Language

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.
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.
People wearing traditional Chinese costumes walk outside the Forbidden City during China's national day in Beijing, China, on 1 October 2021. (Jade Gao/AFP)

US academic: Learning Chinese is another political battleground for China and the US

Harvard University recently announced that it would be relocating its Chinese language summer programme from Beijing to Taiwan. Wu Guo notes the irony that while mainland China has been accused of using Confucius Institutes as propaganda vehicles, Taiwan doesn’t come under similar suspicion as it moves in to fill the gap for Chinese language teaching. Under the current tense milieu, can learning the Chinese language ever be simply just that?
People cross a road in the Central district of Hong Kong on 25 October 2021. (Isaac Lawrence/AFP)

It may soon be illegal to discriminate against mainland Chinese in Hong Kong

With a strong push by the pro-establishment camp, the Hong Kong government has made a breakthrough in legislative efforts against discrimination against mainlanders. But negative feelings did not happen overnight. With increasing mainland arrivals over the years, Hong Kongers have been feeling that their space, rights and even property are being encroached upon. Without solving the underlying issues, will legislation improve the situation much?
The Chinese community in Singapore has developed in a way that is unique to its time and place. (SPH)

Trees in a forest: Becoming Chinese Singaporean in multicultural Singapore

A metaphor used by playwright Kuo Pao Kun and recently mentioned by Finance Minister Lawrence Wong says that different cultural communities are trees in the forest, each separated at the trunk, but nourished by the same soil and cross-pollinating high in the sky at the leaves and branches. Low Sze Wee, CEO of the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre, extends the metaphor, noting that Chinese Singaporeans have developed distinct cultural identities from Chinese elsewhere. Their way of life is a combination of what they brought with them, their interactions with others, and the policies they live under with their fellow citizens.
My English teacher taught me that one had to change their usual ways of expression when learning a foreign language. (iStock)

Cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai: My English teacher called me Pei-kai Cheng

Unlike the rote-learning of today, cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai remembers his English classes to be fun-filled vocabulary “battles” and games. He credits his teacher, Mr Fu Zhou, for teaching his students not to fear a new language but to get comfortable with it, like wearing a second skin.
This picture taken during a government organised media tour shows a seller holding a portrait of the Chinese President Xi Jinping next to pictures of the former Chinese leader Mao Zedong at Dongfanghong Theatre in Yan'an, the headquarters of the Chinese Communist Party from 1936 to 1947, in Shaanxi province on 10 May 2021. (Hector Retamal/AFP)

From ‘wolf warrior diplomacy’ to ‘lovable China’

At a study session on international communications for the Chinese Communist Party, Chinese President Xi Jinping called on China to build an image of a “credible, lovable and respectable China”. Putting aside the euphemism, says Zaobao associate editor Han Yong Hong, what is most important is how the goal can possibly be achieved in China’s current diplomatic context.
A good understanding of the Chinese language must begin with an appreciation of the importance of its writing system. (iStock)

How the 'tree' of Chinese writing united dialects, culture and people through the millennia

From the oracle bone scripts of the past to the Modern Standard Chinese script of the present, the written Chinese language is pictorial and highly evocative. What’s more, its unchanging nature gives it the power to preserve the unity of Chinese culture. While regional dialects vary, the written script remains the same. Teo Han Wue explores the characteristics of and philosophy behind the Chinese writing system.
Tourists taking photos in front of a statue of Deng Xiaoping in Lianhuashan Park, Shenzhen, China. (iStock)

Was Deng Xiaoping Hakka?

The Hakka people, or “guest people”, are Han Chinese who were mostly northerners that migrated to the south of China to provinces such as Fujian, Guangdong and Sichuan. Some say that a common heritage and language, more than a specific region ties them together. Deng Xiaoping from Guang’an, Sichuan was not known to be one of the Hakka people, but arguable bits of history point otherwise, and some continue to insist on his Hakka ancestry.