tzu

I am no expert on Taoism.  I have a copy of Tao Te Ching and have read it in addition to a few pieces about it, but I was raised as a Christian in a Christian culture.  For this reason, Jean Delumeau, the narrator of the video and an honorary professor of the College de France, will tell you something about this religion.

Delumeau says by the time Buddhism arrived in China in the first century AD, Confucianism and Taoism had been widespread for several centuries.

Taoism was the popular religion of China while Confucianism was the official state religion of the Han Dynasty. In fact, the bureaucracy practiced Confucianism at work and turned to Taoist spiritual practices after work.

Even though Taoism and Buddhism have fundamental differences, Taoism helped spread Buddhism. While Taoism seeks the salvation of the individual, Buddhism seeks an escape from the cycle of personal existence.

However, certain practices of Taoism and Buddhism are similar, which are meditation, fasting, and breathing techniques.

The word “Tao” means both the order and totality of the universe and the pathway or road that allows the individual to enter into the rhythm of the world through a negation of self.

Two opposing but complementary forces of reality are fused in the Tao — Yin, which is passive, cold and feminine and Yang, which is active, hot and masculine.

The moon and the sun are the manifestations of Yin and Yang and all change is a result of these two dynamic forces such as day and night, the seasons, and life and death.

These two principals alternate in the five phases of a cycle, which are represented by water, fire, wood, metal and earth serving to define the five cardinal points, which are north, south, east, west and the center.

A contemporary of Confucius, Lao Tzu’s teachings were compiled in the fifth century BC into a collection called the Tao Te Ching or Dao De Jing, which have had a great influence on Chinese thought and medicine.

One example says, “The wise man does not seek to be known as a wise man but of his own free will remains in obscurity. Those who seek much knowledge enrich themselves daily. Those who seek Tao become poorer each day. Eventually, they become so poor they are incapable of action. Without action, nothing can be achieved.”

Continued on February 26, 2012 in Taoism – Part 2

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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 revised and edited post first appeared on December 5, 2010


The Origins and Meaning of Taoism – Part 1/2

December 5, 2010

Jean Delumeau, that narrator of the video, is an honorary professor of the College de France. He says by the time Buddhism arrived in China in the first century AD, Confucianism and Taoism had been widespread for several centuries.

Taoism was the popular religion of China while Confucianism was the official state religion of the Han Dynasty. In fact, the bureaucracy practiced Confucianism at work and turned to Taoist spiritual practices after work.

Even though Taoism and Buddhism have fundamental differences, Taoism helped spread Buddhism. While Taoism seeks the salvation of the individual, Buddhism seeks an escape from the cycle of personal existence.

However, certain practices of Taoism and Buddhism are similar, which are meditation, fasting, and breathing techniques.

The word “Tao” means both the order and totality of the universe and the pathway or road that allows the individual to enter into the rhythm of the world through a negation of self.

Two opposing but complementary forces of reality are fused in the Tao — Yin, which is passive, cold and feminine and Yang, which is active, hot and masculine.

The moon and the sun are the manifestations of Yin and Yang and all change is a result of these two dynamic forces such as day and night, the seasons, and life and death.

These two principals alternate in the five phases of a cycle, which are represented by water, fire, wood, metal and earth, which serve to define the five cardinal points, which are north, south, east, west and the center.

A contemporary of Confucius, Lao Tzu’s teachings were compiled in the fifth century BC into a collection called the Tao Te Ching or Dao De Jing, which have had a great influence on Chinese thought and medicine.

One example says, “The wise man does not seek to be known as a wise man but of his own free will remains in obscurity. Those who seek much knowledge enrich themselves daily. Those who seek Tao become poorer each day. Eventually, they become so poor they are incapable of action. Without action, nothing can be achieved.”

Learn more of Yin Yang

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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.


All About Balance

March 8, 2010

 On my last flight to China on United Airlines, I got sick from the food. I knew airline food is often horrible, but I was an idiot and ate anyway.

After landing in China, I went to a Chinese pharmacy for help.  The Shanghai pharmacist took an American medicine for diarrhea off the shelf. I said no. She looked surprised.

“Give me Chinese medicine. Western medicine does too much damage to the body.” 

She smiled and looked impressed. “He knows,” she said. “You do know that the Chinese medicine will take longer to heal you.”

I know that Yin and Yang underlie all aspects of Chinese philosophy and medicine. I know that the Chinese believe in balance so the body remains healthy.  That’s one of the reasons you often see Chinese up early in the morning doing Tai Chi in parks. Maintaining health is more than eating properly. It also includes exercise. That doesn’t mean everyone in China follows the philosophy of Yin and Yang.

Tai Chi

Western medicine, on the other hand, waits until the patient is sick—then uses drugs, many that are dangerous, surgery, chemicals and radiation to try to fix things often with side effects that are worse than the disease.

Discover Attitudes Toward Health in China

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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.