One of my earliest memories of classical dance was watching Mikhail Baryshnikov in White Nights brazenly win a bet with 11 consecutive pirouettes. The raw beauty and heroism of the moment stayed with me. But nothing compared to what I witnessed in New York for my first glimpse of classical Chinese dance.Read More
Filtering by Category: Culture
Tales of noble kings, daring robberies, and talking trees.Read More
A glimpse into Mademoiselle Chanel’s iconic Rue Cambon apartment, the things she loved, and the power of symbols that inspired a world of couture.Read More
We take a look at polo’s majestic past and present.Read More
Chinese culture is famous for reaching beyond the surface dimension — an exploration in meaning, virtue and lifestyle often forgotten today. But patrons of Taste of Life’s cultural trip — The Chinese Utopia — were given the gift of time travel, if only for a day.
Summer rains painted a nostalgic mythical backdrop, reminiscent of the Yangtze River Delta in Southern China. Guests dressed to the nines boarded a private luxury yacht and set sail from Harbour Green Park to English Bay, a foggy ambiance setting a contemplative mood that would soon be warmed with ancient wisdom and wonder.
Landing on the island, guests embraced a 360 degree view atop the beautiful villa with hints of timber and stone in its surrounding architecture, setting the table for a Zen-like cultural odyssey. Pouring Singapore’s finest TWG tea, the masters of the ceremony reminded us to treat all with respect and to genuinely serve people from the heart.
Savory dishes from acclaimed Cantonese restaurant Yue Delicacy delighted our tastebuds, while TaiOne Restaurant satisfied our sweet tooth with ripe fruits, encouraging warm social banter and bonding.
A hush fell over as Taste of Life’s marketing manager Ms. Sharee Dong took stage, thanking the patrons, offering a gift in return — a glimpse of Shen Yun Performing Arts’ promotional video — a taste of legacy, 5000 years in the making. The dancers’ effortless grace illuminated the gathered guests, drawn to their spiritual and physical vibrancy.
Bridging ancient culture to life, elegant models dressed in traditional Han Couture — or Han Fu — floated across a cat walk. A moderator explained the imperial attire’s hidden virtues — large circular cuffs representing a round heavenly path, the seam in the back signifying humans walk between heaven and earth, and tied waistbands symbolizing humanity’s bond with divine laws.
The spectacle wasn’t simply a visual one, as patrons excitedly tried on the traditional dress, gliding down the runway for laughs and photo ops with their newfound friends. A moderator quizzed the nobles enjoying their new digs, gifting cosmetics and perfume to the winners. And three stunning grand prizes were given — a $1,000 diamond necklace from Diamond Queen Collection, a $600 decorative sculpture from Jansen Home Shop and a special offer from Wisdom Financial.
The buzz from the raffle quieted down as a performer plucked a seven-stringed Chinese guqin, resonating a sound and depth that could beckon the ancestors of the Middle Kingdom. The flow of sensory beauty — from the guqin harmonizing with sounds of sea and rain to the supple hands of tea masters — washed away the concerns of our modern drama, making everyone seem suspended, not stranded, on this simple island of luxury.
All chatted eagerly about next year’s affair as one guest summed up well their experience — “Now Vancouver can’t be without Taste of Life — only with this magazine can life in Vancouver be with high taste.”
Bearing the inscription “Revere Heavenand Serve thy People”, the Seal of the Mandate of Heaven is the largest and most powerful ever carved for the Kangxi Emperor.Read More
In a world divided, one artist paints a new vision where opposites not only attract, they align. Canadian artist Norah Borden showcases her large-scale Planet Earth collection while UrtheCast will simultaneously reveal its own universal wonders, with first ever ultra-HD video streaming straight from space.
Borden reinvents an age-old painting technique called sfumato, the same Leonardo da Vinci used to give Mona Lisa’s eyes their lifelike glow. She applies hundreds of layers of paint on top of each other (giving each work an astounding four inch thickness), which creates an optical illusion — a luminosity — that tricks the eye into seeing different perspectives. To the mining firms and jewelers (like De Beers) that collect her works, some of her canvases resemble carnelian crystals, lapis lazuli or marble. To a star gazer, it’s like looking through the clouds and seeing earth’s immense masses of land and sea.
