A young black American who has just finished his master’s in Beijing gives a first-hand account of being viewed as the Other in China. Despite some negative encounters, the conversations he has had in the local language and the friendships he has forged have made the experience all worthwhile.
Poverty alleviation has been a hot topic in China in recent years. A documentary about the Daliang Mountains where some poor communities live made young Chinese comic artist Bai Yi reflect on the suffering and helplessness of poverty. While China’s poverty alleviation programme has helped ease the situation, how many children in the mountain areas fail to get adequate help for various reasons, and generations continue to suffer the same fate? A kite with a broken string is difficult to retrieve; one can only pray that some kind soul will pick it up.
Demand for matchmaking services and platforms is on the rise for China’s growing elderly population. Though these people have plenty of life experience, it seems they still conform to the expectations of society, be it assessing a mate by monetary criteria or fearing gossip for seeking a second chance at love. Under the weight of societal norms, their quest for love is riddled with obstacles. On a lighter note, the plethora of elderly matchmaking variety shows that have spawned do provide some entertainment and fun for this segment of the population.
Just as women in China today, especially rural women, have to contend with male favouritism and diminished rights, women in the Tang dynasty were also restricted by rules and social practices, even if the era in which female emperor Wu Zetian ruled was thought to be the golden era of women’s rights.
Rather than addressing the symptoms of gender inequality such as restrictions on career prospects and freedom, says Cheng Pei-kai, we need to look at the deeper issue of the objectification of women. Chinese history and literature texts are replete with examples of this tendency. Mindful reading of the classics and an awareness that women are still objectified in modern life will go some way in changing mindsets. Whether in art or life, women are complex like anyone else and their characters and emotions need to be fleshed out before they can be truly seen for who they are.
The trend of single women buying property in China’s top-tier cities is on the rise. They do it for many reasons — as insurance for the future, to have more choices, or for good old investment. While it seems on the surface that they are gaining financial freedom and moving away from depending on marriage as a security blanket, it also means they are laden with housing loans or tied down by their parents who often foot the down payments or even the whole cost of the house. Are they swapping one handcuff for another?
Chinese academic Lorna Wei notes that there have been several strong and powerful women throughout China’s history, but their political achievements have often been dwarfed by stories of their love lives. It’s not more women leaders China needs, but better ways of telling their stories, she says.
A balcony can simply be a perch from which to admire the sea, or for Shakespeare fans, it is associated with a key scene from Romeo and Juliet. For ancient Chinese literati however, it conjures up scenes of forbidden trysts and has been woven into poems by illustrious poets, from Song Yu to Li Bai and many others.