Saturday, September 4, 2010

My first book by Michael Loewe

My first book by Michael Loewe.

The first Michael Loewe book that I read was Everyday Life in Early Imperial China. I first learned about the book in the list of books recommended in the back of Andre Norton and Susan Shwartz’s book Imperial Lady(ie. I talked about that book earlier).

This book is focused on the Han dynasty of ancient China that began in 202 BC and ended in AD 220. Actually the dynasty is divided into two parts the Former Han dynasty was created by Liu Pang(pinyin: Bang). The Liu family were of peasant origins and he had risen high in a rebel army against the previous Qin dynasty. This is very different from the previous dynasty that was started by a man who was the king of Qin and the son of the previous king. The Liu family rule over China interrupted when Wang Mang took control and made himself emperor in AD 9, but his rule ended in AD 23. The Han dynasty was rebooted in AD 25 with the Liu family back in control.

The book is full of cool pictures and drawings that tell something about how people lived back then. For instance there is a picture of a some sort of statue of a pigsty with stairways that lead up to an outhouse. Which I thought was a neat idea or maybe not neat. There is an interesting drawing of a market scene and a soldier armed his a crossbow.

An ancient Chinese book was not what we think of as a book, but a bunch of strips of bamboo that are tied together by string and rolled up for storage. To see a recreated example in a movie, check out the Jet Li movie, Hero. They also wrote on silk, but bamboo and wood were what most writing was put on. It was in the Later Han dynasty that paper was invented in AD 105.

This is a good little book that is only about 200 pages long. I was very excited when it came in the mail way back in the 1990s from a book catalog company. It was worth every penny. You need to read it. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Looking at the Imperial Lady.

I read a book in the early nineties called Imperial Lady by Andre Norton and Susan Shwartz. It follows the adventures of a Chinese woman named Silver Snow. This was the book that introduced me to Han dynasty China,206 BC-220 AD. It’s a wonderful fantasy book, especially if you’re an Andre Norton fan.

Silver Snow grows up in northern China near the Great Wall between China and the nomadic barbarians of the steppes. Her father is a general. Her three older brothers had died in battle against the nomads and her father raised her as like a son. She learned to hunt, ride and use a bow, and she also learned to read and write. A messenger from Changan, where the Emperor lives. She is to come there and be his concubine.

Silver Snow goes there with her maid, Willow, who has a club foot, also Willow may be a fox in human form. Silver Snow is quickly disliked by the chief eunuch, who thinks she is too assertive and thus unfeminine. He has a painting of her mad that makes her look ugly and the emperor doesn’t call her to his bed. An old general and comrade of her fathers is there. He has been turned into a eunuch as punishment for standing up for her father, who has been accused of being a traitor. Later she is given in marriage to the Hsiung-nu ruler. Hsiung-nu are powerful nomads that China has to give tribute to.

Its all very exciting. The main character finds herself put into an unfamiliar place(Emperor’s palace)where she can’t function very well and then she is thrust into an even stranger place among the Hsiung-nu. The writers do a great job of showing a strong and intelligent woman that doesn’t fit into the proper mold of her society. It shows her being pushed to survive in a strange place and learning the importance of her friendship with Willow. It made me fall in love with Han dynasty China and I’ll never forget that.

It also introduced me to the nonfiction writings of Michael Loewe. He is college history professor, who focuses on the Han dynasty. The first book that I read by him was one of the ones recommended in Norton and Shwartz’s book; Everyday Life in Early Imperial China. A great book that I’ll write about later.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Art of War by Sun Tzu and Star Trek the Next Generation

My first interest in ancient Chinese history was from an episode of Star Trek the next generation called, “The Last Outpost” during their 1st season. I still think that this is one of the best of 1st season episodes. Sadly Sun Tzu was never mentioned in any later episodes and I wish it had been.

Now in this episode the Enterprise’s crew follow the ship of a new race that Starfleet knows very little. This race is known as the Ferengi. They follow the Ferengi to a planet where both ships discover that someone on the planet has a powerful tractor beam hold their ships.