By playing with various perspectives, the paintings have an exploratory nature of their own,” explains Borden. “The point of dialogue that most intrigues me is, although borders separate and define everything, from our natural resources to cultural attitudes, there is far more that we share in the world than that which divides us. Everything is interconnected, and everything we do has a resonating effect.”
The exhibition “Where Art Meets Science” opens June 17th and goes until September 14th at the Science World at TELUS World of Science. www.ourplanetearth.ca
Whimsical, extraordinary, impossibly precise - the words jumping out of one’s mouth to describe the immaculate design jumping off a Chinese needle painting. Originating in Suzhou, China over 2500 years ago, Su embroidery is the most celebrated form of Chinese needle painting. The master needle and thread ‘painters’ use strands of silk split into filaments barely visible to the eye, only to take your breath away with lighting, shading and colours so vibrant, it’s challenging to tell the difference between the original Renaissance painting and the needle painting. Be amazed below.
Chinese history is full of inspiring stories about businessmen and bankers who amass great fortunes by maintaining Confucian ethics of righteousness, credibility, and putting profit as the lowest priority.Read More
Though Yue Fei of the Song Dynasty failed to restore his kingdom to greatness, the example of loyalty and conduct he left behind was great enough to inspire generations of Chinese.Read More
Li Jing, a renowned general, helped establish the Tang Dynasty through decades of military exploits, mastering the arts of surprise, timing, and seizing opportunity.Read More
The story of how a military genius Sun Bing, nearly destroyed by his sworn brother Pang Juan, passed his secrets of battle strategy to the world.Read More
Guo Ziyi, a general and leader during the renowned Tang Dynasty, had the rare distinction of actually living out what ancient books said Chinese officials should be like.Read More
The ancient Chinese advisor Yan Shu led no army and solved no crisis, but his firm hand and benevolent presence nurtured a generation of talent in the Song Dynasty.Read More
The talented Zhang Jiuling suffered setbacks while creating lasting works of governance, civil engineering and poetry but he never suffered fools.Read More
What if Sherlock Holmes was appointed to be a top advisor to a tyrannical queen? There would, of course, be the twists and turns of all Holmes stories: he’d moderate the monarch’s temper, uphold justice, and solve no shortage of puzzles. And there would be a stunning end, an astonishing unexpected revelation.
All that and more happened during China’s Tang dynasty under the watch of an earnest, intelligent official, Di Renjie. His exploits are famous in Chinese culture, partly because of a “Judge Dee” series of novels by an anonymous 18th century author, translated into English in the 1940s.
Before ascending Tang bureaucracy ranks, Di gained a taste of the system’s underbelly. Di, after completing the imperial exam in 656 AD, so impressed his superiors they immediately appointed him Secretary of Bian prefecture. But a jealous colleague framed him on trumped-up charges and Di was thrown in jail.
A chance meeting with Yan Liben, Minister of Public Works, led to Di’s freedom. Yan recognized Di’s superlative mind. Believing Di innocent, Yan cleared the charges and promoted him.
Years later, Di was again framed and imprisoned. Inexplicably, he pleaded guilty. Day in and day out, he could be seen mumbling and gesturing oddly in his cell. After months of softening the guards’ watch over him, he saw his opportunity. His clothes, a letter of redress in the lining, went home for washing. His plea restored him to the chancellorship.
In one tale, he investigates a bride’s poisoning; in another, he exposes the murderer of a “strange corpse” in a quiet village. Yet others involve supernatural intervention, guidance from dreams, and Di disguising himself as a doctor. His deductions depend on subtle clues and careful interrogations.
Di’s true light shone brightest at the end of his career.
After years as a magistrate, he was chosen as chancellor to the mercurial Wu Zetian, one of the most controversial figures in Chinese history. Originally a concubine to the emperor Taizong, one of the Tang Dynasty’s founders, Wu installed herself as Empress after the death of Taizong’s son. This was an unprecedented act in China. She called her reign the “Zhou Dynasty,” and sought to have her nephew installed as the next monarch, rather than the crown prince (her real son) whom she had exiled.
