Read more about the article In Which the Author Reviews Classic Operas
Met Opera, NYC

In Which the Author Reviews Classic Operas

While I am not ignorant of opera in European culture, up until this year I have far more experience with American musicals. Opera struck me as old fashioned (true) and silly (sometimes true) and not important (totally wrong). Now, I believe that Opera was the most important form of art in Europe for more than 150 years, perhaps more than 200 years - from 1700 to 1900. The pinnacle of opera is found in the mid-1800s when Verdi and Wagner were composing. Wagner was considered the greatest artist of his age, from 1870 to 1940. Verdi was the most popular artist before and during Wagner’s time, and even today Verdi’s top ten are what you will see at any given opera house. With the enforced shut down of the state…

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The Purpose of Music in China

J.S.Bach - widely acclaimed as one of the greatest composers of music in the history of the world. I myself am very partial to his Brandenburg Concertos. For most people in the world today, music is... well its music. Something to listen to at any time, to suit your mood or to relax or to dance. Music, the notes, the instruments aren't about anything in particular - and I mean this quite seriously. Music today is just sounds, sometimes pleasing, sometimes odd, and in conjunction with the human voice, music can convey many emotions. But the music itself? It is what it is. Bach helped create this way of looking at music, though he was a composer for a major church for most of his life, his music was less…

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Read more about the article The Terrible Disease in China – 1330 to 1350
Red Turban Army

The Terrible Disease in China – 1330 to 1350

Most Americans and Europeans have heard of the Black Death which swept across Europe starting in 1347. However, most people have not heard that something very similar struck down millions in China during the same time period. The first half of the 1300s were a terrible time in China’s history. The Mongol conquest of China (finalized with the conquest of capital of the Song Dynasty in 1276) resulted in decades of mis-rule, brutal repression of popular discontent, famines, and civil unrest which ultimately resulted in a civil war that last for more than a decade. This terrible time finally ended with the victory of the Ming government over all its rivals and the establishment of a unified, and highly functional national government. Part of the reason for the popular unrest…

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Read more about the article A Chinese Relationship with Nature
Painting by Ma Lin, scholar under a pine tree

A Chinese Relationship with Nature

This has not really come into my books but I have been thinking about it for years. Since I've recently finished my study of Daoism, I think I can explain something of what I know. To start with: I posit that there are cultures which venerate nature. Perhaps most notably in East Asia we have Japan where Shinto IS nature worship (see Kami). Japanese worship nature in a deep way as they see the Kami (demi-gods) which they believe are present in most beautiful places. About half a million Japanese hike to the summit of Mt. Fuji every year and they aren’t just doing it for the great view.  In Catholic Europe, there was a strong aspect of nature veneration (derived from the Bible, since God created the world and…

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Marriage in Imperial China

In The Burning Tower, Sandun and the other Keltens happen upon a city at the wilderness. The city is named Gipu, and it is one of several trade cities, which exist beyond the edge of Serica's borders. The people of the city have a very unusual custom, where they offer eligible young women to visiting merchants; acting as temporary wives. Sandun is given a young woman, named Ashala, who actually knows a little Kelten as well as is fluent in Serice. With Ashala acting as a teacher, Sandun is able to learn how to speak the Serice language. This element of my story is loosely based on the real world, and the cities of Kashgar, and Turpan. At one time, the Tang Dynasty took control of these far-western trade cities and then asked…

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Chinese Stories: Feng Menglong

Feng Menglong (commonly known by his given name Menglong) is perhaps the greatest writer in all of Chinese history. Very little of his work was available to non-Chinese readers until  Yang & Yang, translators par excellence, published all 120 short stories of Feng Menglong over the span of a decade (from 2000 to 2009). English readers owe a large debt of gratitude to Yang & Yang for their accomplishment. Stories Old and New, is the first set of 40 tales, first published by Feng Menglong in 1620 (25 years before the collapse of the Ming Dynasty). You can buy it here from Stories to Caution the World, is the second set of 40 tales, first published by Feng Menglong in 1624. You can buy it here from Stories…

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Censorship in Imperial China

In my books, the government of Serica has been under the control of the Kitran Empire and they don't bother with censoring books. If someone writes something they don't like, they sent a detachment of their feared cavalry to the town where the author is said to live and they burn the place down. The new ruler of Kunhalvar province, Lord Vaina, would likely censor works which advocated support for the Kitran Empire but - they are at war with the Kitran Empire. Censorship in a time of war is commonplace, every nation does this. But what about censorship during peacetime? My books don't talk much about the times of peace but this is what I learned... Censorship in Imperial China was a very complex phenomenon. I think most Americans…

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