Captain Jean-Luc Picard and Commander William Riker talk about Sun Tzu.
“Sometimes, Riker. The best way to fight is not to be there.”
“Yes, sir. He will triumph who knows when to fight and when not to fight.”
“Glad the academy is still teaching the strategies of Sun Tzu.”

They agree to beam down to the planet and work together to free both ships. On the planet the Enterprise’s away team commanded by Commander William Riker is betrayed and ambushed by the Ferengi. The away team fights back and then the planet’s single inhabitant, the Guardian, appears. He is dressed in a robe and carries a halberd. He challenges Riker to combat.

“You have a single chance for life. One only,” the guardian says. “What is the answer to my challenge? I offer a thought; he will triumph who knows when to fight and when not to fight. You are being tested, Riker. What is the answer?”
“How do you know my name?” Riker says.
The guardian twirls his halberd and swings it down on top of Riker. Riker doesn’t move and the guardian stops his weapon in time.
“Ah. You are facing faith with composure. But what is the answer to my challenge?”
“Fear is the true enemy. The only enemy,” Riker replies.

I watched this episode for the first time in the late eighties. Afterwards I went with my parents to the Bdalton bookstore and I happen to find Samuel Griffith’s translation of The Art of War by Sun Tzu. I took it home and read it. This is one of the reasons that I became interested in Chinese history, philosophy and culture.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

How do you get rid of ghosts?

How do you get rid of ghosts? Here is a surprising way that I found in a book called Chinese Magical Medicine by Michel Strickmann.

“A secular tale set toward the end of the eighth century describes the experience of a fearless hunter who was once benighted while crossing the capital. He sought lodging from people who were evacuating their house because, as they told him, a killer-ghost was due to arrive that very night. The stalwart was not dismayed by this prospect and asked to sleep there anyway. The family decamped, and the hunter sat up in the main hall, bow and arrows at the ready. Toward the end of the third watch, a luminous object, like a big plate, flew down out of the air through the gate in the courtyard, gleaming like fire. From his dark hiding-place the hunter shot three arrows into it, until its light dimmed and it remained motionless. He got up, went over to it, plucked out the arrows, and the object fell to the ground. He called his servant, who brought a lamp; it proved to be a lump of flesh, with eyes all around-the motion of the eyes had caused the light. ‘So it’s really true what they say about killer-ghosts!’ he exclaimed with delight. Faithful to his hunter’s custom, he had his servant boil it, and it proved to be utterly delicious.”(Strickmann 75)

That is amazing you can get rid of them by shooting them with your arrow and eating them. Wow! I’ve never eaten a ghost before. That would be different. I would be a little afraid of being possessed by one, but maybe the stomach acid destroys them.

Strickmann goes on to say that “(f)rom ancient times to the present day, cooking and eating troublesome demons has been a practical solution to the problem; there are directions for cooking a wolf-demon in the third century B.C.E. demonological manuscript mentioned earlier, and a similar approach to other demonic troublemakers is recommended in an instructive collection of ghost stories published in Peking in 1962, ‘Stories About Not Being Afraid of Ghosts’ (Pu-p’a kuei-te ku-shih).” (75)

I highly recommend Stickmann’s book. I learn about a lot of stuff that I had never heard of before. A great book.

I hope that you liked what I just wrote. I plan to write some more things about Chinese and Japanese ghosts, demons and magic. It is a subject that deeply interests me. I’m always looking for a new book or movie that can tell me something new.

Works Cited

Strickmann, Michel. Chinese Magical Medicine. Stanford; Stanford UP, 2002.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

How to use chopsticks.

It might pop into your head that it would be fun to go into your favorite Chinese restaurant and eat with chopsticks. But you don't do it, because you have never tried chopsticks. You are frightned that people will be watching you as you fumble that yummy garlic chicken. It falls into your lap and everyone sees you. You blush and look down.

