Humanity

A family waits for their food to be served at a restaurant in Keelung, Taiwan, 23 May 2022. (Ann Wang/Reuters)

Taiwanese art historian: The five elements of cooking in the olden days

Being his mother’s good helper in the kitchen for many years, Taiwanese art historian Chiang Hsun got to experience cooking with firewood, charcoal and of course the everyday natural gas. He is convinced that a different fire and stove begets a different flavour in food. Taiwan today is fortunate to have access to fire at the flick of a switch but this could all change. Lucky thing for Chiang, some firewood is all he needs to make his favourite scorched rice snack.
A vendor wears a protective mask while working at a food stall at a market in Taipei, Taiwan, on 21 May 2021. (Billy H.C. Kwok/Bloomberg)

Life and life lessons in the old markets of Taiwan

Taiwanese art historian Chiang Hsun remembers his trips to the market as a child which taught him more than he could ever learn in schools about life and humanity. From the back lanes of 44 Kan Site, a shopping street that used to house exactly 44 shops, he would peek into courtyards and encounter the kindness of shop owners; from the varied stalls of Dalong Market, he learnt about the sanctity of life of all living beings, human or animal.
A general view of a village in Pu'er, Yunnan province, China, 12 May 2022. (Xinhua)

Can’t bear to part: A cultural historian in Yunnan's Pu’er

In Pu’er, Yunnan, if you get the chance to meet the Lahu, Wa, Yi, Hani or the Dai people, you’d be blessed, as cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai was, with their down-to-earth hospitality. Their ties to the land and their traditions are captured beautifully in Can’t Bear to Part, a folk song that every Pu’er native knows.
A health worker wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) is seen at a makeshift testing site outside a museum along a street in Beijing, China, on 4 May 2022. (Jade Gao/AFP)

A Singaporean in China: How Covid brings out the worst in people

A spate of news of pet “cullings” and cruel acts against people amid Covid-19 lockdowns in China have captured widespread public attention. While it may be easy to classify the instigators of such acts as heartless, former journalist Jessie Tan believes that those actions may not be borne out of an individual’s ill nature or will, but a reaction to the complex forces amid the Covid-19 lockdown.
Lion Rock in Hong Kong at sunset. (Photo: Nhk9/Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)

Cultural historian: A woman swinging on a branch and an abused tree

Cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai remembers the days when he lived at the foot of a hill in Hong Kong’s Kowloon Tong district. He enjoyed the serene calm and respected nature’s bounty, but he can’t say the same for some hill visitors who would ”abuse” the trees and take them for granted. Even giving trees will one day be worn out.
A girl wearing a costume of Netflix series Squid Game poses for photographs in front of a giant doll named 'Younghee' from the series on display at a park in Seoul, South Korea, 26 October 2021. (Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters)

Lessons from Squid Game: Would you be slapped for US$10,000?

Art historian Chiang Hsun counts the ways that the hit Korean drama series Squid Game puts humanity to shame. The rich and powerful exploit the weaknesses of the poor while the ordinary man is given a choice but can’t help but choose the wrong choice each time. Life is one reckless gamble we willingly take, all for the chance of living a dream.
A gas station burns after Russian attacks in the city of Kharkiv, Ukraine, on 30 March 2022. (Fadel Senna/AFP)

An ostracised Russia's descent into war and lessons for China

We should not underestimate the role of political psychology in international relations, says Lance Gore. Often, human nature and emotions play a large part in decision-making, and factors such as wounded pride, a need to assert one’s identity or a sense of insecurity can bring about major consequences. Moreover, when feelings are stoked and public opinion drawn on the side of the “good guys”, it is not so much the high ideals of liberalism but a realist game at work. Russia and China have not learnt finesse in playing the two-tier game of international politics; neither have they realised they are not strong enough yet to change the rules of the game.
Based on the photo in this marriage certificate, the appearance and age of the woman the authorities initially identified as 'surnamed Yang' did not match the footage of the chained woman circulated online. (Weibo)

‘The world has abandoned me’: Chinese women married into slavery?

Chinese academic Lorna Wei says that the authorities’ determination to root out human trafficking may waver, but netizens’ voices speaking up for the victims — often women married off into other counties — will not be silenced. This may be the only comfort that countless women suffering alone can take solace in.
Police officers patrol the square in front of Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China, 3 May 2021. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

Why Indonesia's Muslim organisations are not critical of China's Xinjiang policy

China's faith diplomacy towards Muslim organisations in Indonesia appears to have silenced critics of its policy towards the Uighurs in Xinjiang. Among its efforts, Beijing has portrayed itself as an ally of moderate Muslims against extremism, and invited Indonesian clerics several times to Xinjiang to give them a firsthand look into conditions there. In return, major religious figures in Indonesia have called on Indonesians not to criticise China over the Uighur issue. This is likely to continue as long as the Indonesian government sees benefits in its links with China.