What did the ancient Chinese think of the netherworld? Why did they take it for granted that there was an afterlife? In this three-part series, academic Poo Mu-chou takes a closer look at the myths and beliefs of death and after-death in Chinese culture. In this second article of the series, he describes how the ancients prepared the tombs of the deceased: the lavish chambers and paraphernalia thrown in suggest they wanted the dead to be comfortable in their afterlives. Or maybe it was for the living to assure themselves that unfulfilled aspirations in life could be achieved in death?
What did the ancient Chinese think of the netherworld? Why did they take it for granted that there was an afterlife? In this three-part series, academic Poo Mu-chou takes a closer look at the myths and beliefs of death and after-death in Chinese culture. First, he explores the traditional conception of the netherworld. Was it a physical place, shaped in the earthly world’s image and likeness?
Many Chinese refer to ghosts and spirits as "good brothers". Now that the Gates of Hell are open during the Ghost Festival, art historian Chiang Hsun asks how one is to get along with the deceased who have come back? Would it be like strangers crossing paths, or would one recognise the other? And should we dismiss these folk beliefs as mere superstitions?
The Covid-19 pandemic has shown us how unpredictable life can be. As the world struggles to find its feet in politics, economics and daily life, comic artist Bai Yi turns the conversation inward: when times are tough, where do we find the strength to carry on? If it is religion, why do we have blind faith? If it is not, what sustains the human spirit?
Have you ever received a gift that you did not like? Economics professor Li Jingkui notes that when there is a mismatch between the gift and its recipient, the giver and receiver suffer a "deadweight loss". But still, many of us continue to exchange gifts. After much thought and research, Li found the answer for such persistent human behaviour in a Maori myth — you give a part of yourself along with your gift, which is something more valuable than the gift itself.
The US embassy in China recently released an Public Annual Statement outlining the requirements for funding through its public diplomacy grants programme. As the activities it supports aim to spread American values and culture in China, Chinese commentators have aired criticisms that this is an insidious attempt to “recruit traitors” within China. Zaobao correspondent Yu Zeyuan considers the theories behind this idea.
Academic Deng Xize notes that the 2020 US election demonstrates what he terms the Socratic Trap, referring to the gap between people’s cognitive abilities and the power they hold. How will this affect the democratic process, and what are the shortcomings of democracy?
A mischievous saying goes that there are no ugly women, only lazy women. The care one puts into one’s beauty regime determines the beauty standards she can attain. But in the days of ancient China, such effort went to extremes: young girls were forced to have their feet bound. After tremendous pain in pursuit of mignon dainty feet, they attained short yet ironically bulbous “golden lotuses”. Are such unreasonable demands of beauty foisted on women by men, or a shackle that women put on themselves? If it seems unimaginable that foot-binding continued in China for a thousand years, just think of the pain some go through in modern cosmetic surgery.
As Covid-19 “challenge trials” in the UK get underway where volunteers are intentionally infected with the coronavirus, Chip Tsao ponders how many of us would put our lives on the line for the greater good? Would having a Western or Chinese mindset have a part to play in the decisions made? And would cultural differences such as the Chinese focus on self-preservation explain why China was better at getting the epidemic under control?