The Myth of China's Super Schools China had all the elements necessary for an industrial revolution at least four hundred years before Great Britain, but keju diverted scholars, geniuses, and thinkers away from the study or exploration of modern science. The examination system, Zhao holds, was designed to reward obedience, conformity, compliance, respect for order, and homogeneous thinking; for this reason, it purposefully supported Confucian orthodoxy and imperial order. It was an efficient means of authoritarian social control. Everyone wanted to succeed on the highly competitive exams, but few did. Success on the keju enforced orthodoxy, not innovation or dissent. As Zhao writes, emperors came and went, but China had “no Renaissance, no Enlightenment, no Industrial Revolution.” [more inside]
Kat Chow, with NPR's Code Switch, put together a short piece on the history and the prevalence of the well-known nine note "stereotypical Asian theme." As described in a 2005 Straight Dope forum question: You know, the one that goes dee dee dee dee duh duh dee dee duh. Featured heavily in braindead Hollywood flicks made by clueless directors who want to give a scene an "oriental" feel. Also a variation of it can be heard in David Bowie's "China Girl." [more inside]
J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, managing culinary director at food blog Serious Eats, recently took an extended trip to China and southeast Asia with his wife, Adri, after driving across the country during a move from New York to San Francisco. He documented his Asia trip on a personal blog set up to elude Chinese censors. [more inside]
The Art of Shen Ku is a rambling, eccentric website displaying pages of an illustrated instructional book of the same name. The site is roughly divided into four topics: Traveller, Physician, Sailor, and Martial Artist. It features heavily notated illustrations that demonstrate everything from using healthy breathing techniques and using aloe vera to learning martial art hand strikes, avoiding shark attacks, making survival shelters, and navigating. The author, Zeek, seems to be a sailor who spent much time in Asia. [more inside]
Westerners are so convinced China is a dystopian hellscape they’ll share anything that confirms it. [more inside]
How the north ended up on top of the map is an article by Nick Danforth, author/curator of (The/Mid) Afternoon Map blog, detailing how the north-up orientation came to be the default orientation, looking beyond Eurocentrism to Byzantine monks and Majorcan Jews who set the path for modern cartography. If you want more information, you might enjoy the Wikipedia article on the history of cartography, or you can really dig deep with the three-volume text, The History of Cartography, which is available in full from the University of Chicago Press online, split into individual PDFs for each chapter. [more inside]
"Life-long Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev has suggested changing his country's name to make it friendlier to investors and tourists. It's obviously a little silly to change your country's name for marketing purposes. But there may be more meaningful reasons for the country to change its name..." An interesting perspective from Max Fisher at the Washington Post.
Over the course of nearly 20 centuries, millions of East Africans crossed the Indian Ocean and its several seas and adjoining bodies of water in their journey to distant lands, from Arabia and Iraq to India and Sri Lanka. Called Kaffir, Siddi, Habshi, or Zanji, these men, women and children from Sudan in the north to Mozambique in the south Africanized the Indian Ocean world and helped shape the societies they entered and made their own. Free or enslaved, soldiers, servants, sailors, merchants, mystics, musicians, commanders, nurses, or founders of dynasties, they contributed their cultures, talents, skills and labor to their new world, as millions of their descendants continue to do. Yet, their heroic odyssey remains little known. The African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean World traces a truly unique and fascinating story of struggles and achievements across a variety of societies, cultures, religions, languages and times.
Japan and other Asian countries have moved from SMS to smart phone messaging apps, with great success for all.
Why Japanese Web Design Is So… Different... If you've ever visited a Japanese website, it's a little like time traveling back to 1998. Randomwire explains some of the reasons why.
Why I Stay Closeted In Asia (SLBF)
I denied it, as my father and sister begged me to.
I couldn't exaggerate to you how much my mother's face lit up, or how much I wanted, for a shameful second, for my lie to be true. I began to tell her a story, got into the groove, told it with what could be called pizzazz, or maybe just mercy. A monthlong fling with a Korean girl became a year ("I liked her; she had a cocaine problem"). Immediately she laughed with relief.
"I wouldn't know how to deal if you were, you know, that" she said.
In 2011, American alpinist (twice the winner of the prestigious Piolets d'Or award) and coffee shop owner Kyle Dempster, went on a two-month solo biking and climbing odyssey in Kyrgyzstan. He took a video camera with him and the video he shot from his two months was edited to form The Road to Karakol.
A Deadly Triangle - the proxy war in Afghanistan
As a companion to his fascinating Raffles and the British Invasion of Java, Tim Hannigan has a blog — Footnotes and Sidelights from the Story of the British Interregnum in Java, wherein he shares interesting stories that could not find space in the published book. [more inside]
Can non-Europeans think? So the question remains why not the dignity of "philosophy" and whence the anthropological curiosity of "ethnophilosophy"?
