In part 2 of his reflections on the Chinese countryside, Egyptian-American architect Hisham Youssef asserts that local communities must be involved in the nation’s drive for rural rejuvenation. These can be projects that promote local culture and craft, rather than tourism per se. Perhaps through such efforts, the soul of these communities can be preserved and these rural gems can truly live on for generations to come.
Cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai remembers an email from a Hong Kong secondary student, who wanted a "substantial and authoritative" answer from him about the relationship between civilisations and their cultures. The 16-year-old had asked: What affects the passing down of cultural traditions? Should culture be passed on in its entirety? What role does commercialisation play?
A metaphor used by playwright Kuo Pao Kun and recently mentioned by Finance Minister Lawrence Wong says that different cultural communities are trees in the forest, each separated at the trunk, but nourished by the same soil and cross-pollinating high in the sky at the leaves and branches. Low Sze Wee, CEO of the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre, extends the metaphor, noting that Chinese Singaporeans have developed distinct cultural identities from Chinese elsewhere. Their way of life is a combination of what they brought with them, their interactions with others, and the policies they live under with their fellow citizens.
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.
After ten years of living in Shanghai and seeing the rapid changes to the city, Egyptian-American architect Hisham Youssef takes us on a nostalgic and personal photographic tour of the lanes and neighborhoods that, until very recently, stood in the city he now calls home.
From a laser-etched calligraphy in a restaurant, art historian Chiang Hsun delves into the writings of Qing dynasty painter and calligrapher Zheng Xie, better known as Zheng Banqiao. Zheng was part of the “Eight Eccentrics of Yangzhou” group of painters who had wealthy businessmen patrons and developed an aesthetic grounded in the material and secular. Bright and colourful scenes of mirth were common — unlike the Song and Yuan dynasty literati before them who indulged in melancholic musings above worldly concerns. Contemporary ink artists may want to get some inspiration from Zheng's works, and boldly declare the feelings and observations of the times.
Lance Gore firmly believes that the social contract between government and people is seeing a radical upheaval around the world. In China’s case, a new social contract will be shaped by the triumvirate of Chinese culture and heritage, the traditions of the CCP, and the influence of liberal ideals. Only the strengths of each should be retained, while the shortcomings be discarded.
Northern Chinese mutton soup is rich, hearty and bold-flavoured, standing in sharp contrast to the delicate cuisine of the south. The dish is an emblem of the gruff and big-hearted heroism of civil wars past and the grandeur of the Han and Tang dynasties. Indeed, traces of history are left behind in every drop of a good bowl of mutton soup.
How do urban planners go about their work and what contributions do they make to the building of liveable cities? Ke Huanzhang, former head of the Beijing Academy of Urban Planning and Design, is all for the seamless melding of a good ecological environment, living facilities, jobs and public services in a city. Liu Thai Ker, the former chief architect and CEO of Singapore’s Housing Development Board, says a good planner needs to have the heart of a humanist, the brain of a scientist, and the eye of an artist. Tan Ying Zhen speaks to the veteran urban planners as part of a series of fireside chats put together to commemorate the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Singapore and China.