Culture

Fairgoers blowing bubbles at the Confucius Temple lantern display. The floating bubbles lend an air of fantasy to the scene.

[Chinese New Year Special] A bygone era: Chinese New Year celebrations during the time of the Republic of China

The Chinese calendar, based on observations of sun and moon, was chiefly used to mark agrarian time. With the dawn of the Republic of China in 1912, official calendars were reset to the Gregorian system. No matter that the start of the year was now 1 January, people’s lives were still much tied to the land. They welcomed the Spring Festival and Chinese New Year with relish, celebrating their well-earned rest from toil. Photo collector Hsu Chung-mao shares his precious images of celebrations in Beijing and Nanjing from a bygone era.
Instant-boiled mutton: fresh, tasty, and heartwarming. (Internet)

Beijing’s instant-boiled mutton and sweet memories of childhood days in Taiwan

With a bowl of Beijing’s signature mutton hotpot in front of him, Cheng Pei-kai falls into a reverie about heavy things like poor sheep sent for the slaughter. But not for long as he tucks in with gusto, lost in the food memories of his childhood.
West Lake in autumn. (iStock)

Autumn musings by the West Lake

Many an intellectual has been inspired by the legendary West Lake in Hangzhou. Cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai is no exception. He reflects on the passage of time as he strolls through the beautiful landscape of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (L) and Emperor Naruhito (C) during the Emperor's enthronement ceremony at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. Note Mr Abe's tailcoat and the Emperor's robe. (AFP)

Perfect harmony: The Japanese emperor’s yellow robe and the prime minister’s tailcoat

​Japan is able to seamlessly meld tradition with modernity, Hong Kong political commentator Leung Man-tao observes. How do the Japanese decide what are the things to treasure and what are the things to cast off? How is it that China has not been able to do the same as well as Japan? Leung shares his thoughts after reading writer Lo Fung’s book, Geopolitical Japan.
Hong Kongers should be effectively bilingual, but the majority of university students are failing English, consistently getting the ‘D' and ‘E’ grades. What has become of university education in Hong Kong? (iStock)

Lost in translation: What has become of university education in Hong Kong?

When cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai is tasked to use the English language to teach Chinese literature to Hong Kong students, he questions if it is all a ploy to help students improve their standard of English. Such a shame it is then, how gems of China’s precious literary and cultural heritage are withered away in every nuance lost in translation.
Giuseppe Castiglione, Emperor Qianlong Inspecting Troops (《乾隆皇帝大阅图》), The Palace Museum. (Internet)

Suzhou’s way to the Emperor’s heart

Refined and steeped in natural flavours, it’s no wonder that Emperor Qianlong had a soft spot for Suzhou cuisine. Cheng Pei-kai shares the menu.
Although one might not have the experience of seeing a twenty feet tall black ghost that flies, one could have in mind all the concepts that could construct such an image. (iStock)

The Chinese ghost stories we tell ourselves

The word "ghost" (gui) is commonly found in the Chinese lexicon. Professor Poo Mu-chou draws links between history, culture and one’s personal experience to interpret the way humans conjure ghosts up in their own image and likeness in a bid to understand the inexplicable.
The Golden Rooster Awards and Golden Horse Awards went head-to-head this year, including the poster designs.

Did the Rooster or the Horse win?

The two most important award ceremonies of the Chinese film industry- the Golden Rooster Awards and the Golden Horse Awards- were held on the same day this past weekend, in Xiamen and Taipei respectively. Yang Danxu gives her take on each show and how little signs and symbols in each mirror the one-upmanship in cross-strait relations.
A statue of Confucius at the Imperial Academy in Beijing. (iStock)

China’s Confucianist path to soft power

Pang Ruizhi argues that apart from making reforms to its political and government systems, China needs to find strength in its good cultures and traditions. He feels that a revival and remake of Confucianism — a key tenet of Chinese philosophy and thoughts — will be a key booster shot to building a new Chinese culture and strengthen China’s soft power on the international stage.