[view:title]

This photo taken on 20 March 2021 shows people viewing cherry blossoms in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, China. (STR/AFP)

Taiwanese art historian: Why we no longer find beauty in contemporary art

Art colleges today may be missing the point by teaching students various forms of aesthetics without offering a true path to beauty. An affinity for beauty — to see, appreciate, and ultimately to create it — is best honed keeping close to nature, says art historian Chiang Hsun. Qing dynasty calligrapher and painter Zheng Banqiao would have approved. After all, didn't he ask, “If people really love birds, why not plant more trees?”
The Larung Gar, a community in Sertar County of the Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, in Sichuan, China.

The ‘other’ Shangri-La: A journey through western Sichuan

Shivaji Das, author of travelogue “The ‘Other’ Shangri-la: Journeys through the Sino-Tibetan Frontier in Sichuan”, captures vignettes of life in the picturesque mountains of the Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in western Sichuan. At the end of his journey, he asks: Would Shangri-La become indistinguishable from Disneyland? Would Han cultural hegemony obliterate every other peculiarity once a mesh of high-speed trains, all-weather roads, and Weibo accounts spread out in the region? Or would an environment of mutual trust, understanding, and accommodation be established? 
The curator of the refreshed Wan Qing Yuan gallery showing the decal of the size of a pair of bound feet, a new feature at the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall, Singapore, 12 January 2021. A new interactive element shows just how small the ideal Chinese woman’s feet were at a time when foot-binding reflected a family’s virtue and class. (SPH)

Foot-binding in ancient China: When women fought against their genes to be beautiful

A mischievous saying goes that there are no ugly women, only lazy women. The care one puts into one’s beauty regime determines the beauty standards she can attain. But in the days of ancient China, such effort went to extremes: young girls were forced to have their feet bound. After tremendous pain in pursuit of mignon dainty feet, they attained short yet ironically bulbous “golden lotuses”. Are such unreasonable demands of beauty foisted on women by men, or a shackle that women put on themselves? If it seems unimaginable that foot-binding continued in China for a thousand years, just think of the pain some go through in modern cosmetic surgery.
People wearing face masks walk along a shopping centre in Wuhan, Hubei province, China, on 1 January 2021. (Noel Celis/AFP)

'Perhaps we are from the same hometown?': A reflection on human relations throughout Chinese history

In this life, are we journeying together or just passing ships in the night? Chiang Hsun ponders the degrees of separation between people who share the same earth. What keeps us walking in parallel, never breaking down customary barriers?
Two works by fine art photographers John Clang (L) and Zhou Yang. (Courtesy of John Clang and Zhou Yang)

A dialogue with John Clang and Zhou Yang: Human relations, memories and the compassionate photographer

What do creatives have in common and how differently do they interpret and make sense of the world around them? A chat with Singaporean photographer John Clang and Chinese photographer Zhou Yang gives a glimpse of that exploration. Each photographer has his own approach: Clang takes an almost anthropological perspective by drawing inspiration from those around him, be they friends or complete strangers; Zhou delves into the camera of the mind — the memory — and uses it to tell larger stories about the past and present. Lianhe Zaobao journalist Wang Yiming speaks to the photographers in the first of several fireside chats put together to commemorate the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Singapore and China.
Blue tiger butterflies. (Facebook/蔣勳)

What is the colour of 青春 (qingchun), or youth?

In Chinese terminology, the colour which looks a lot like cyan is called qing (青). Yet it is used in many contexts and may even refer to black. What do we mean when we say qing and what do we understand by it? The permutations are vast, if we are open to them. In a similar vein, fixated ideas or assumptions can be the very barrier that obstructs one from seeing that which is truly beautiful. Free your mind, let loose a little, art historian Chiang Hsun says, to experience life in its full splendour.
A cleaner walks past screens promoting Disney's movie Mulan as the film opens in China, at a cinema in Beijing, China, 11 September 2020. (Florence Lo/Reuters)

Mulan: The people-pleaser that ended up offending all?

Companies like Disney hoping to capture the huge Chinese market must buck up and understand the cultural and political sensitivities involved even more. Otherwise, in an age of increased tension between China and the West, they might find themselves tripping up over landmines from both sides.
This photo taken on 26 June 2020 shows a performer at the opening ceremony of the 2020 Music and Food Festival of Grassland in Hohhot. (Bei He/Xinhua)

The psychology of facial aesthetics: A cultural perspective

Hayson Wang, who specialises in plastic, reconstructive and aesthetic surgery, shares some insights into the way facial beauty is defined by science and in different cultures.