Language

The blooming Calophyllum blancoi. (Facebook/蔣勳)

Taiwanese art historian: Reflecting on the indigenous culture of Orchid Island

Catching sight of a rare native flower in bloom, art historian Chiang Hsun ponders beauty in diversity and the unique heritage of the indigenous people of Taiwan’s Orchid Island.
People walk at a shopping mall complex in Beijing, China, on 16 April 2022. (Jade Gao/AFP)

Why swear words derogating women have proliferated on the Chinese internet

The use of “national swear” (国骂) in the Chinese language has been a topic of discussion for the past century, with its derogatory nature towards women long known. From seemingly harmless insults to women’s intelligence to malicious debasing of female ancestors, why is the use of such language still prevalent on the internet today?
Wang Gungwu and Malaysia (2021). (Photo provided by Peter Chang)

Wang Gungwu and Malaysia: Building an intellectual bridge to China

Tracing the evolution of China’s development, Malaysian academic Peter T.C. Chang pays tribute to historian Wang Gungwu and his contributions to the study of Chinese overseas. Wang continues to play a major role in the field as a member of a pioneering class of bridge-building scholars who are adept at explaining China to the world, and the world to China. This is an edited version of the book chapter “A Pioneering Class of Bridge-Building Junzi” from the book Wang Gungwu and Malaysia (2021) published by the University of Malaya Press.
People take pictures of the Forbidden City after an overnight snowfall in Beijing, China, 22 January 2022. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

Fewer Chinese academics in the US will worsen US-China disconnect

With rising US-China tensions and American society’s dissatisfaction with China, as well as a shrinking higher education market, Chinese academics teaching China-related humanities subjects in the US and their already-marginalised departments and courses have been affected. US academic Wu Guo believes that the future generation’s understanding of the Chinese language and of China's culture and history will deteriorate as a result and worsen the disconnect between the US and China.
A delivery worker rides a vehicle pasts a JD.com advertisement with an image of freestyle skier Eileen Gu, at a bus stop in Beijing, China, 11 January 2022. (Tingshu Wang/Reuters)

How do you romanise a Chinese name? Gu Ailing, Eileen Gu or Ailing (Eileen) Gu?

Translation studies professor Xiao Weiqing muses that the media and the Chinese Olympic Committee must have taken great pains to standardise and romanise Chinese names in their coverage of the Winter Olympics.
Teo Han Wue's black-and-white print entitled Pan Shou's Calligraphy. (Photo: Teo Han Wue)

Must one read Chinese to appreciate Chinese calligraphy?

Teo Han Wue has always believed that one need not be literate in the Chinese language to appreciate calligraphy. He was heartened that many others seem to share his view, going by how well-received a photograph of Singaporean poet-calligrapher Pan Shou’s calligraphy was at his solo photography exhibition recently. Without him regaling them with tales of Pan Shou, they found their own delight appreciating this artform through an image of an image.
Jonathan Spence (1936-2021), master storyteller of Chinese history. (WeChat/玉茗堂前)

Jonathan Spence: A Western historian's search for modern China

Professor Jonathan Spence (1936-2021) was a prolific historian who deepened Western readers’ understanding of China’s history and culture through his artful mastery of narrative history grounded in rigorous research. From the inner world of Emperor Kangxi to Jesuit missionaries' voyage to China, to the plight of Chinese intellectuals and literati and the arduous mission of reform and opening up, Spence’s unique writing style brought to life the complex historical figures and events of China. Cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai, one of his earliest students, and translation academic Jackie Yan pay tribute to Spence and his contribution to the study of Chinese history through this preface to a collection of Spence's translated works published by the Guangxi Normal University Press.
People walk through wet streets after a morning snow storm in Manhattan on 7 January 2022 in New York City, US. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP)

Why the Americans know China better than the Chinese know the US

The belief that the Chinese know far more about America than Americans know about China is a misconception. In the age of globalisation and the internet, a knowledge asymmetry actually exists between the Chinese and the Americans — middle class Americans seem to have an understanding of Chinese culture, history and system based on rigorous academic research and analysis, but the Chinese lack the same level of understanding of the Americans. US academic Wu Guo shares his views on why the “knowledge deficit” exists in China.
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.