Culture

The Milky Way seen as night falls over Taiwan. (iStock)

Taiwanese art historian: Are Libras and Leos always a perfect match?

Taiwanese art historian Chiang Hsun muses on his encounters with a Libra who took him on a historical exploration, and a Leo that pushed Taiwan’s film industry into the world stage. Do the rules of attraction truly dictate that Libras and Leos themselves are compatible, even if they despise each other?
A calligrapher at his stall in Chinatown, Singapore. (SPH Media)

What's in a Chinese name?

Hua Language Centre director Chew Wee Kai notes that names carry everything from culture to history, values and identity — and even the trend of the time. So, what’s in a name? Plenty.
Wang Xizhi, known as the Sage of Calligraphy (书圣). (Weibo)

A pilgrimage of the heart: Paying homage to Jin dynasty calligrapher Wang Xizhi

Cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai takes us back to his trip to Shengzhou, Zhejiang, where he visited the gravesite of Jin dynasty calligrapher Wang Xizhi, the Sage of Calligraphy. In the depths of the lush forest with mountains peeking through, what does it mean to travel the distance to pay respects to an ancestor and honour their virtues?
Artist Soh Suan Cheok carved a cement block for his work, 压死你 (“crushing you to death”).

Carving contemporary expressions: The Chinese art of seal carving

Recent exhibition Carving Possibilities, presented by Siaw Tao Chinese Seal Carving, Calligraphy and Painting Society, showed how artists across generations are reinventing the ancient Chinese art form of seal carving. Former journalist Teo Han Wue shares his observations.
The owner of the sachima stall in Chinatown stirs his wok. (SPH Media)

How a 'Manchu' snack landed in Singapore's Chinatown

Former journalist Lim Jen Erh looks into the history of a traditional Chinese snack sachima, and finds that similar snacks are found as far as central Asia and Europe. Perhaps people, and food, are not so different anywhere in the world.
Young performers wait to take part in the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival in Hong Kong, China, on 28 September 2023. (Lam Yik/Reuters)

It’s Mid-Autumn: Time for some mung bean pastry

Cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai writes of the humble mung bean pastry, a classic snack of the people that has been made in the traditional way for generations in Taiwan. Now, the well-loved pastry has been given new spins in modern times, from “Florence-style mung bean pastry” to a lacto-vegetarian version named after Chinese poet Li Bai.
The second supermoon of 2023, also known as the Sturgeon Moon, rises behind the cable car of the Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on 1 August 2023. (Mauro Pimentel/AFP)

Taiwanese art historian: What’s the significance of the Mid-Autumn Festival?

Art historian Chiang Hsun recalls a time of basking in the glow of natural light that can be hardly seen or felt today. Modern artificial lights have driven out the darkness, but along with it life itself.
A Turkish national flag (left) and a banner bearing the portrait of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the modern Turkish republic, hang from the exterior of a building in the Sisli district of Istanbul, Turkey, on 29 August 2022. (Nicole Tung/Bloomberg)

Why Turkey's national hero was honoured in Taiwan

Cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai muses on how heroes of the past are honoured after their time, recalling that in his youth in Taiwan, the founder of the Turkish republic was lauded as an honourable founding father, next to Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek. However, given the similarities in ideals and values, could it be that the high praise for Ataturk was in fact meant to boost the controversial image of Chiang?
A man rides a bike while sheltering from the rain in Beijing, China, on 31 July 2023. (Pedro Pardo/AFP)

Did Mongolians mistreat the Han Chinese during the Yuan dynasty?

It is commonly believed that the Mongol-ruled Yuan dynasty instituted a “four-class system” comprising the Mongols, the Semu, the Han people and the Southerners; they may even have categorised people into ten classes for which Confucian scholars were at the bottom rungs. Taken as truth for centuries, what is the “historical reality” of the matter? Cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai examines the issue.