Wee Kek Koon

Wee Kek Koon

Wee Kek Koon in a contributor to Inkstone.

How lions became an important symbol in Chinese culture
On New Year’s Day, two bronze lions in front of HSBC headquarters in Hong Kong were sprayed with red paint and set ablaze by anti-government protesters furious at the bank for closing the Spark Alliance account, which reportedly raised funds for the protests.  The lions, which have guarded HSBC for almost 85 years, are currently covered as restoration takes place. Perhaps the European managers of The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation took a leaf from Chinese architectural tradition when they commissioned the guardian lions in the early 20th century.  Many Chinese-owned buildings, modern and classical, feature stylized lions, one male and one female, at their main entrances. But how d
How lions became an important symbol in Chinese culture
‘Foreign interference’? China is no stranger in other countries’ affairs
The central government in Beijing made up its mind very early on that the ongoing mess in Hong Kong is fuelled to a large extent by “foreign interference,” something to which the Chinese are particularly sensitive, given the nation’s near-capitulation to foreign powers from the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries. Informed by a toxic mix of resentment for past humiliations and pride in recent achievements, many mainland Chinese belligerently view the developed world as conspiring to deny their country its rightful place in the sun.  However, in constructing the narrative of itself as a victim of foreign aggression and interference in modern times, China may do well to remember that it has, on
‘Foreign interference’? China is no stranger in other countries’ affairs
How Shaolin Temple survived every attempt to destroy it
When the Notre Dame Cathedral was burning in Paris last month, some Chinese wasted no time in venting their Schadenfreude online. According to their logic, the fiery destruction of a cultural symbol beloved by the French was vindication for the burning and looting of Beijing’s Summer Palace by French and British troops in 1860. In fairness, these jingoistic rants were roundly criticized by many, including China’s heritage and other government bodies, as mean-spirited, misguided and childish. Named for its location in the forest of Mount Shaoshi, in central Henan province, Shaolin Temple is among the most venerated religious edifices in China. And like Notre Dame and many cultural monuments a
How Shaolin Temple survived every attempt to destroy it
Do ethnic Chinese have a moral obligation to know their language?
A young Chinese Singaporean recently posted on social media that a mainland Chinese tourist he was trying to help in Singapore verbally shamed him for not being able to speak Mandarin properly. In retaliation for her rudeness, he gave her the wrong directions, which isn’t a nice thing to do to a guest, no matter how nasty she was. The attitude that informed her scolding of the young man is typical of many Chinese, as well as a segment of Chinese Singaporeans: that people of Chinese ancestry have a moral obligation to know the language. Even though the argument isn’t very convincing (we don’t expect Irish-Americans to know Irish, for example, nor British people of German ancestry the German
Do ethnic Chinese have a moral obligation to know their language?
The Chinese didn’t always take their shoes off at home
I simply must remove my shoes before I enter a house. Outdoor footwear – as a repository of disgusting things picked up from soil surfaces, pavements and public toilets – has no place in the home. It’s often assumed the Chinese have always followed this practice. But for about 1,000 years before the 20th century, most stepped into their homes without removing or changing their shoes. Historical records show that early on, the Chinese did remove their shoes, because they sat on the floor, just as one does in traditional Japanese or Korean houses today. Books on etiquette from the Zhou period (1046-256BC) prescribed that before an audience with the lord, footwear had to be removed. Shoes woul
The Chinese didn’t always take their shoes off at home
There isn’t one right way to speak Cantonese
In Kuala Lumpur and the adjoining city of Petaling Jaya, where I recently spent a week, the default Chinese language among Chinese Malaysians seems to be Cantonese. Malaysia is a multi-ethnic, multi-racial Southeast Asian country of 32 million people, about a quarter of whom are ethnically Chinese. Most of them have ancestral roots in south China, and speak a number of Chinese languages and dialects, in addition to English and the dominant local language, Malay. The explanations given for the prevalent use of Cantonese among Chinese Malaysians in this area include the high concentration of people of Cantonese descent, the firm following of Cantonese popular culture among ethnic Chinese resid
There isn’t one right way to speak Cantonese