Ming dynasty

The Thousand-Foot Precipice of Mount Hua (华山). (iStock)

The backpacker and travel writer from 400 years ago — China's Xu Xiake

Cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai celebrates the free-spirited explorer Xu Xiake, who roamed the depths of China in the late Ming dynasty. Xu's journeys were hardly glorious forays that forged new paths or alliances. But for the quiet reminder they give to embrace one’s passions and explore the world, Xu will be fondly remembered.
The great Chinese playwright, Tang Xianzu. (Internet)

In pursuit of ideals and love: The William Shakespeare of Chinese drama, Tang Xianzu

All his life, Ming dynasty playwright Tang Xianzu only wanted to stay true to himself, to do good and to make a mark. In his life as a government official, he sat on the sidelines and saw his ambitions erode with time. But he kept intact his passion for literary writing, gifting the world he left behind with classics such as The Peony Pavilion. Amid brokenness and deceit, he saw only beautiful things that were good and pure. Whether the world he created is a reality to be attained or a mirage...the dream lives on.
This picture taken on 21 February 2020 shows a woman wearing a face mask, amid concerns of the Covid-19 coronavirus, exercising at a park in Beijing. (Wang Zhao/AFP)

Will China turn its back on the world again?

After more than 40 years of reform and opening up to the point that China has become an integral node in global supply chains, will the pandemic be the circuit breaker that cuts off the flow of connections between China and the West? Will the currents of international trade and cooperation flow again or will China ironically be more like the US in thinking “I am the world”? And once allegedly compared by Napoleon to a “sleeping lion”, will China resume its sleep shortly after awakening?
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.
The amount of effort that went into every bowl of crab butter was so unimaginable that, the idea of sampling it wouldn’t even cross a commoner’s mind. (Internet)

Crab Butter Rice

Crab Butter Rice is unlike any other crab dishes: it is a seasonal delicacy that exclusively combines the autumn crab's paste and roe without using any of its meat. Cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai shares his experience eating it, and its peculiar and debatable origins from Suzhou brothels.
Professor Wang Gungwu: China’s reforms - whose way is the best?

Wang Gungwu on China’s reforms (Full video and text)

(Full video and text) Professor Wang Gungwu speaking at ThinkChina’s launch on 24 September 2019.