Chinese Corner

Full of Bean Curd

Tofu metaphors in Mandarin – by Liz Carter

Nothingburger. Pizza face. A bun in the oven. Food is ever present in our lives, nurturing us as well as our metaphorical expressions. It should come as no surprise that Chinese cuisine, with its different ingredients and techniques, has inspired very different spread of food metaphors. In particular, one category exists in Mandarin that is virtually absent in English: tofu quips.



China and Japan Face Off

Melissa Chan reviews Asia’s Reckoning by Richard McGregor

In 1945, two conferences at Yalta and Potsdam determined the post-war world order and set the terms for the surrenders of Germany and Japan, with the latter meeting setting an ultimatum for Tokyo, to which Japan did not respond. Four days later, the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Much can happen in seventy years, but few survivors of World War II might have predicted that in 2017, democracies would look expectantly to Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, as the best candidate for the leader of the free world. Nor would countries in Asia, ravaged by the Imperial Japanese Army, have imagined supporting Japan’s leadership as it moves forward on a regional trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which America abandoned.


Philosopher King

The classical philosophy that Xi Jinping ignores – by Sam Crane

In his first five-year term as General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party and President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping regularly cited classical Chinese philosophy in order to bolster his image as a man of learning and virtue. In May 2014, he implied his own rectitude by invoking Confucius in Analects 15.1 at a meeting of young people: “The noble man considers righteousness essential.” Although we’ve been hearing more Marxism in connection to Xi’s name of late, there is good reason to believe he will continue to reach for a neo-traditionalist brand of political legitimation over the next five years.

But his apparent erudition is selective. In the collection of his favorite quotations, Xi Jinping: How to Read Confucius and other Chinese Classical Thinkers (yes, that’s real), he cites Mencius – the next greatest ancient Confucian writer after Confucius himself – but overlooks this passage:

The people are the most important element in a nation; the spirits of the land and grain are the next; the sovereign is the least.

China History Podcast

Book of Ch-ch-ch-Changes

Part three in the History of Chinese Philosophy podcast series

Although covered before in an old China History Podcast episode, Laszlo takes the Yi Jing (I Ching, sometimes called the ‘Book of Changes’) off the shelf for a total makeover and freshening up. In this brief detour along the history timeline, Laszlo picks the Yi Jing apart and offers up both a history of this timeless classic as well as a brief intro about how it works and the role it plays in the life of some people. The Yi Jing is a book with a lot of staying power and has been kept as a handy reference guide for hundreds of millions of people over the millennia. Listen to what it's all about and see for yourself if the Yi Jing can serve you:

Hidden History

Changing the Guard

Jeremiah Jenne looks back on historical reactions to political change in China

Last month, China chose its leaders. As we all knew would happen anyway, Xi Jinping remained in the top job for another five years (and possibly will even longer, according to a few pundits), while the Politburo Standing Committee, the Chinese Communist Party’s “board of directors”, saw new faces as former members retired or were sent into political exile. Each new seat at the table represents the head of interlocking patronage networks with roots and tendrils spreading out from the center and down from the top, throughout the apparatus of Party and state.

Now is also the time for Zhongnanhai-ologists: The China watchers and journalists whose job it is to keep one eye fixed on the gates of the CCP leadership compound, a converted imperial park just to the west of the Forbidden City. Who’s in? Who’s out? What will this mean for the future?