arsvitaest:

Guardian lions

Origin: China
Date:
18th century
Medium:
Porcelain
Location:
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Statues of guardian lions have traditionally stood in front of Chinese imperial palaces, imperial tombs, government offices, temples, and the homes of government officials and the wealthy, and were believed to have powerful protective benefits. They are also used in other artistic contexts, for example on door-knockers and in pottery.

The lions are usually depicted in pairs that consist of a male resting his paw upon an embroidered ball (in imperial contexts, representing supremacy over the world) and a female restraining a playful cub that is on its back (representing nurture).


globalpost:

After decades of peace, could China and Japan be on the brink of war?

Both China and Japan have long-held claims to the Japanese-administered islands — known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan. Tensions have intensified over the past year, and observers fear that a political or military misstep could rapidly escalate.

Over the weekend, China announced an air defense zone over the East China Sea, encompassing the disputed islands. The new policy would require airlines to give Chinese authorities their flight plans before entering the airspace designated by China.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the new policy ”escalates the situation and could lead to an unexpected occurrence of accidents in the airspace.”

The United States on Monday called China’s announcement “unnecessarily inflammatory.”

War between Japan and China is an accident waiting to happen

Photos via AFP/Getty Images


urbangeographies:

New China Cities: Shoddy Homes, Broken Hope

By Ian Johnson
HUAMING, China — Three years ago, the Shanghai World Expo featured this newly built town as a model for how China would move from being a land of farms to a land of cities. In a dazzling pavilion visited by more than a million people, visitors learned how farmers were being given a new life through a fair-and-square deal that did not cost them anything.
Today, Huaming may be an example of another transformation: the ghettoization of China’s new towns.
Signs of social dysfunction abound. Young people, who while away their days in Internet cafes or pool halls, say that only a small fraction of them have jobs. The elderly are forced to take menial work to make ends meet. Neighborhood and family structures have been damaged.
Most worrying are the suicides, which local residents say have become an all-too-familiar sign of despair.
As China pushes ahead with government-led urbanization, a program expected to be endorsed at a Communist Party Central Committee meeting that began Saturday, many worry that the scores of new housing developments here may face the same plight as postwar housing projects in Western countries. Meant to solve one problem, they may be creating a new set of troubles that could plague Chinese cities for generations… [Read more here]
Source:  New York Times, Nov. 10, 2013

urbangeographies:

New China Cities: Shoddy Homes, Broken Hope

By Ian Johnson

HUAMING, China — Three years ago, the Shanghai World Expo featured this newly built town as a model for how China would move from being a land of farms to a land of cities. In a dazzling pavilion visited by more than a million people, visitors learned how farmers were being given a new life through a fair-and-square deal that did not cost them anything.

Today, Huaming may be an example of another transformation: the ghettoization of China’s new towns.

Signs of social dysfunction abound. Young people, who while away their days in Internet cafes or pool halls, say that only a small fraction of them have jobs. The elderly are forced to take menial work to make ends meet. Neighborhood and family structures have been damaged.

Most worrying are the suicides, which local residents say have become an all-too-familiar sign of despair.

As China pushes ahead with government-led urbanization, a program expected to be endorsed at a Communist Party Central Committee meeting that began Saturday, many worry that the scores of new housing developments here may face the same plight as postwar housing projects in Western countries. Meant to solve one problem, they may be creating a new set of troubles that could plague Chinese cities for generations… [Read more here]

Source:  New York Times, Nov. 10, 2013


asianhistory:

Uyghur dance: Dolan meshripi (CCTV dance competition)

The Dolan people are grouped part of the Chinese Minority group known as Uyghurs. This piece is a part of a meshrep dance, performed at a CCTV dance competition. The meshrep is actually a longer, elaborate community gathering which displays music, dance, poetry, and conversation. The traditional Meshrep also falls under UNESCO’s Intangible World Heritage in Need of Safeguarding. 

Found among the Uygur people concentrated largely in China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Meshrep constitutes the most important cultural carrier of Uygur traditions. A complete Meshrep event includes a rich collection of traditions and performance arts, such as music, dance, drama, folk arts, acrobatics, oral literature, foodways and games. Uygur muqam is the most comprehensive art form included in the event, integrating song, dance and entertainment. Meshrep functions both as a ‘court’, where the host mediates conflicts and ensures the preservation of moral standards, and as a ‘classroom’, where people can learn about their traditional customs. Meshrep is mainly transmitted and inherited by hosts who understand its customs and cultural connotations, by the virtuoso performers who participate, and by all the Uygur people who attend. However, there are numerous factors endangering its viability, such as social changes resulting from urbanization and industrialization, the influence of national and foreign cultures, and the migration of young Uygur to cities for work. Frequency of occurrence and the number of participants are progressively diminishing, while the number of transmitters who understand the traditional rules and rich content of the event has sharply decreased from hundreds to tens.

