Language

People climb the Great Wall, illuminated to mark the first day of Mid-Autumn Festival and the Chinese National Day, in Beijing, China, 1 October 2020. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

Wang Gungwu: The high road to pluralist sinology

Professor Wang Gungwu, eminent historian and university professor of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the National University of Singapore, was awarded the 2020 Tang Prize in Sinology earlier this year. At the 2020 Tang Prize Masters’ Forums — Sinology held last month, Professor Wang traced the evolution of sinology in the West and East, observing that today, a “pluralist sinology” is emerging alongside a rising China. This allows for the term “sinologist” to be applied to a much larger group of scholars, and for the bringing together of various knowledge traditions and academic disciplines in the study of China. While there is much to be cheered by this, Professor Wang also urged his fellow scholars to be ready to “douse the fires that others had fanned”, as knowledge gathered by pluralist sinology could be used as a weapon amid intense rivalry between the US and China. This is the transcript of his speech. 
People walk in the tourist area surrounding Houhai Lake during Chinese National Day holidays in Beijing, China, 2 October 2020. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

The China story is not just about politics, Confucius and mooncakes

For China to spread its culture abroad successfully, the China story needs to be modernised, says Wu Guo. Ancient Chinese history and literature may be too daunting, while mooncakes and fan dances may be too superficial. People want to know what the Chinese man on the street thinks about, and what his culture of today is. Contemporary cultural products such as idol dramas and pop groups may do the trick, but so would down-to-earth insight into the lives of Chinese people. Often, just a peek into the everyday is enough to know we’re all not so different after all.
Demonstrators, holding signs with Mongolian script, protest against China's changes to school curriculums that remove Mongolian language from core subjects, outside the Mongolian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, 31 August 2020. (Anand Tumurtogoo/Reuters)

Inner Mongolia's new language policy: Will it endanger Mongolian culture and language?

Inner Mongolian students were told that they will be taught in Mandarin instead of the Mongolian language using national textbooks. This policy seems to be for the greater good of fostering national unity in China, but the implementation methods can certainly be better refined. Zaobao correspondent Edwin Ong examines the issue. 
Proverbs encapsulate profound life experiences and reveal a culture's thoughts and way of life. (iStock)

Proverbs and sayings: Understanding a culture's biases, thoughts and way of life

Proverbs and sayings are not just traditional phrases handed down from generation to generation, says cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai. Dissected, they reveal a culture’s biases, thoughts and way of life. Understanding a country’s proverbs is understanding the people that use them.
Imperial painter, Emperor Kangxi in his casual outfit at his writing desk (《康熙帝便装写字像》), partial, The Palace Museum. (Internet)

Beautiful or outdated? The journey of Chinese characters through the ages

Cheng Pei-kai reflects on what a blessing it is that Chinese characters have evolved yet stayed intact through the years and writers can still use them to create works of literature that stir the heart, mind and soul. The fact that Chinese characters work auditory and visual muscles all at once have more than a little to do with it.
Students in a Chinese language class in Indonesia.

Is Chinese language alive or dying in Indonesia?

In 1966, Indonesia banned the use of the Chinese language. The ban lasted 32 years, and led to up to two generations of Chinese Indonesians becoming completely assimilated. However, when the ban was lifted in 1998, there was an immediate rush to learn the Chinese language. But is that enthusiasm still there? Zaobao reporter Sim Tze Wei visits schools in Indonesia to find out more about the changes in Indonesia’s Chinese language education over the past 20 years.
Hong Kongers should be effectively bilingual, but the majority of university students are failing English, consistently getting the ‘D' and ‘E’ grades. What has become of university education in Hong Kong? (iStock)

Lost in translation: What has become of university education in Hong Kong?

When cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai is tasked to use the English language to teach Chinese literature to Hong Kong students, he questions if it is all a ploy to help students improve their standard of English. Such a shame it is then, how gems of China’s precious literary and cultural heritage are withered away in every nuance lost in translation.
Our ThinkChina writer So Cheer is no longer lost in translation in China.

Lost in translation - Trans-lost-ation!

Digital transformation expert Kwek So Cheer was confident in his grasp of the Chinese language - until his work brought him to China in 2012.