Tradition

A woman holds her child outside a shopping mall in Beijing, China, on 1 June 2021. (Nicolas Asfouri/AFP)

Why Chinese women are unwilling to give birth

Respect. Lorna Wei says the nub of the issue in the low fertility rate in China lies in that one word. Growing up in a patriarchal society, daughters in China have for years been looked upon as second to sons. When they become wives, mothers and daughters-in-law, they shoulder the bulk of familial duties while trying to keep their jobs. Any fertility policy should first address greater equality between the sexes. Only when parents are assured that their burdens will be shared can they look forward to having more children.
Why must gifts be reciprocated? (iStock)

Chinese economics professor: Why we exchange gifts, from ancient China to the present

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. 
Xishan, Jiangsu in China (left) and Modica, Sicily in Italy (right).

Egyptian-American architect: I see China in rural Italy

In this photo series, Hisham Youssef captures unexpected parallels between the countryside in China and Italy. Different cultures and many miles apart, the similarities are uncanny.
A barber in a barbershop.

'Life is indeed like a dream': A cultural historian returns to the barbershop of his childhood

Cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai visits his hometown in Taiwan, going for a haircut on a whim. He and the barber are lost in their own thoughts as the shaver buzzes on. 40 years have whizzed by since they last met; their memories hang in the silence, like a time capsule frozen in time.
A mother carrying her child in an alley near Houhai Lake in Beijing, China on 4 May 2021. (Noel Celis/AFP)

Gender equality: The solution to China’s declining birth rate

Providing better support for families to play effective co-parenting roles is more likely to improve birth rates than sending women back to the kitchen, says Chen Jing.
Qin Shi Huang's Terracotta Army, built to protect the emperor in his afterlife. (iStock)

Why were Chinese imperial families prone to fratricides and tragedies?

Throughout Chinese history, imperial families were some of the fiercest battlegrounds. Emperors stopped at nothing to hold on to power. At the instigation of wily courtiers, they might even have executed their kin without batting an eyelid. Li Jingkui says economically speaking, this has to do with the logic of contract theory — there was no neutral arbiter in leadership transitions. Without a third party to oversee the proceedings, family members were often subjected to the tyranny of the “lion king“. But under those circumstances, could anyone else other than the emperor have held court?
Tea fields in Anxi. (iStock)

Exploring Dehua porcelain and Anxi tea with a Dutchman

Cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai recalls his study tour in Dehua county sampling tea as he visited dragon kilns and pottery workshops. He was delighted to extend warm hospitality to a Chinese-speaking Dutchman who was there to learn about Dehua porcelain and Anxi tea.
People wearing face masks walk at Qianmen street in Beijing, China, on 11 February 2021. (Noel Celis/AFP)

Chinese economics professor: Fathers are not inferior to mothers when it comes to parenting

When Chinese economics professor Li Jingkui sent his daughter for extra classes regularly, he noticed that he was surrounded by mostly female parents. He started thinking about the roles of men and women in raising children throughout history and of his own experience growing up in an agricultural town in northern China. He came to the conclusion that the traditional division of labour between men and women is defined by productivity and the status of the sexes which are changing rapidly in modern society. So what should be the best mode of raising a child in the 21st century?
Generous chunks of mutton keep the foodie heart happy and the body warm. (iStock)

Morning call in Zhejiang: Mutton with shaojiu

In Haiyan county, Zhejiang, local fishermen used to down a bowl of piping hot braised mutton with shaojiu before battling the icy winds at sea. Now, local trades dominated by textiles and hardware have moved onto land. But the tradition of rising at dawn for braised mutton and a tipple lives on.