A Confucius saying goes: “When the wind blows, the grass bends.” Therefore fault not the common man, says Chiang Hsun, but the decision-makers at the top. But taking a step further back, who are we to cast the first stone at anyone?
Food memories form part of our intangible cultural heritage. To lose them is to lose part of our culture, says cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai. The ancients certainly knew a thing or two when they laid down the golden rules of healthy eating. But they’re not the only bastions of wisdom. Every region, every village with its own terroir, has a unique food culture to pass down for generations to come — if only we’d let them.
For China to spread its culture abroad successfully, the China story needs to be modernised, says Wu Guo. Ancient Chinese history and literature may be too daunting, while mooncakes and fan dances may be too superficial. People want to know what the Chinese man on the street thinks about, and what his culture of today is. Contemporary cultural products such as idol dramas and pop groups may do the trick, but so would down-to-earth insight into the lives of Chinese people. Often, just a peek into the everyday is enough to know we’re all not so different after all.
The cultural revolution had just ended when Cheng Pei-kai found himself in the chaotic streets of Changsha, with posters criticising Lin Biao, Confucius and even Deng Xiaoping plastered everywhere. He wanted to visit Yuelu Academy but his request was unfulfilled. More than forty years later, he finally made a visit. This institution that is regarded as one of the four great academies in ancient China — where exactly lies its charm?
The word "ghost" (gui) is commonly found in the Chinese lexicon. Professor Poo Mu-chou draws links between history, culture and one’s personal experience to interpret the way humans conjure ghosts up in their own image and likeness in a bid to understand the inexplicable.
Pang Ruizhi argues that apart from making reforms to its political and government systems, China needs to find strength in its good cultures and traditions. He feels that a revival and remake of Confucianism — a key tenet of Chinese philosophy and thoughts — will be a key booster shot to building a new Chinese culture and strengthen China’s soft power on the international stage.
Professor Wang Gungwu gave a keynote address at the Hwa Chong Centennial Insights Series 5 detailing his memories about prominent Chinese community leader, Tan Kah Kee. He shares from his personal experiences before elaborating on Tan's huge influence on the Chinese community, and what we can continue to learn from him.
Does modernisation equate to abandoning tradition? Will copying-and-pasting Western models work? What can China learn from its 5000 years of civilisation?