- UNESCO

”.. the influence of national and foreign cultures” by which they mean The Eagles


Perhaps even more important than these tragic, violent outbursts is China’s larger ideological battle and how it affects the region. This week Xinjiang Daily applauded the “peace and happiness” of the Muslim holiday, but peace and happiness is all you’re ever likely to read about in a state-run paper, and some believe that China’s strict control over the media and freedom of speech in the region is to blame for much of the violence. China’s well-documented ability to ignore bad press in Xinjiang is alive and well, but Xinjiang is not immune to the wider media crackdown.

For example, over a hundred citizens were detained for “online rumors” in the region last week in China’s now notorious attack against free speech online. Authorities also confiscated 2 gigabytes worth of separatist e-books from a young farmer. Of course, compared to the 2009 security crackdown in the wake of the Urumqi riots that killed nearly 200 people, this is tame to say the least. Still, China is increasingly using broader and broader sweeps to round up malcontents. Two weeks ago, for instance, 100 Uyghurs were arrested in Yunnan province—far from Beijing’s restive western province—in order to nab seven possibly violent dissidents.


The land is only the size of a city block. But Ye Mao, an analyst with the China Real Estate information Center, says it’s a potential gold mine.

"If this land could be developed into a residential area, it would easily be among the most expensive properties in Shanghai," says Ye.

In 2005, a developer hired by the Xuhui government set fire to a house in Maggie Lane. The demolition crew was trying to scare people out of their homes. Instead, they burned an elderly couple alive in their bed. After that, the Xuhui government left the neighborhood alone.

Xie and her husband were among a handful of people who stayed. But all that changed this week. Now Xie, who suffers from colon cancer, and her husband Chen, have to find another home - much like tens of millions of others displaced by land grabs across China.

Beijing property lawyer Wang Cailiang says the problem is that GDP growth on the local level in China largely depends on the government seizing and then selling land.


In China, Xinhua, the official government news agency, said that as American politicians continued to flounder over a deal to break the impasse, “it is perhaps a good time for the befuddled world to start considering building a de-Americanised world”.

The jibe came as Christine Lagarde, the International Monetary Fund chief, raised the spectre of a repeat of the 2008 financial crash as hopes dwindled for a resolution of the crisis over the debt ceiling and partial government shutdown.

[…]

“If there is that degree of disruption, that lack of certainty, that lack of trust in the US signature, it would mean massive disruption the world over,” she told NBC’s Meet the Press programme . “And we would be at risk of tipping, yet again, into recession.”

Xinhua attacked America’s pre-eminent position in the world, adding that “such alarming days when the destinies of others are in the hands of a hypocritical nation have to be terminated”.


pulitzerfieldnotes:

A small convenience shop is located next door to the Buffalo Institute where we are staying in Bishan village. Every morning we walk over to buy vegetables to cook for breakfast. Hu Yongfeng, the shop owner, is a 61-year-old Bishan native. In the late 1990s, she opened one of the first private shops in the village, where villagers could buy fertilizer and farming tools. But even by that time the demand for farming supplies had already started to decline as villagers left to become migrant workers.

Large-scale farming has made farming less profitable for individual farmers across China, but the fast-expanding nearby towns provide Bishan villagers with a variety of opportunities to make money. While most Bishan locals still grow some rice every year, many households have stopped growing vegetables. In 2006, Hu started selling a small selection of vegetables in response to changing customer demand. As farming in the village continues to decline, her selection has grown. Today her shop also offers meat, eggs, tofu, baked goods, cigarettes, snacks and drinks.

Hu wakes up every morning at 4:30 to drive five miles to the Yixian county town market, where she buys fresh produce to sell in her shop. Today villagers are more dependent on buying food from the county town, or from village retailers like Hu in a complete reversal of the traditional supply-demand relationship between rural and urban areas.

Hu and her husband stopped farming completely in 2009. Hu’s family is relatively affluent in Bishan. On top of a daily revenue of over 1000 RMB from the convenience store, they also own two other businesses in Yixian county town: a curtain store and a truck transportation outfit, which Hu’s husband manages. Their son works as a deliveryman in nearby Huangshan city, and their daughter helps out in the curtain store. The couple often subsidize their children and grandchildren because it is difficult for the young families to sustain themselves on meager salaries in urban environments. But Hu doesn’t think the answer to this financial insecurity lies in a return to farming either. She told us, “In the future, nobody is going to farm in our village anymore. Our generation is farming less and less, and the next generation doesn’t farm at all. My children have never farmed in their lives, and they live in town. They don’t even know where in the field our farming land is located.”

— Pulitzer Center grantees Sun Yunfan and Leah Thompson. Images by Sun Yunfan (@eighthday on Instagram). China, 2013.

Images:

1. Hu Yongfeng (second from left) played on the Bishan village basketball team during the Cultural Revolution. (Yixian County Photo Archive)


2. Hu Yongfeng peeling edamame in her convenience shop in Bishan.


3. Vegetables on sale in Hu Yongfeng’s shop are all purchased from Yixian county market.


4. Yixian county market is located in the Yixian county town, approximately five miles away from Bishan village.

 


Faced with a proliferation of luxury housing and chain stores, America’s Chinatowns risk extinction as new immigrants are priced out of city centers, an advocacy group said Wednesday.

