Culture

People walk along a shopping district during the Labour Day holidays, in Beijing, China, on 3 May 2021. (Noel Celis/AFP)

New breed of American China experts see China with a colder eye

Chinese academics have long admired the old guard of American sinologists who had a soft spot for China. But they must now discard any left-over sentimentality for these old heroes, says Wu Guo, and welcome the new generation of China hands that they will have to deal with. The post-70s and post-80s generation of China specialists dominate US President Biden’s China policy team, and will be the ones to watch in the analysis of US-China relations.
The Grand Hotel is illuminated with the Chinese characters '平安' (Peace) in Taipei, Taiwan, 3 June 2021. (Billy H.C. Kwok/Bloomberg)

Taiwanese art historian: What flowers and swallows taught me about life amid the pandemic

As art historian Chiang Hsun recites the Diamond Sutra and prays for the world amid the coronavirus pandemic, he believes in the adage that "this too shall pass". In tough times, we must remind ourselves to be grateful for the breath of life and to be kind to one another. May humankind be safe and well in their warm homes, wherever they may be.
People walk along Qianmen street in Beijing on 19 May 2021. (Noel Celis/AFP)

Americans should not oversimplify China into a few sensitive issues

US academic Wu Guo says that not only is the American media's reporting biased against China, college students often only have access to resources that present only one version of China. He feels it is important for Americans to realise that their understanding of China is often limited to a few sensitive issues. He suggests that with their feet anchored in two worlds, overseas Chinese or Asian academics can play a part in presenting a more balanced view of China.
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. 
During the days of the Republic, Nanjing Road in Shanghai was one of the best-known commercial streets in the world. Stores and advertisements lined the streets; advertisement placards announcing sales and discounts were waved in the streets while tobacconists, pharmacies, watch shops and metal workshops vied for customers side by side.

[Photo story] The many faces of Shanghai over a hundred years

Over a century, the city of Shanghai saw it all. Westerners fell in love with Republican Shanghai, where commerce and culture flourished; Japanese invaders advanced and retreated; communism and capitalism vied for a stage. Despite these ups and downs, Shanghai has maintained a demeanour and style unto itself. Historical photo collector Hsu Chung-mao traces Shanghai’s days of glamour and the front-row seat it had in war, revolution, and reform.  
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.
People walk along Qianmen Street, a popular pedestrianised traditional street with shops and restaurants in Beijing on 2 May 2021. (Photo by Noel Celis / AFP)

Nationalistic and patriotic? Chinese youths are more than that.

Every day, scores of young people from small cities or farming villages make their way to big cities to find work. Inhabiting the space between their old and new worlds, they find kinship and cultural affinity in online groups, forming subcultures that have emerged as alternatives to the mainstream. While this widens their network beyond their usual social circles, it has also spawned a form of online tribalism. How does this affect their worldviews and interactions online and offline? Wu Guo explores the topic.
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.