Religion

People climb the Great Wall, illuminated to mark the first day of Mid-Autumn Festival and the Chinese National Day, in Beijing, China, 1 October 2020. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

Wang Gungwu: The high road to pluralist sinology

Professor Wang Gungwu, eminent historian and university professor of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the National University of Singapore, was awarded the 2020 Tang Prize in Sinology earlier this year. At the 2020 Tang Prize Masters’ Forums — Sinology held last month, Professor Wang traced the evolution of sinology in the West and East, observing that today, a “pluralist sinology” is emerging alongside a rising China. This allows for the term “sinologist” to be applied to a much larger group of scholars, and for the bringing together of various knowledge traditions and academic disciplines in the study of China. While there is much to be cheered by this, Professor Wang also urged his fellow scholars to be ready to “douse the fires that others had fanned”, as knowledge gathered by pluralist sinology could be used as a weapon amid intense rivalry between the US and China. This is the transcript of his speech. 
PKI supporters rallying during the 1955 general-election campaign. (Wikimedia)

The ghost of the Communist Party of Indonesia still haunts

A failed military coup on 30 September 1965 which led to the massacre of more than a million Partai Komunis Indonesia (PKI) members and communist sympathisers continues to plague Indonesian politics. People want to know who was the real instigator of the coup: the PKI, the left-wing military, Sukarno, Suharto, or the CIA in the US are all possibilities. A 2019 book says that according to declassified documents from the Chinese Communist Party Central Archives, a central figure in the coup was in Beijing on 5 August 1965, and discussed Indonesia’s situation with Mao Zedong and other Chinese Communist Party leaders. Leo Suryadinata pieces together the events in explaining how this catastrophe continues to impact Indonesia.
This aerial file photo taken on 21 June 2020 shows graves in the Nossa Senhora Aparecida cemetery in Manaus, Brazil. (Michael Dantas/AFP)

How can we survive this catastrophe?

If more than a million coronavirus deaths around the world have yet to humble us, maybe the unassuming turtle dove can teach us a thing or two.
The tall and unassuming tree in the wilderness. (Facebook/蔣勳)

A tree can be like Buddha

Art historian Chiang Hsun stays awhile with a comforting big tree in the wilderness. He admires its steadfastness, its sturdiness, its generosity. He takes heart as his unassuming friend shows us that we all have it in us, whatever our beliefs, to be the bigger person, to give shade, to give rest to those around us.
The clean and pure Chinese snowball flower. (Facebook/蔣勳)

As pure as the driven snow, in a virtual and surreal world

Art historian Chiang Hsun remembers a lone Chinese snowball flower from his many overseas trips. Its pristine beauty was its allure. In this world where fakes abound, this image, lodged deep in his memory, is proof that authenticity exists.
The Giant Buddha overlooks the waters and Leshan city. (iStock)

Giant Buddha and sponge cities: Combating floods where three rivers meet

The recent floods in Sichuan were serious enough to wet the feet of the Leshan Giant Buddha, which sits on a platform at 362 metres above sea level at the confluence of the Dadu, Qingyi, and Min rivers. Academic Zhang Tiankan explains that while the Giant Buddha represents the ancient Chinese's wisdom in combating floods, modern-day Chinese will need to step up the building of “sponge cities” to prevent floods.
Members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group take part in a military parade during a condolences ceremony for the movement's former leader Ramadan Shalah in Gaza city, on 8 June 2020, two days after his death in neighbouring Lebanon. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)

Battling atheist China: US highlights Xinjiang issue and religious freedom in Indo-Pacific region

Ma Haiyun says that the US and China’s relations with the Muslim world have been a sticking point — for very different reasons. Yet as the US turns its focus to the Indo-Pacific region, Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East may feel increasingly marginalised by geopolitical shifts and feel even more compelled to use their views on the Palestinian and Uighur issue as a vote of allegiance for the US or China. In Southeast Asia, the Muslim-majority countries face even more pressure as US-China competition intensifies in their own backyard. Whichever side they are on, all parties are gearing up for the next phase of US-China competition to be fought in the arena of global religious freedom.
A woman wears a face mask as she burns incense and prays at the Wong Tai Sin Temple to mark the Lunar New Year of the Rat in Hong Kong on 24 January 2020. (Philip Fong/AFP)

Chinese spirituality [Part two]: The sacred is in the mundane

Spirituality helps individuals cope with severe trauma and aids their growth and psychological well-being in the aftermath of a crisis. Such ballast is something humanity badly needs in the face of a pandemic. Dr Chang Weining, visiting psychologist of the Institute of Mental Health, ponders China’s search for spirituality in times of distress. In part two of her article, she toggles between past and present as she takes a look at how the Chinese quest for solace has evolved.
Seeking spirituality is a universal human need. In this photo taken on 25 January 2020, people wearing face masks visit Wong Tai Sin temple on the first day of the Lunar New Year of the Rat in Hong Kong, as a preventative measure against the Covid-19 coronavirus. (Dale De La Rey/AFP)

Chinese spirituality [Part one]: Reawakening of the heart after trauma

Spirituality helps individuals cope with severe trauma and aids their growth and psychological well-being in the aftermath of a crisis. Such ballast is something humanity badly needs in the face of a pandemic. Dr Chang Weining, visiting psychologist of the Institute of Mental Health, ponders China’s search for spirituality in times of distress. In part one of her article, she recalls her visits to China in 1984 and 2008 — both different periods in China’s reform and opening up — where she got a sense of China’s budding need and search for spirituality.