Humanity

Elderly eat in a community canteen in Changbai county, Jilin province, China, on 17 November 2022. (CNS)

Not everything has to be run by the state: Thoughts on communal canteens in China

US academic Wu Guo looks at the recent online furore over the mushrooming of state-run communal canteens in China and offers his views from the US. While providing food for the needy should be part of the state's responsibility, there should also be space for civil society, private enterprises and the public to play a role to create kind and healthy communities.
A woman buys pork at a market in Taipei, Taiwan, 4 August 2022. (Ann Wang/Reuters)

Remembering Mother's cleaver in the 'Palace of Versailles kitchen'

Amid the grandeur of his friend’s deluxe kitchen, Taiwanese art historian Chiang Hsun remembers his mother, a skilled cook. With simple tools and deft hands, she whipped up artisanal meals worthy of many a great restaurant.
Rice is a staple food for many people. (iStock)

The art of cooking rice and making bread

Throughout the world, perhaps nothing is more familiar than the daily essentials of rice and bread. These are everyday foods but is there anything more comforting than sitting down to a meal with a bowl of steaming, fragrant rice, or seeing a bakery window filled with freshly baked bread? No wonder centuries of poems and odes have been dedicated to these staples.
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.
Plain porridge with pickled lettuce is enough for a hearty breakfast. (iStock)

Pickled vegetables, fermented beancurd and stinky egg: An art historian's love of preserved foods

Ensconced in Dapu village in Chishang, a Hakka enclave where air-drying is a common way to preserve food, art historian Chiang Hsun muses about the ways that Chinese and others around the world have ingeniously learnt how to preserve food for long periods of time from methods ranging from pickling to salt-curing and air-drying. In food preservation as in life, time builds character and patience often yields rewards.
Singaporean conductor Wong Kah Chun conducting the New York Philharmonic during a Chinese New Year concert held at the David Geffen Hall in New York, US, on 6 February 2019. (Photo: Chris Lee)

Building bridges through music: A young Singaporean conductor leads the way

Lee Huay Leng was touched by the live broadcast of a concert in the park put up by the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra with Singaporean conductor Wong Kah Chun at the helm and Singapore Chinese Orchestra musicians taking part. Chinese instruments found their place in Wong’s arrangement of 19th century Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition”. In the aftermath of Covid and an international milieu where politics meddles even in the arts, the young Wong had found a way to stay composed and build a bridge with music. Can countries learn to do the same?
Eminent historian and sinologist Yü Ying-shih. (Photo taken from Tang Prize website)

Yü Ying-shih saw Hong Kong as beacon of hope for the Chinese-speaking world

Vancouver-based academic Leo K. Shin remembers his former professor, eminent historian and sinologist Yü Ying-shih, on the first anniversary of the latter’s passing. He says Yü was a staunch defender of humanity intrinsic in Chinese culture who always spoke up against the use of cultural tenets for political gain or acts against human dignity. It comes as no surprise then that he understood well the significance of Hong Kong as a beacon of freedom, democracy and human rights.
People dig for clams on the intertidal zone of Fangyuan Township, Changhua County, Taiwan. (CNS)

The old days of eating well without a refrigerator

Have we lost more than we gained with the invention of the refrigerator? With giant fridges in each household, sometimes more than one, stuffed to the brim with frozen food and leftovers, are we eating less well now than when we had no means to store food? Chiang Hsun ponders the question.
A man wearing a face mask to prevent the spread of Covid-19 works at a stall in a market in Taipei, Taiwan, 26 November 2021. (Annabelle Chih/Reuters)

Taiwanese art historian: Why a mother's winter melon soup is best

Like the art of cooking, which often involves a mastery of heat control, living a good life is determined by how we can temper our souls, do what we are put on this earth to do and not take things for granted. We may not know what our life’s purpose is immediately, but if we stay the course, we can adjust the embers of our lives as we walk on.