Di is remembered as the wise and careful advisor who tempered the dangerous Empress, and she respected him enormously, calling him, simply, “State Elder” — even after he turned against her. Early in Wu’s reign, Di accepted her ascension: there was no better alternative. Foreign invaders threatened, and China needed stability. But Di and many of his fellow Mandarins considered Wu’s reign fundamentally illegitimate. He patiently strengthened the bureaucracy, recruiting and promoting upright officials loyal to the Tang Dynasty and the Empire. For years, they disguised their true feelings, and quietly served the usurper.
On February 20 in 705 AD, heavily-armed troops surrounded the Empress’s Palace of Eternal Life, in the Tang capital of Chang’an. The palace gates squeaked open, and, slowly, the frail, sickly 82-year-old walked out. Calmly surveying the scene, she knew she had no choice. With a few strokes of her brush, she signed the abdication edict and resigned. She tottered back inside, drained, and sat, closing her eyes.
Five years had already passed since Di had breathed his last. But before he died, he made sure that all arrangements were in place for a military coup that would restore the Tang. The Empress did not suspect a thing. It was so brilliant and delicate a dance that even she could not help but admire it.
Illustration by Ben Lee
One of the most forthright of China’s top royal advisors was likened to a mirror reflecting the mistakes of the court.Read More
Among all of China’s dynasty’s, the most influential and grand is said to be the Tang dynasty. Its founding father was Emperor Taizong; the woman by his side, Empress Zhangsun.Read More
The third daughter of the famous Han dynasty General Ma Yuan was only 13 years old at the time of her father’s death and her mother’s mental instability but she bravely stepped forward to take care of the entire family. ...Read More
As graceful as a cloud, as gentle as a melody, ancient Chinese noblewomen were like water – nurturing to all living things. This royal female archetype is a well-spring in traditional Chinese culture.
They were as serene and noble as the orchid.Their manners and inner beauty inspired millions of people. They were gracious, humble, respectful and reverent. They were responsible for bringing up children and assisting kings. Their delicate physical bodies belied a strength so great it helped shape the history of China.
Yin Lihua from Nanyang (A.D. 5-64) was empress of the Eastern Han Dynasty. She was a descendant of Guan Zhong, famed prime minister of the State of Qi during the Spring and Autumn Period.
According to historical records, Empress Lihua was benevolent and devoted. Full of compassion and love, she was remembered throughout time as a virtuous wife and excellent empress.
Lihua was not the first empress to her husband Liu Xiu. Shortly after he reunified the whole of China and rose to the seat of power in AD 36, Emperor Liu found himself with a new dynasty to rule and no empress with which to rule it. Lady Guo Shentong, Liu’s second wife through political alliance, experienced many battles and hardships with him and became pregnant with his first child. According to custom, she should have been the appropriate empress. However, Lihua his first wife, was his sweetheart. He wanted to give the title to Lihua unconditionally. When Lady Lihua heard this she said “Companions in adversity should not be forgotten. Besides, Lady Guo is bearing your child. I will not take the empress position.” Thus, she persistently declined the offer. Lihua humbly and respectfully let go of the title of empress, a life-long dream of many ladies. She was named Imperial Consort instead. The Emperor tried to reward Lihua’s magnanimity with jewelry, but she declined this also, saying “The nation has just been stabilized, many things still need to be done. Wouldn’t having so much jewelry be extravagant?”
17 years later, Emperor Liu deposed the first Empress Guo for poor show of character and made his first love, Lady Lihua, empress after all.
Being an empress now, Lihua still remained humble and respectful. She embraced the deposed Empress Guo with compassion. Even after Guo slandered her several times, Lihua did not punish her nor insult her. On the contrary, she pleaded for the emperor to be lenient with her.
Empress Lihua treated the former empress’ sons with love and care. She often told her children and grandchildren to respect the former empress as their own mother or grandmother. In large part due to Lihua’s character and behavior, the royal family maintained harmony throughout the reign of the Eastern Han Dynasty. The princes, ten in all, did not attempt to assassinate one another for access to the throne, which occurred so frequently in other courts.
After death, Empress Lihua was buried together with her husband. Lihua’s humility and other merits won the love of a great emperor and taught others what a happy marriage in the sophisticated political world can look like. Her virtues are still inspiring generations of leaders and spouses.