Literati

John Taylor, circa 1610, Chandos portrait, National Portrait Gallery. (Wikimedia)

Shakespeare, Su Shi and Tang Xianzu: The dates of birth and death of literary greats

The dates of birth and death of literary greats — especially those who lived centuries ago when the calendar used may not have been the same as we use today — can be confusing and difficult to pin down. Cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai looks at the example of William Shakespeare and several Chinese poets, noting that in the end, perhaps it is not so important whether or not we have an exact date.
Cheng Pei-kai's “姹紫嫣红” on tea foam.

China's 'latte art' from a thousand years back

As cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai continues on his Changzhou intangible cultural heritage extravaganza, he retraces the steps of ancient literati like Song dynasty poet Su and Qing dynasty scholar Lü Gong who spent days of idyll in artistic pursuits. There was even an artist-monk who could write poetry with tea foam. This is the second article of a four-part series on Changzhou food and drink.
A scenic view of Tianmu Lake. (Photo: 李炆静/Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)

A taste of Changzhou: Best from the rivers and lakes

Situated between Zhenjiang and Wuxi, Changzhou belongs to the Wu-speaking (吴语) region of Jiangnan. As the city sits in the Jiangnan circle comprising Nanjing, Yangzhou and Suzhou, its food and lifestyle patterns are influenced by Yangzhou and Suzhou culture. As cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai embarks on his Changzhou food extravaganza, will he get to taste the much-anticipated Tianmu Lake claypot fish head? This is the first article of a four-part series on Changzhou cuisine.
William Shakespeare's First Folio on display at Christies in London, England, 24 April 2023. (Anna Gordon/Reuters)

Shakespeare was the object of envy and slander, just as Li Bai was

Back in the days of Elizabethan theatre, there was competition among the playwrights, many of whom had gone to university. Shakespeare was the exception, the happy-go-lucky actor and playwright whose plays were well-loved. While he was despised and criticised by his fellow playwrights, he perhaps knew that this was out of jealousy, not so much spite.
The Forbidden City shrouded in smog during a sandstorm in Beijing, China, on 22 March 2023. (Bloomberg)

Criticising the emperor: Ancient Chinese have their ways

Cheng Pei-kai recalls the admirable literati of ancient times, who took risks to make veiled criticisms of emperor excesses. While they tried not to attack the throne directly, sometimes their earnestness led them to wear their heart on their sleeves.
The eight "aquatic immortals". (Photo taken by Jin and provided by Chiang Hsun)

Heavenly dishes in a little Shanghai restaurant

Chiang Hsun ruminates on a myriad of ingredients, marvelling most at the eight vegetable ‘aquatic immortals’ in Chinese cuisine, which showcase the pure and delicious flavours of the season. Best of all, he enjoyed the heavenly dishes during autumn, in a little Shanghai restaurant that feels like home.
People tour the Jinxi Ancient Town in Kunshan, Suzhou, Jiangsu province, China, on 4 March 2023. (CNS)

Song dynasty poet Su Shi's appetite for exotic foods

While he is credited for creating the famed Dongpo pork dish, Song dynasty poet Su Shi actually savoured several exotic feasts while he was exiled in Huangzhou, Hubei. Chinese bamboo partridge, masked palm civet — you name it, he’s tried it.
Showcasing rare masterpieces of Chinese ink, the Xiu Hai Lou Collection includes breathtaking pieces by major artists such as Ren Bonian, Qi Baishi, Xu Beihong and Zhang Daqian. (National Gallery Singapore)

Singapore’s Xiu Hai Lou Collection and what it tells us about late 19th-20th century Chinese art

Private collector Yeo Khee Lim (1917-1998) amassed one of the earliest and most comprehensive collections of late 19th-20th century Chinese art since he started collecting them in the 1940s and 50s. The stories in the collection — of literati painters, the Shanghai School, the Lingnan School, the Teochews and the Nanyang painters who passed through and lived on our shores — have been told before in exhibitions put up by Yeo himself and later by the National Gallery and others. But in a recent NTU conference on the life of Yeo Khee Lim, the importance of the prized collection comes back to the fore.
American poet Marianne Moore. Photograph by George Platt Lynes. (United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division)

On the dentist’s chair: American poet Marianne Moore’s scalpel

Cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai had an uncanny stroke of poetic inspiration or even possession, when he hazily “composed” American poet Marianne Moore’s works after a visit to the dentist. Might the gods have cast a spell on him and given him an experience of Zhuangzi’s butterfly dream?