Culture

A cluster of white azaleas. (Facebook/蔣勳)

Taiwanese art historian: The colour white in Chinese aesthetics and in life

If white could be a state of being, it would be yourself, says Chiang Hsun. Under light and shadow, its true shade sometimes becomes blurry, but it never loses its essence. With that confidence, white in art or in life also means negative space — the void that is at ease when it is not filled, the voice that gives itself the freedom to just be.
A man wearing a protective mask shops for decorations at a shopping mall ahead of the Lunar New Year, in Jakarta, Indonesia, 11 February 2021. (Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana/Reuters)

Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle's Lunar New Year celebration paid tribute to Megawati

PDI-P, the political party in Indonesia with the most Chinese parliamentarians and heads of local government held a virtual Lunar New Year party to usher in the Year of the Ox. Party members paid tribute to Ibu Megawati Sukarnoputri, general chairperson of the party and former Indonesian president. How did this party put itself forward as the strongest guardian of Chinese interests in Indonesia? Leo Suryadinata listens in.
People walk under traditional Chinese lanterns along an alley in Beijing on 9 February 2021, ahead the biggest holiday of the year, the Lunar New Year, which ushers in the Year of the Ox on 12 February. (Noel Celis/AFP)

China's massive north-south gap in the cultural and economic realms

Audience ratings of the CCTV New Year’s Gala give quite an accurate reflection of north-south divides, which judging by the latest economic information, are still very relevant in China today. Zaobao correspondent Yang Danxu casts a keen eye on the data.
A delicious bowl of Kunshan Aozao noodles. (WeChat/玉茗堂前)

A bowl of Suzhou noodles named by Emperor Qianlong

Cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai is lucky to have tried all ten of the most highly rated noodle dishes in China. Among them, Kunshan Aozao noodles from Suzhou stands out. Best consumed piping hot, this noodle soup served with smoked fish or braised duck leg is steeped in folklore.
A woman takes a photo of a plum tree in Fuzhou, Fujian province, China, 18 January 2021. (CNS)

Taiwanese art historian: A plum blossom and a Yuan dynasty painter’s fateful encounter

Chiang Hsun takes in a plum blossom’s sweet perfume, getting lost in reverie as he pictures Yuan dynasty painter Wang Mian in the lonely mountains seven hundred years ago, painting the masterpiece Plum Blossoms in Early Spring (《南枝春早》) under the tree in full bloom.
Staff of the Shanghai Book Company at an exhibition in 1965, Singapore. (Photo provided by Zhang Langhui)

How the Shanghai Book Company enlivened Singapore's cultural scene

In December 2020, family and friends of Shanghai Book Co Ltd produced a commemorative book of the now-defunct bookstore. Founded in 1925, Shanghai Book Co Ltd played a pivotal role in shaping the consciousness of Chinese-speaking Singaporeans in the 1950s. It was a meeting point of ideas and voices, not only from greater China, but within Southeast Asia. In fact, it had helped to nurture the budding interest of Chinese-speaking young students in Malay language and culture. Teo Han Wue recounts how this bookshop in North Bridge Road, easily stereotyped as Chinese-centric, became instead an emblem of openness and cultural diversity.
A stall selling Hokkien fried noodles in the 1950s, Singapore. The Chinese in Singapore were mainly emigrants from the Guangdong and Fujian provinces of China, and their food reflects the characteristics of their hometown. But fried Hokkien noodles is a dish unique to Singapore.

[Picture story] How Chinese food made its way all over the world

Chinese cuisine is far from the sweet and sour pork or fortune cookies found in the Chinatowns of the West. From the familiar flavours of Cantonese cuisine to the spicy notes in Sichuan fare and the clean flavours of Jiangsu cuisine, every taste has a place in the rich tapestry of China’s food heritage. Historical photo collector Hsu Chung-mao traces how the Chinese and their food — complete with an entire culture — travelled in history beyond Asia into the wider world.
Supporters of former US President Donald Trump hold flags and signs near Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, US, on 20 January 2021. (Saul Martinez/Bloomberg)

US Capitol siege: Lessons for China in a post-reality, post-truth era

Deep divisions in the US highlighted by the US presidential election and storming of the Capitol show that we are entering a post-reality, post-truth era. In such a world, closely cocooned online groups perpetuate a self-confirming bias and take fiction for fact. When strident positions are taken offline and “reality” and reality go head to head, is it a tragedy akin to China’s Cultural Revolution waiting to happen?
A pu-erh cake and cups of pu-erh tea. (iStock)

Pu-erh: The raw, the ripe and the Qing dynasty 'tribute tea' from Yunnan

Cheng Pei-kai recalls the mellow, earthy appeal of aged pu-erh, where tea leaves are compressed into cakes and left to ferment for decades to develop a complex flavour. Recently, he also got the chance to taste a young pu-erh — made with tea leaves from a tree that Qing dynasty soldiers used to guard and which was sent to the emperor as “tribute tea”, no less.