A short video series featuring Chinese artefacts in the British Museum has gone viral on social media in China, with viewers being moved by the story of a teapot trying to go home to China. But even as critics highlight the heavy sentiment and patriotism in the series, it has prompted calls by China and other countries for the British Museum to return artefacts to their rightful owners.
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.
Cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai recalls his visit to Istanbul’s Topkapı Palace Museum some years ago where precious pieces of Chinese blue and white porcelain from the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties are housed. It was then that he understood why his scholar friends were adamant that a visit there was a pilgrimage to blue and white porcelain mecca.
An admirer of Chinese culture and of China’s warm and people-centred way of life, US academic Wu Guo says that China need not seek to win over the US in every field, not least in the high-tech domain. It actually has a powerful advantage that has been underutilised — a rich culture that goes back thousands of years and a way of life that nurtures bonds of community, kindness and civility. If those outside China see this softer side of China, surely they will be less hasty to cast the first stone?
In itself, a subversive artwork by Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei to be shown at Hong Kong’s new M+ museum may not have drawn such attention. But under the shadow of the national security law in Hong Kong and the looming chief executive election, everything is magnified a hundredfold.
What do creatives have in common and how differently do they interpret and make sense of the world around them? A chat with Singaporean photographer John Clang and Chinese photographer Zhou Yang gives a glimpse of that exploration. Each photographer has his own approach: Clang takes an almost anthropological perspective by drawing inspiration from those around him, be they friends or complete strangers; Zhou delves into the camera of the mind — the memory — and uses it to tell larger stories about the past and present. Lianhe Zaobao journalist Wang Yiming speaks to the photographers in the first of several fireside chats put together to commemorate the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Singapore and China.
Criticisms have been levelled at the Palace Museum’s heavy use of the institution’s cultural capital for commercial gains. Museum officials rationalise that government funding alone is not enough to keep them going; tasteful product lines and festive promotions are just some of their means of survival.