Hey, don't worry. I have a plan.

Now learn how to use a chopstick can be a lot easier and less scary if you learn it at home. Order take out, go and get take out or cook your own stir fry. Buy some chopsticks somewhere. Let that food fly all over the place. It can hit the floor, wall and ceiling. Just keep working at.

Hold one chopstick just like a pin or pencil. The second chopstick is held above the first one. They make a V shape. You have probably seen it in hundreds of Asian movies or anime shows. It takes a while, but just keep at it.

Try picking up food, small toys or whatever with it. Its fun!

One interesting thing about it is how do you eat rice. Well in China and Japan they put rice in a bowl and scoop it up with their chopstricks. They also hold the bowl close to their mouth when they do this. This can be a fun thing to try at home.

Chopsticks are made with a pointed end and wider end. Traditionally you should pick up food with the pointed end and put it in your mouth. Traditionally, when you are eating with other people, each of you will have a bowl of rice and maybe a plate for your own use. There will be various dishes on the table for everyone to sample. If there are no spoons or forks in the dishes then you use your chopsticks. Never use the pointed end to get the food. Use the wider end that has not been in your mouth. Using the pointed end is like sticking your cellery into the dip a second time. Very bad manners.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

My new beginnings.

I have started this blog as a writer's blog, but I've decided to change it to a blog about the stuff I love about East Asia. I have a new writer's blog at live journal. Go to

Who am I?

I have a BS in Journalism, a BA in English and a minor in East Asian Civilization from Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

I love writing stories. I also love reading. I have read a lot of nonfiction books on East Asia, especially China and Japan.

I love the martial arts. I first got into it in 1990. I learned a martial art called Tae Kwon Do from 2nd degree blackbelt Ed Prince. I quit in 1991 when I transfered from a local college to SIUC. There I took Aikido for two semesters and Yang style Tai Chi Chuan for one semester. After this I quit martial arts and SIUC. I became very depressed. Later in 1999 I got counseling. I even started taking a few class at the local college for fun. In 2002 I took a Karate class for 3 months, but the class closed. I then started learning Kung Fu San So from blackbelt Jerome Eckleberry. I took his class for 11 months. I then returned to SIUC. I got learned Wing Chun Kung Fu from Marty Davis for 2 1/2 years. I also took two semesters of Kendo, semester of Yang style Tai Chi Chuan and a semester of Aikido. It was a lot of fun. After I graduated in May 2006. I found a school in Salem, Illinois taught by Ed Daniels. He teaches Goju Kempo and Ketsugo Ryu Jujitsu. I started in Novemeber 2006. I currently have a brown belt 3rd kyu. I sill want to learn more.

In Fall 1991 and spring 1992 at SIUC I took a year of Chinese Mandarian. I am no language expert, but I learned a little. I still want to learn more.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Review of Rosario + Vampire 1

Rosario + Vampire 1
Story and Art by Akihisa Ikeda translated by Kaori Inoue
2004/USA 1st printing June 2008

This is a funny manga. I loved it. I can't wait for the next one.
Tsukune is a boring average student, who gets into an odd high school
called Yokai. On the way to it he gets run into by a beautiful girl
on a bicycle. He tries to help her up and she bites him on the neck.
She is a vampire!

Later he learns that Yokai is a school for monsters and he is the only
human. Luckily the monsters kids are there to learn how to fit in with
humans. The big school rule is that the monster boys and girls are to
stay in their human form for practice.

All the boy monsters are crazy for the cute girl vampire, Moka. But
she is madly in love with Tsukune. He is confused. Does he want to
run away from her? If he dosn't then she'll bite him again. If he
does then the monster boys will kill him.

Tsukune is constantly terrified and confused. He likes Moka and she
keeps chasing him and wanting to suck his blood. Then later things
get more complicated when a werewolf has the hots for Moka and a
succubus has the hots for Tsukune.

The artwork is pretty cool too. I highly recommend.