Taiwan’s controversial Chiang Kai-shek statues
Statues depicting Taiwan’s former leader Chiang Kai-shek continue to generate controversy. Chiang fled to Taiwan after his Nationalist troops lost a civil war on the Chinese mainland to Communist forces in 1949. While some revere him for his anti-communist stance, others recall Chiang’s brutal imposition of martial law and purge of thousands of opponents. More than 70 years later, there is intense debate about Chiang’s legacy, as statues are being removed under a law meant to address issues of the island’s authoritarian past.   
How an American officer helped modernize China’s Navy
The modernization of China’s military is widely perceived as a threat in the United States today. Yet some 135 years ago, one US naval officer traveled to the Middle Kingdom to help the country develop its prowess at sea – and it did not end well. Philo Norton McGiffin left the US in 1885 as a naive but determined 24-year-old to serve the Imperial Chinese Navy and was wounded in action. After eight years of intensive officer training, McGiffin failed to obtain a commission in the US Navy because of the lack of available ships in its tiny fleet. So instead, he traveled to China to seek employment fighting for the country in the Sino-French War (1884-85). “McGiffin is an important figure in t
The coronavirus crisis is a human failure, says author of ‘Sapiens’
While most people alive today have never experienced an event like the coronavirus pandemic, it is not the first time humanity has come face to face with a global contagion. Historian Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens and Homo Deus, answers questions from the South China Morning Post on how the coronavirus pandemic poses unprecedented challenges in biometric surveillance, governance and global cooperation. He also proposes five steps the world should take moving forward. Q: You wrote “if we are indeed bringing famine, plague and war under control …” in Homo Deus. Given that the spread of the coronavirus pandemic continues unabated, do you still believe mankind has largely reined in plagu
The secret links between Chinese and Thai food
Chinese and Thai cultures are linked for more than just their love of food. They have also been trading cooking styles and ingredients for generations. Traders from both regions often traveled between the two countries, bringing spices and cooking techniques to the other. You can taste it in Thai cooking today. We meet Chinnapatt Chongtong, founder of the Chili Paste Tour and a Thai food expert, in Bangkok to find out where these links come from and the Chinese culinary traditions hidden in plain sight in Thailand.
Was Japan behind a mysterious bid to buy Macau outright?
In the 1930s, Western newspapers were in the habit of portraying Macau as a haven of pirates, scoundrels and ne’er-do-wells, gambling the days away and smoking opium by night. Maurice Dekobra, a bestselling French writer of the inter­war years, had a hit with his 1938 novel, Macao, enfer du jeu (Macao, Gambling Hell), which became an equally sensationalist film. Lacking Peking’s bohemianism, Shanghai’s modernity or Hong Kong’s dynamism, Macau sat in the South China Sea, fanning itself in the heat, a decaying relic of the diminished Portuguese empire. The economy was hurting thanks to the British Royal Navy’s suppression of piracy and smuggling. Officially, it was good news, but not for Maca
Blast from the past: Hong Kong’s iconic bamboo scaffolding
Any visitor to Hong Kong will notice that the iconic skyscrapers are built using bamboo scaffolding. It's a technique that has been used across China for at least 1,000 years. At first, it may appear to be dangerous, but in reality, it is just as safe as any other scaffolding technique. This video from 1963 shows how the city used bamboo as it was expanding, and westernizing, its infrastructure.  Let’s take a look back at workers erecting intricate webs of sky-high bamboo scaffolding.
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
‘City of Darkness’: A tour of the world’s most famous walled neighborhood
“City of Darkness” is an exhibition exploring the long gone Walled City of Kowloon in Hong Kong as photographed by Greg Girard and Ian Lambot. Lambot and Girard set about photographing the Walled City shortly before its demolition in 1994 due to a deep fascination with the site. Nearly 30 years on from the Walled City’s demolition, this project offers a unique insight into the remarkable community, home to an estimated 50,000 people at its peak, and by far the most densely populated neighborhood the world had ever known.
Tracking down my secret grandmother in a Chinese city with a Russian past
Harbin, in China’s far northeast, owes its modern beginnings entirely to a railway. For the first three decades of the 20th century, it was effectively a Russian city. It is a place that has sparked my curiosity ever since I came across a 1927 ship’s passenger list that revealed the name of my grandfather Frank Newman’s “second wife”: Nina Kovaleva, 25, born in Sevastopol, Russia. He would leave his Shanghai-based family with her in the early 1930s. The list also named a daughter, Kyra, aged five, born in Harbin. It was a stunning revela­tion. It implied that my grandfather, an inspector for the Harbin postal sub­district from about 1912, had led a double life for at least a decade. I conta