Culture

Commuters ride on a subway in Beijing, China, on 16 October 2021. (Noel Celis/AFP)

A Singaporean in China: Bumping into kind souls on buses and trains

On her frequent explorations of the city with her son in tow, former journalist Jessie Tan now based in Beijing is grateful for the little kindnesses shown to her by fellow commuters. She did not know what to expect when she first arrived in the city, and truth be told, there were some preconceived notions, but a year’s worth of help from strangers has her convinced that she walks the streets of a civilised city.
A woman walks past a tree on a street in Beijing on 23 November 2021. (Jade Gao/AFP)

Cultural historian: How the art of flattery in ancient China has endured the test of time

A young teacher is disillusioned by the instances of pai ma pi (lit. patting a horse’s butt) he sees at work. Cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai, who has seen some of such behaviour in academia, commiserates with him, noting that the practice of flattery and fawning over higher-ups has a place in Chinese history. Generations of ancients indulged in such behaviour, sometimes for survival and sometimes to get ahead. Centuries of practice later, they became very good at it indeed.
Compared with its opening, passenger flow to Shibati has reduced. (Photo: Edwin Ong)

Preservation of Chongqing’s oldest central business district: Success or failure?

Reviews have been mixed after Shibati, Chongqing’s oldest central business district, reopened to great fanfare recently. Some were glad that the former messy, dilapidated quarter has been refreshed, while others feel that it has been turned into another “ancient street”, devoid of a sense of its rich history and heritage. Where should the fine balance be, in the preservation of tangible heritage, when multiple stakeholders and business interests are involved?
A digital recreation of the painting Along the River During the Qingming Festival (清明上河图, Qingming Shanghe Tu) is seen on display at the exhibition, A Moving Masterpiece: The Song Dynasty As Living Art, at the Singapore Expo Convention and Exhibition Centre, Singapore. (SPH)

Copying is a virtue in Chinese ink painting

Temporary orders to halt the KAWS public art installation exhibition led Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre CEO Low Sze Wee to ponder the copyright issues of Chinese ink paintings. He notes that many of Singapore’s first-generation artists like Chen Wen Hsi and Fan Chang Tien were educated in Shanghai in the 1920s and were deeply influenced by the Shanghai School. Copying was a common mode of learning, and students like Henri Chen Kezhan and Chua Ek Kay did their best to copy the works of their teachers. While they eventually developed their own styles over time, Low says it could be argued that their achievements were made possible by their formative years spent on copying.
This aerial picture taken on 16 October 2021 shows trucks loaded with coal waiting near Gants Mod port at the Chinese border with Gashuun Sukhait, in Umnugovi province, in Mongolia. (Uugansukh Byamba/AFP)

Between a rock and a hard place: Mongolia’s ambivalent relations with China

Sandwiched between Russia to the north and China to the south, landlocked Mongolia has always had tough choices to make in its foreign policy strategies. Towards China, which it used to be a part of and continues to share kinship ties with the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia, it harbours historical suspicion. But with China being its top export destination and key investment partner, the head may rule the heart.
Renowned Chinese philosopher Li Zehou. (Weibo)

Growing up (and old) with Chinese philosopher Li Zehou

Think of how the switching between languages, cultures and epistemologies can itself be an integral part of reading and writing, and extend this to a thinker’s broadest philosophical opus, in concepts, articulations and communications — that is the work of Chinese philosophy great Li Zehou (1930-2021), says former Singapore Art Museum director, Kwok Kian Chow.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and his wife, Peng Liyuan. (Internet)

Chinese local government’s two-day seminar on ‘first lady diplomacy’ backfires

A congratulatory letter by Peng Liyuan, spouse of Chinese President Xi Jinping, on the inauguration of the new Tianjin Juilliard School may have been viewed as a warm gesture if it was allowed to stay as such. Instead, Tianjin officials organised a two-day seminar and forum urging participants to “learn from the Peng Liyuan spirit”, which ended up drawing flak. A case of less is more?
Paramilitary police officers keep watch as people climb the Great Wall of China in Beijing, China, 1 October 2021. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

Wang Gungwu: China, ASEAN and the new Maritime Silk Road

Professor Wang Gungwu was a keynote speaker at the webinar titled “The New Maritime Silk Road: China and ASEAN” organised by the Academy of Professors Malaysia. He reminds us that a sense of region was never a given for Southeast Asia; trade tied different peoples from land and sea together but it was really the former imperial masters and the US who made the region “real”. Western powers have remained interested in Southeast Asia through the years, as they had created the Southeast Asia concept and even ASEAN. On the other hand, China was never very much interested in the seas or countries to its south; this was until it realised during the Cold War that Southeast Asia and ASEAN had agency and could help China balance its needs in the maritime sphere amid the US's persistent dominance. The Belt and Road Initiative reflects China’s worldview and the way it is maintaining its global networks to survive and thrive in a new era. This is an edited transcript of Professor Wang’s speech.
This picture taken on 2 September 2021 shows a women looking at movie advertisements at a cinema in Hong Kong. (Isaac Lawrence/AFP)

From Hong Kong movies to Greater Bay Area movies: A new Hollywood of the East in making?

Over the past two years, the nine cities (Dongguan, Foshan, Guangzhou, Huizhou, Jiangmen, Shenzhen, Zhaoqing, Zhongshan and Zhuhai) and two special administrative regions (Hong Kong and Macau) of the Greater Bay Area (GBA) have ramped up efforts and combined resources to build a credible GBA Chinese film industry. The authorities aim to leverage the experience and expertise of the Hong Kong film and television industry in its heyday in creating a new paradigm for future Chinese movies. Indeed, many Hong Kong directors such as Tsui Hark have joined the ranks of those who are making this a reality. Zaobao journalist Zeng Shi notes that the GBA has policy support and capital, but can this nascent film industry make good productions and develop a strong identity of its own?