Literature

People visit West Lake during snowfall in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China, on 1 December 2022. (AFP)

Jiangnan cuisine is poetry on a plate

Cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai reminisces about the delectable freshwater shrimps he savoured in Hangzhou, recalling that Jiangnan cuisine is very much poetry on a plate.
People stand in a queue outside a restaurant along the popular Yaowarat Road in the Chinatown area of Bangkok, Thailand, on 5 September 2022. (Manan Vatsyayana/AFP)

An imagined China and feeling Chinese in Thailand

Thai academic Sittithep Eaksittipong explains how the Thai rulers of the past used emotion as a political tool to assimilate the Chinese overseas in Thailand. Fast forward to today and the Thai Chinese are more confident of their identity, and feeling Chinese has less to do with developments in China. If anything, the latter is used as a means to chastise the Thai government.
A statue of Russian poet Alexander Pushkin in Saint Petersburg, Russia. (iStock)

Impressions of Moscow: Pushkin influenced a whole generation of Chinese [Part 3]

In the third of four articles, cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai shares his impressions of the Moscow he knew from a decade ago. Everywhere one turns, there are traces of Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, a beacon that shines so bright that even the Russians say he doesn’t only belong to Russia, but the world.
People walk along Nevsky Avenue in Saint Petersburg. (Photo: Ninara/Licensed under CC BY 2.0)

Impressions of Moscow: Beauties on Nevsky Avenue [Part 2]

In the second of four articles, cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai shares his impressions of the Moscow he knew from a decade ago. He revisits the cultural significance of Nevsky Avenue ((Nevsky Prospekt), a street on which stood literati residences and salons and where feminine beauty was on full display.
People walk through Red Square's Resurrection Gate with backdrop of St. Basil's cathedral at the City Day celebrations in Moscow, Russia, 10 September 2022. (Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters)

Cultural historian: Impressions of Moscow [Part 1]

In the first of four articles, cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai shares his impressions of the Moscow he knew from a decade ago. He notes that in bleak and cold surroundings, facing an autocratic regime, a nation’s people found a way to survive. And whether it was against Napoleon or Hitler, the heavens always stood on the side of lumbering Russia as it waited out its opponents.
A still from the movie Return to Dust, with Wu Renlin (left) and Hai Qing in the lead roles. (Internet)

Can China's movies depict poverty and the ugliness of society?

The movie Return to Dust depicts the difficult circumstances of a rural couple in China. Despite the high ratings and box office takings, some detractors say that the film feeds Western stereotypes of rural Chinese. Zaobao correspondent Yu Zeyuan looks at whether the movie panders to Western tastes, and whether it invalidates China’s efforts at poverty alleviation.
Chinese textbook illustrations have come under fire.

Suggestive Chinese textbook illustrations: An infiltration by the West?

Recently, there has been an uproar in China over illustrations in school textbooks, with comments that the characters drawn are “ugly”, with some depicted in suggestive poses and wearing questionable designs on clothing. Is this merely a question of aesthetics, or does the problem go deeper? Zaobao correspondent Yu Zeyuan looks into the issue.
People tour the Autumn Moon on a Quiet Lake (平湖秋月), known as one of the “ten scenes of West Lake”, in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China, 2 May 2022. (CNS)

Cultural historian: Fish as large as submarines in Hangzhou?

On a walk in the deserted Lingfeng Temple near Yuquan Botanical Garden in Hangzhou, cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai muses that peace and quiet is a blessing but a kiss of death for small teahouses trying to make a living. Also, memories of days gone by may be blurry over time. Either that or things have really changed, and one must face the sad reality that the good old days can never be brought back.
The late theatre pioneer Kuo Pao Kun, whose plays and teachings have shaped a generation of theatre makers in Singapore. (The Theatre Practice)

True gems: Singapore’s pioneers of the arts deserve more credit

Teo Han Wue laments that we are not doing enough to remember the remarkable contributions that Singapore’s pioneers of the arts have made. Singapore’s early artists and theatre practitioners were the avant-garde who went beyond the tried and tested in China or elsewhere. If we don’t remember our past achievements, how can we be inspired to produce greater things in the future?