A study found that foreign-born residents have become a minority in the Chinatowns of New York, Boston and Philadelphia. The number of white residents has grown in all three neighborhoods since 1990 even as the white populations in all the cities as a whole declined.

"For many Asian Americans, Chinatown is an essential part of our heritage and history. But Chinatowns on the East Coast are on the verge of disappearing," said the report by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

City planners have contributed to Asian flight by encouraging high-end accommodation and outside retailers who have helped make the neighborhoods trendy, the study said.


It would be the biggest so called “land grab” agreement, where one country leases or sells land to another, in a trend that has been compared to the 19th century “scramble for Africa”, but which is now spreading to the vast and fertile plains of eastern Europe.

Under the 50-year plan, China would eventually control three million hectares, an area equivalent to Belgium or Massachusetts, which represents nine per cent of Ukraine’s arable land. Initially 100,000 hectares would be leased.


Erdemt is a 54-year-old former herder (who, like many Mongolians, only goes by one name), and as a shaman, he is considered an intermediary between the human and spiritual worlds. Although he is new to the role – he became a shaman in 2009 – thousands of people, all of them ethnically Mongolian, have visited so that he could decipher nightmares, proffer moral guidance and cure mysterious ills. His patients pay him as much as they wish.

Despite his success, Erdemt’s status as a shaman in China is uniquely precarious. He’s an emerging religious figure in an officially atheist state, an expression of ethnic pride amid roiling ethnic tensions, and an embodiment of the distant past in a rapidly changing present. His China is one of resource extraction, mass migration and cultural upheaval. It is a constant exercise in compromise and restraint.


lareviewofbooks:

Images © Tong Lam

The Ordos Dream
by Tong Lam

When travellers enter the terminal building of the Ordos airport, they immediately see a mural at the base of the ceiling featuring a smiling Genghis Khan, who seems to be welcoming them into his empire. The departure hall, which looks like a yurt, further conveys a sense of local history and culture as imagined or perhaps invented by its architects. This idea of Ordos being an all embracing, outward-looking, expansive, and ambitious Inner Mongolian city is equally prevalent in Ordos’s Kangbashi new district, an instant city that has been designed to showcase the region’s newfound wealth. 

The new Ordos city, while a very contemporary creation, incorporates many elements of imperial urban design. The city is made up of concentric circles. Cutting through it is a central artery, nearly 3 kilometers long and 200 meters wide, linking the municipal government complex at the one end and the financial district at the other. Meanwhile, the central plaza in front of the government complex (known as Genghis Khan Square, of course) is a vast space that is 1.6 kilometers long and 400 meters wide. At the center of it are two sets of gigantic statues with figures linked to stories of Genghis Khan’s birth and his heroic conquests. Then, further along the central axis, in addition to a library, a museum, a performing arts center, and a theater, there are additional statues of the Great Khan and known or imaginary figures and animals associated with his life and myth. 

To be sure, these monuments and statues do not merely articulate a sense of Mongolian heritage and pride. In some cases, their designers also try to emphasize the idea of ethnic harmony and reconciliation between different ethnic groups, especially between the Han and the Mongols. The celebration of China’s minority cultures in various cultural establishments here, as elsewhere in China, is done in a way that symbolically reinforces the political domination of the Han majority. Yet, just like China’s imperial past that constantly returns to haunt the present, there is something in Ordos’s urban design and architecture that seems to suggest a geopolitical vision that is greater than the People’s Republic or even the idea of China in general. Symmetrical, stately, grand, sublime, and uncannily empty, in its central district at least, Ordos looks more like the capital of an imaginary 21st century Mongol empire than just another prefecture-level city in a part of the PRC known as Inner Mongolia. Near the southeastern end of the central axis, there is even a theme park displaying sculptures from all over Asia, presented as if they were trophies of the Mongols’ imperial conquest.  These are leftover from an Asian sculpture exposition hosted by the city a few years ago, but their inclusion and placement near the core of the metropolis is telling. 

Nevertheless, whatever sense of an old type of “imperial” power urban planners of the new Ordos are trying to project, the overall effect is quite benign. While many of the statues and monuments have serious and dignified appearances, some, like gigantic statues that stand on a chessboard the size of half of a soccer field, are playful, humorous, and have a sort of postmodern feel to them. Even the happy Genghis Khan portrayed in the airport mural seems too friendly to be ferocious, which makes his imagined empire less formidable than the historical one he created was in its day. In the end, Ordos’s global outlook seems driven by touristic concerns rather than a renewed sense of imperial ambition. Still, one wonders to what degree the imperial fantasy revealed in the design of Ordos is an articulation of the desire for greatness that finds resonance with the central government’s recent discussion of the “Chinese Dream,” a cultural project that calls for a national renewal that will transform China into an all-round great power.