"To the world of today the men of medieval Christendom already seem remote and unfamiliar. Their names and deeds are recorded in our history-books, their monuments still adorn our cities, but our kinship with them is a thing unreal, which costs an effort of imagination. How much more must this apply to the great Islamic civilization, that stood over against medieval Europe, menacing its existence and yet linked to it by a hundred ties that even war and fear could not sever. Its monuments too abide, for those who may have the fortunate to visit them, but its men and manners are to most of us utterly unknown, or dimly conceived in the romantic image of the Arabian Nights. Even for the specialist it is difficult to reconstruct their lives and see them as they were. Histories and biographies there are in quantity, but the historians for all their picturesque details, seldom show the ability to select the essential and to give their figures that touch of the intimate which makes them live again for the reader. It is in this faculty that Ibn Battuta excels." Thus begins the book, "Ibn Battuta, Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354" published by Routledge and Kegan Paul. Step into the world of "the first tourist" who made his mark as the world's greatest traveler before the age of steam. [more inside]
Back in 1999, Wandering Earl left home for a three month trip to Asia that still hasn't ended. As a permanent nomad, Earl's aim is to demonstrate that long-term travel is not a crazy fantasy, but a very real lifestyle option instead. Find out where Earl is now, and where he's been on his blog. [more inside]
The ruins of empire: Asia's emergence from western imperialism Moreover, a narcissistic history – one obsessed with western ideals, achievements, failures and challenges – can only retard a useful understanding of the world today. For most people in Europe and America, the history of the present is still largely defined by victories in the second world war and the long standoff with Soviet communism, even though the central event of the modern era, for a majority of the world's population, is the intellectual and political awakening of Asia and its emergence, still incomplete, from the ruins of both Asian and European empires. The much-heralded shift of power from the west to the east may or may not happen. But only neo-imperialist dead-enders will deny that we have edged closer to the cosmopolitan future the first generation of modern Asian thinkers, writers and leaders dreamed of – in which people from different parts of the world meet as equals rather than as masters and slaves, and no one needs to shoot elephants to confirm their supremacy.
Three years ago, Phil Jablon (aka The Projectionist) started a concerted effort to start documenting the rapidly-vanishing stand-alone movie theaters and former theaters in Southeast Asia. Today his website, The Southeast Asia Movie Theater Project is a historian and movie-theater lover's dream. Jablon has captured the faded, the lost, the torched, the almost lost, the repurposed, the reborn, and the unbounded. [more inside]
One Minute Vacation is a short video of a two month trip to Asia cut together from one-second-per-day segments which creates a fantastic context-free moving snapshot of the locations and people. [slyt] [via]
Galleries of old photographs of camels in America, Australia, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, China, Mongolia and India, in war | camel breeds | How the Camel Got His Hump from Camel Tales, Folklore & Legends| baby camels and lots more at this one stop site all about Camels. Previously.
Pascal Ken, after taking several trips to Japan between 2007 and 2011, took some beautiful, dreamlike infrared photos of Tokyo.
We Japanese Americans must not forget our wartime internment - George Takei on the the treatment of Japanese-Americans during WWII and Allegiance, his new musical. Previously.
Life Without Lights Energy Poverty Photography.
NYTimes warns: Do not eat slugs! A 21-year old Australian man is seriously ill after ingesting two garden slugs on a dare. The causative organism is Angiostrongylus cantonensis which leads to eosinophilic meningitis. [more inside]
The Battle Over Zomia. "Scholars are enchanted by the notion of this anarchistic region in Asia. But how real is it?" [Previously]
Hiring young women to strip at a funeral ceremony might strike some as scandalous, but for many in Taiwan it is an important part of the grieving process.
Fast food in South India is fast | in Thailand iced tea is really cool | in Sri Lanka tea is cooled with dramatic effect | in Delhi the bread is made fast too | in Calcutta it puffs up magically | tea serenely | singly | or two at a time | in China tea is served with a long spout, acrobatically. [more inside]
"Over the past few decades, 160 million women have vanished from East and South Asia — or, to be more accurate, they were never born at all. Throughout the region, the practice of sex selection — prenatal sex screening followed by selective termination of pregnancies — has yielded a generation packed with boys. From a normal level of 105 boys to 100 girls, the ratio has shifted to 120, 150, and, in some cases, nearly 200 boys born for every 100 girls. In some countries, like South Korea, ratios spiked and are now returning to normal. But sex selection is on the rise in Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East." American journalist Mara Hvistendahl's new book: "Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men," examines and tries to predict the actual and potential effects of unequal sex ratios on men, women and the social economies of the affected regions, including the recent spike in sex trafficking and bride-buying across Asia. More. [more inside]
Old Hong Kong/Macau clips 1949-1989 by Michael Rogge, now 81, who was stationed in Hong Kong and Japan. He documented his life in photos and 16mm film, clips on YT | his YouTube channel | Old Japan in 1870 Engravings. Taken from a Dutch magazine 'De aarde en haar volken' of 1875. Engravings done by French artists. | Old JAPAN in 1869 in engravings French engravings, part of a travelogue, picture a weird Japan. Pictures appeared in Dutch magazine 'De Aarde en haar Volken' of 1869 and were engraved by French artists. [more inside]
Welcome to Gernot Katzer’s Spice Pages On these pages, I present solid information on (currently) 117 different spice plants. Emphasis is on their usage in ethnic cuisines, particularly in Asia; furthermore, I discuss their history, chemical constituents, and the etymology of their names. Last but not least, there are numerous photos featuring the live plants or the dried spices.
