Religion

A massive banyan tree. Trees are worshipped like gods in rural areas and are not cut down easily. (iStock)

Taiwanese art historian: 'Lord of the banyan tree' and his grand wisdom

In a simpler age, rural communities wisely followed folk religions that respected the seasons, land and nature. Chiang Hsun rues today’s reality where modern life has encouraged the neglect of these cardinal rules, leading to environmental damage and other adverse effects.
People take part in a rally to encourage Canada and other countries as they consider labeling China's treatment of its Uighur population and Muslim minorities as genocide, outside the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC, US, 19 February 2021. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

‘Countering sanctions with sanctions’: Where China’s confidence comes from

China is reacting to sanctions imposed by the West with sanctions of its own, with the latest salvo affecting US and Canadian individuals and entities. Zaobao correspondent Yu Zeyuan looks at the factors behind China’s increasing penchant for tit-for-tat sanctions.
The Larung Gar, a community in Sertar County of the Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, in Sichuan, China.

The ‘other’ Shangri-La: A journey through western Sichuan

Shivaji Das, author of travelogue “The ‘Other’ Shangri-la: Journeys through the Sino-Tibetan Frontier in Sichuan”, captures vignettes of life in the picturesque mountains of the Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in western Sichuan. At the end of his journey, he asks: Would Shangri-La become indistinguishable from Disneyland? Would Han cultural hegemony obliterate every other peculiarity once a mesh of high-speed trains, all-weather roads, and Weibo accounts spread out in the region? Or would an environment of mutual trust, understanding, and accommodation be established? 
A man wearing a protective mask shops for decorations at a shopping mall ahead of the Lunar New Year, in Jakarta, Indonesia, 11 February 2021. (Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana/Reuters)

Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle's Lunar New Year celebration paid tribute to Megawati

PDI-P, the political party in Indonesia with the most Chinese parliamentarians and heads of local government held a virtual Lunar New Year party to usher in the Year of the Ox. Party members paid tribute to Ibu Megawati Sukarnoputri, general chairperson of the party and former Indonesian president. How did this party put itself forward as the strongest guardian of Chinese interests in Indonesia? Leo Suryadinata listens in.
A bald winter tree along the river. (Facebook/蔣勳)

Taiwanese art historian: How should I meet my mother in the afterlife — as a child, an adult or an old man?

Time passes but our memories stand still. If all we want in life is to be understood, how lucky we are if we have someone to see us through our many faces and phases. Even if we part, if we see with our hearts, muses Chiang Hsun, we’re sure to recognise each other when we meet again.
A person holds up a placard depicting Aung San Suu Kyi after the military seized power in a coup in Myanmar, outside United Nations venue in Bangkok, Thailand, 3 February 2021. (Soe Zeya Tun/REUTERS)

Myanmar coup and the future of geopolitics in Asia

With the recent military coup in Myanmar leading to the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi, Hong Kong commentator Chip Tsao wonders how the US and China will act and if their stance on this matter will shape their future strategies in East Asia.
The flags of China, the United States and Chinese Communist Party are displayed in a flag stall at the Yiwu Wholesale Market in Yiwu, Zhejiang province, China, 10 May 2019. (Aly Song/File Photo/Reuters)

Chinese dissidents and their role amid worsening China-US relations

US-China relations are strained enough, especially with China and the US standing on opposite ends of the spectrum — America’s unbridled liberty driving it to anarchy and China backsliding into an increasingly autocratic state. Chinese dissidents in the US walking into the embrace of the American far right only makes things worse.
Ethnic Yi women walk past an installation featuring a logo of the Communist Party of China and numerous slogans at the Chengbei Gan’en Community, a residential complex built for a relocation programme as part of China's poverty alleviation effort, in Yuexi county, Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan province, China, 11 September 2020. (Tingshu Wang/Reuters)

Why East Asia has performed well in containing Covid-19

The liberalist discursive system leaves little room for one to contemplate the possibility that a strong government can also be a good government, much less the positives of the East Asian developmental state or Asian values. In fact, under the East Asian social contract, people are willing to empower the government for greater outcomes for all, and the government works to win the approval of the people as a means to preserve their legitimacy. Now, when the flaws of liberalism are laid bare by Covid-19 and other crises, it may be worth taking a closer look at the merits of the East Asian social contract. 
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?