Confucius Institutes – A Chinese tool for soft power or a scapegoat for the West?
Confucius Institutes have been discussed in Western media in varying degrees of intensity over the last couple of decades. They have been subject to criticism for being tools of Chinese soft power and have been labeled as a threat to academic and individual freedom in different countries. But what are Confucius Institutes exactly, and how should we address them?
The origin of traditional culture may more often than not be assumed to have a natural origin that is taken for granted. But where do they come from and how is it that these are chosen to represent the authentic within any given culture. Might our concept of the traditional be a construct made in a different time and place than that in which it represents, and are there any clear cut border to these?
The revival of Sento culture in Japan
Japan has cultivated a unique culture of enjoying taking public baths, called sento. Facing the current sharp decline of sento throughout the country, young people are trying to rediscover its significant values and revive it in a new form that meets contemporary social needs.
The peculiar hype around ‘ugly’ buildings in China
Extravagant architectural structures attract attention in many ways. They can either evoke admiration, prestige and beauty, or they can cause outrage, irritation or ridicule. While the concept of beauty in building design depends on individual taste and local context, China struggles with what is generally considered ‘ugly’ architecture - prompting discussions of vanity, regulation and the emergence of a new self-consciousness in architectural spheres.
Khao San Road and the historical development of one of Bangkok’s most famous streets
Thanon Khao San road may be Southeast Asia's most famous street. Known as backpackers paradise, hundreds of thousands tourists visit the street each year. While you may not be able to visit Thanon Khao San at the moment, join us on a journey to see how the street became a tourist mecca.
WILL THE TRADITION OF CHUSEOK SURVIVE?
Ask any Korean person which holiday defines their national identity the best and they’ll likely answer “Chuseok”. Yet the central role of Chuseok is now challenged among younger generations. The cultural ancestral traditions are in tension with new values in rapidly modernizing Korean society, provoking a clash of generations.
Exploring and feeling Japan through the camera lens: interview with street photographer Marianna Berno
A place is never simply “a place”; it is a mix of optical effects and emotions that differ in every single individual that visits it. Many are the forms of art that help humans capture the subjectivity of reality, but photography definitely has that extra bit that allows the viewer to really immerse in the artist’s emotional sphere. To say that is Marianna Berno, a street photographer that explored Japan through the lens of her camera and captured the nostalgic quotidianity of its people. Ready to re-discover Japan through a new and exceptional angle?
Women in spotlight: Japan's pop culture casualties
From losing control over life choices to excessive stalking and abuse, Japan’s idol culture has left women who participate in it incredibly vulnerable. Follow the history of Japan’s idol culture to learn how this glittering industry has lefts its stars alone. The shimmering lights of Japan’s entertainment industry have placed women in increasingly dangerous positions without any support.
Gamcheon Culture Village in Busan
One of Busan’s hottest tourist spots, Gamcheon Culture Village, is characterised by its colourful small houses layered in a labyrinth of narrow streets and stairs, as the town lies on the side of the Cheonmasan Mountain. Emblazoned with dozens of various artwork, from statues to murals, “The Machu Picchu of Busan” reminds its visitors of Latin America’s favelas. In 2019, more than three million people visited the town. Here is Gamcheon’s regeneration story.
The Subtle Humanity of Yazujiro Ozu
The East Asian movie scene is slowly gaining worldwide recognition, but there are lots of older films from the region worthy of your time too. One of the most acclaimed and important Japanese directors is Yazujirō Ozu, active mainly in the late 40’s and 50’s.
Sustainable and fair trade Indonesian chocolate
Chocolate is an irresistible treat that is well-loved around the world. As a chocolate lover, baker, and cookbook author, it became important for me to know the origins of chocolate. While doing research, I discovered that Indonesia is the world’s third-biggest exporter of cacao. Furthermore, the movement of having sustainable farming practices within the cacao industry has been gaining a lot of traction in the last decade.
A Flower in the Shade: the History of Horimono
The growing arrival of tattooed tourists to Japan is profoundly influencing the way in which Japanese society perceives them. Therefore, granting horimono an opportunity to detach from the negative connotations that it has carried since the 19th century, and to be re-interpreted as an important element of Japanese cultural heritage. It is said that ‘the world is divided into two types of people: those who have tattoos, and those who are afraid of people with tattoos’. To which group do you belong?
Remembering Fukushima: if only radiation had color
Ten years have passed since Japan’s triple disaster: a 9.1 magnitude earthquake, 10-meter-plus high tsunami waves, and level 7 meltdowns of three nuclear reactors at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The immediate outcome was catastrophic, and many people’s lives are still affected. Once more, art has proven its therapeutic effect by offering people a space to mourn, to cry, to revolt, and finally, to hope.
How much is my love worth to you?
The Lunar New Year officially began two days ago—and yet another celebration is taking place today. While Lunar New Year is a holiday for family and friends, Valentine’s Day is a holiday for lovers. The style of celebration, however, differs slightly depending on where it is held. This time, let’s focus on how Valentine's Day is celebrated in Japan and what products are demanded by the Japanese market during this romantic consumption day.
What a “fika” looks like in Singapore
Like Sweden, there is a distinct coffee culture in the Southeast Asian region that begets a daily ritual in Singapore and Malaysia known as “kopitiam”. The word “kopi” is an Indonesian and Malay word for coffee. “Tiam” is the word for shop in Hokkien or Hakka Chinese dialect. The coffee is usually drunk at “kopitiam” or “kopi tiam” places with something to eat, just like a Swedish fika.
Chinese science fiction: The final frontier?
Space travel and technological greatness, mind-controlled sharks, grotesque images of human degeneration and excessive capitalist development, intergalactic warfare, and the limits of human morality. These are the images Chinese science-fiction has portrayed in one of the country’s most vibrant contemporary literary genres. Its continuing mission: to reflect on the new frontiers of fear and uncertainty, and boldly go where no man has gone before.
That time of the year: Christmas 2020 Special
When disharmony creates harmony
Pleasing ancient royal courts, calming stressed minds and inspiring experimental compositions by Claude Debussy and metal bands — the list of creative uses and reuses of Indonesian gamelan music seems endless. Its versatility does not come by surprise as nearly two millennia left their traces on this ancient musical genre. What constitutes its popularity and admiration, or its unique sound, takes you on a journey of musical theory, colonial history and spiritual customs.
Developments in Postmodernist Chinese Art
From the 1960s onwards, China went through a series of historically important events. As history goes hand in hand with art, events such as the Cultural Revolution and the Tiananmen Square student-led protests caused changes in the creation and perception of art. After the transition to postmodernism occurred, Chinese art was marked by a radical change from naive idealisation of Western democratic values, to a more reflexive attitude towards the West and its own self-identity.
“Excuse me, do you only sell ceramics here?”
Small enterprise clusters in the sub-rural areas of Vietnam surprise with their seemingly counterintuitive but lucrative business logic. Unique skills, symbiotic collaboration patterns and market dynamics have often developed over centuries. But the face of clusters such as Bát Tràng ceramics village is changing, now more than ever in the light of resource exploitation, COVID-19 and the advent of technology.
Don’t bite it! It’s fake food!
The Japanese culinary experience starts way before food is served. It usually starts with perfectly made food replicas that invite passers-by to stop by and give a try to those mouth-watering dishes. Creating food replicas, however, is more complicated than it seems. Hours and hours of hard work and precision lay behind what appears to be an easy task at first sight.