Philosophy

Yan Zhenqing, Ji Zhi Wen Gao (《祭侄文稿》, Eulogy for a Nephew), National Palace Museum. (Internet)

A eulogy, intimate memories and a flawed piece of calligraphy

Father-son relationships in traditional Chinese culture tend to be distant. Perhaps that is why Chiang Hsun remembers calligraphy lessons with his father as one of the most intimate moments they have shared. He goes on to study revered calligraphic works which are part of Chinese history, and finds in them precious moments of humanity expressed through the ink brush.
A man wears a protective face mask amid the Covid-19 pandemic, as he walks past the Jingshan park overlooking the Forbidden City in Beijing on 25 January 2020. (Nicolas Asfouri/AFP)

Will Covid-19 be the catastrophe that ends China's good fortune?

China has faced reversals of fortune numerous times in history, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. After enjoying decades of upward ascent since its economic reform and opening up, some says China’s fate is about to be reversed again with the coronavirus pandemic, a mammoth disruption that kicked off the 2020s. Lance Gore argues that such massive shock to its political and economic system exposes chinks in its armour but does not necessarily unravel a big country with the world’s most comprehensive industrial structure.
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.
The Statue of Liberty in Paris, during a winter flood. Humans have always struggled to master nature. (iStock)

From humility to arrogance: A fight with nature is a fight with ourselves

Zoonotic viruses will continue to plague humankind if man continues recklessly destroying the environment and natural habitats in the name of development. If there is any lesson to be learnt from the Covid-19 outbreak, Zheng Yongnian says, it is that humans, both in the East and West, need to learn how to be at one with nature, rather than seek to subdue or triumph over nature for their own ends.
A Buddhist follower wearing a face mask prays under rows of lotus lanterns ahead of Buddha's birthday at Jogyesa Temple in Seoul on 23 March 2020. (Jung Yeon-je/AFP)

Taiwan author Chiang Hsun: One humanity, one world

Officials at the Taiwan district office have been calling quarantined individuals every day to check how they are doing. A beneficiary of such acts of duty and kindness, acclaimed Taiwan author and art historian Chiang Hsun feels immensely thankful. He reminds himself that no one should feel lucky facing the pandemic, and all this is but part of the pains and sorrows felt by all sentient beings under this universe.
A man wearing a face mask walks along a road in Beijing on 11 March 2020. (Wang Zhao/AFP)

Powerless, helpless and downtrodden: The state of Chinese literature in this pandemic

In today’s age where it seems that all great literature has been written, Yan Lianke has a modest wish for aspiring writers in China. He hopes that they will have the space to create works, unfettered by thoughts of going against the grain. He believes that creating a culture that allows for dissenting voices in literature is far more important and desperately needed than creating a single or a few accidental great literary works.
A couple walks by the Castro theater with their baby in San Francisco, California on 17 March 2020. (Josh Edelson/AFP)

Annihilation or protracted war ⁠— which is our best bet against Covid-19?

Professor Deng Xize of Sichuan University says that months into the fight against the coronavirus, strategies that countries are adopting are coalescing around two main threads — a war of annihilation or a protracted war. He cautions that these conflicting approaches are bound to generate risks on a global scale. Not only will the history of some countries take a different turn, international dynamics will also be altered. For the individual, it may become a gamble of health and luck.
Is there life after death? In this photo, people walk past a picture of Mao Zedong in Beijing on 14 December 2019. (Noel Celis/AFP)

A matter of life and death in the US, China and Japan

Views on the afterlife interestingly shed light on one’s approach to life, says Gordon Mathews of The Chinese University of Hong Kong. He and his team find out what American, Chinese and Japanese views on death say about their lives. As the Covid-19 epidemic rages across the world, an understanding of different countries' philosophies on mortality may even be more apt.