Culture

People cross a street during morning rush hour in Beijing, China, 15 December 2020. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

Would Confucius have approved of the death penalty?

A Confucius saying goes: “When the wind blows, the grass bends.” Therefore fault not the common man, says Chiang Hsun, but the decision-makers at the top. But taking a step further back, who are we to cast the first stone at anyone?
Train stations are part of the collective memory of generations of commuters who used them. (iStock)

History, collective memory and the beauty of Taiwan's old train stations

Like a song, a place can trigger a memory, an emotion. Preserving little landmarks is akin to preserving the collective memory of a city, says Chiang Hsun. Shared memories, more than any loud declaration, are the cornerstone of a people’s culture, heritage and sense of belonging.
A long-awaited date with hairy crabs. (iStock)

From New York to Suzhou: A professor's guide to eating hairy crabs

Cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai recalls the very first time he tasted Yangcheng Lake’s famed hairy crabs, not in China, but in New York. Since then, he has been smitten with the Chinese mitten crab, and is in no doubt as to why this delicacy takes pride of place in China’s food heritage.
This photo taken on 21 October 2020 shows tourists passing a wall with a slogan that says "Grand Alliance for China's Reunification under the Three Principles of the People", on Taiwan's Kinmen islands. (Sam Yeh/AFP)

Are Cold War-era slogans making a return in the internet age?

Having lived through the Cold War era when people were misled by empty slogans and labels, Taiwanese writer Chiang Hsun cautions that we may once again find ourselves under the influence of such meaningless words in the noisy internet age. Have we lost our basic cognitive skills to observe and contemplate in solitude? 
The Thousand-Foot Precipice of Mount Hua (华山). (iStock)

The backpacker and travel writer from 400 years ago — China's Xu Xiake

Cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai celebrates the free-spirited explorer Xu Xiake, who roamed the depths of China in the late Ming dynasty. Xu's journeys were hardly glorious forays that forged new paths or alliances. But for the quiet reminder they give to embrace one’s passions and explore the world, Xu will be fondly remembered.
Travel is one way to build critical thinking and identity, says cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai. (iStock)

Woman traveller of the Qing dynasty Qian Shan Shili: Education is the bedrock of a nation

The little-known Qian Shan Shili had the opportunity to travel in the days of upheaval at the end of the Qing dynasty and at the dawn of a new republic. She was the first woman to record her thoughts in two travelogues and felt strongly that China’s new education system paled in comparison with that of other countries such as Japan. She concluded that education should have the aim of building critical-thinking men and women rather than just nurturing a crop of scholars with exceptional talent. After all, she notes, without citizens, how can there be talents? And without citizens, there can certainly be no society. These are wise words, says cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai, that remain relevant even today.
A humble plate of scallion pancake with chive sauce. (Facebook/蔣勳)

The simple beauty of Taiwan in a heavenly scallion pancake with chive sauce 

Chiang Hsun marvels at the way a chive sauce made with Taiwan-grown produce brings out the flavours of a street stall scallion pancake so well. No question about it — this dish would win hands down against any Michelin-starred restaurant’s version. When will we learn to appreciate the natural and the down-to-earth, and eschew the shiny bright lights of the material and the shallow?
Chiang Kai-shek and Soong Mei-ling in a boat on Sun Moon Lake. (Internet)

Chiang Kai-shek and the ‘President’s Fish’ at Sun Moon Lake

Visitors to Taiwan’s Sun Moon Lake are often awed by the hulking mountains and pristine waters. But notice a tiny pavilion on the water’s edge and you’d be reminded of the immense history this lake holds as a quiet retreat for the colourful leader Chiang Kai-shek — both to ponder the weighty political affairs and to reminisce about his hometown in mainland China’s Jiangnan region.
Architecture designs of Mok Wei Wei (left) and Chang Yung Ho.

Architects Mok Wei Wei and Chang Yung Ho: Imagining and building a humane city

Singaporean architect Mok Wei Wei and Chinese architect Chang Yung Ho are both well-respected professionals who have made contributions to the architectural heritage of their countries. Looking at architecture from the perspective of cultural infrastructure to be embedded into the contemporary urban fabric and to be left behind for future generations, both architects have worked hard to design the buildings that will satisfy these needs, and to convey the modern architectural language of their time and place. Lianhe Zaobao correspondent Lim Fong Wei speaks to the architects as part of a series of fireside chats put together to commemorate the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Singapore and China.