The other places are like kindergartens compared with this. It smells so incredibly evil! I didn't think such a place existed except in my own imagination. It has a ghastly familiarity like a half-remembered dream. *Anything* could happen here... any moment... Pauline Kael called it "hilariously, awesomely terrible". Others consider it "a forgotten gem of a film that set the gold standard for noir films to come". It was Josef von Sternberg's last major film - The Shanghai Gesture (1941). (parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
Chen has a daily routine—waking up at 3am, she makes her way to the vegetable wholesaler and sets up her stall, which she tends till seven or eight in the evening. The first to arrive in the dark, damp market and the last to leave, other stall-owners have fondly nicknamed her ‘market manager.’ Chen holds the stall her father left her dearly. Yuan-Jin Vegetables is her everything. Selling at “a bundle for 30 dollars*, three bundles for 50,” Chen earns only marginal profits. Yet, her frugality has allowed her to donate about NT$10 million (nearly Rs1.5 crore) [approx. US$330,000] towards various charitable causes, including helping schools, orphanages and poor children.
The newest and most exclusive residential tower for this city’s superrich is a cantilevered sheath of steel and glass soaring 27 floors into the sky. The parking garage fills six levels. Three helipads are on the roof. There are terraces upon terraces, airborne swimming pools and hanging gardens in a Blade Runner-meets-Babylon edifice overlooking India’s most dynamic city. There are nine elevators, a spa, a 50-seat theater and a grand ballroom. Hundreds of servants and staff are expected to work inside. And now, finally, after several years of planning and construction, the residents are about to move in. All five of them. [more inside]
Bollywood Radio, the classics l Top 40 Countdown, news, interviews, talk about the music scene in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam l Bonus links: Indian classical music on Radio Live365 and more.
Vincent Lexington Harper compiled the world's largest collection of digitally restored pinups from the 1920s and 30s in the Old Orient Museum. [more inside]
đẹp khoe, xấu che, or “show the good, hide the bad” - from the inaugural issue of the Trans Asia Photography Review. [more inside]
Hans Rosling, who helped usher in TED talks way back when using stunning visuals, envisions how the world will look in 50 years as global population grows to 9 billion. To check further population growth, which might have disastrous consequences, he exhorts us to raise the living standards of the poorest. [more inside]
Motorcycle modification means something entirely different across the developing world. You can deliver cold drinks, cargo, one person, three or even more with a special sidecar. You can cook hot food and sell it. Or critically, you can quickly transport someone in need of emergency medical care when roads are bad and facilities remote. They're supported by roadside repair shops, tyre shacks, petrol pumps and more. Bonus FTW
Star forts from above (Google Maps links): Alba Iulia, Arad Fortress, Almeida, Bourtrange, Coevorden, Estremoz, Goryōkaku, Naarden, Neuf Brisach, Nicosia, Palmanova, Retranchement, Terezín, Willemstad. More.
Joeurt Puk (aka Joe Cook) is the father of Cambodian baseball. In this feature by ESPN, Patrick Hruby looks into Cook's background and finds that Cook may not be the tireless philanthropist he claims to be. [more inside]
Asia Snapshots "is a blog that examines topics in Asia through the perspectives of interesting people interviewed by a group of bloggers in Mainland China, Vietnam, Taiwan, and more." Meet Gao Qingrong and family, who along with seven other households are part of an organic farm co-op in Anlong Village, Sichuan. Or there's the tale of how one of the bloggers met Jun Jun, a male prostitute in Beijing; an encounter with Silang Laji, a road maintenance worker in Kham, a Tibetan region of China; and Gege, an enterprising journalist in Chengdu.Via
87 percent are illiterate. 44 years is their average life expectancy. 70 to 80 percent face forced marriages.
Rediscovering Central Asia is an article by historian and archaeologist S. Frederick Starr, about the Islamic Central Asian intellectual flowering between 800 and 1100, when scientists like Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and al-Biruni debated such questions as the existence of other solar systems and whether god created the animals. Starr then traces Central Asia's slide in influence and power. The last great Central Asian empire was that of Timur, known in the West as Tamerlane the Great, who ruled from 1370-1405. One of the great early works of Spanish literature was the travel account of Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo, ambassador of Spain to Timur's court, which can be read in full on Google Books or downloaded as a pdf.
An exposé of the world's most notorious wildlife dealer, his special government friend, and his ambitious new plan. [more inside]