Asia Briefs

Today through the weekend will be quiet around here. Maybe I’ll have time to drop in some linklets, but not much else. Here goes:

Taiwan’s obsession with ghosts.

In Taiwan, ghosts are rarely a laughing matter. On TV, in daily conversation, at temples and in the deepest recesses of the unconscious, they maintain a firm grip on island society. Taiwanese are ghost-crazy – or rather, crazy to avoid them. A recent survey of Taipei college students found that 87% were believers, and some say that could be on the low side.

“I’d say the other 13% would probably hedge their bets if you questioned them closer,” says Marc Moskowitz, an anthropologist at Lake Forest College in Illinois who has studied Taiwan’s spirit beliefs. “Many Taiwanese feel it’s best not to anger the ghosts, just in case they do exist.”

Ghosts have been an integral part of Chinese culture dating to at least the Shang Dynasty, with 3,500-year-old oracle bones from the period depicting a big-headed, bent-kneed phantom.

But China has seen much of its otherworldly belief system erode under the Communist Party’s assault on religion and superstition. That has left Taiwan, which split from China in 1949 after civil war, a rich repository of this living tradition, one that draws scholars eager to study Chinese ghost practices in their purest form.

Chinese government to scrub Karaoke bars of “unhealthy songs.

With their control over newspapers, television, magazines and the Internet secure, censors in China are now turning their attention to the dim recesses of the nation’s karaoke parlors.

The state-run Beijing News reported Wednesday that the Ministry of Culture has issued new rules to prevent “unhealthy” songs from ringing forth in the sing-along bars. The campaign also will help safeguard intellectual property rights, it adds.

The government has picked three mid-size cities, Wuhan, Zhengzhou and Qingdao, to test the new program under which member businesses will choose songs from a central database. If successful, the program may go nationwide.

Jesus in China:
California Jesuits work on restoring a Shanghai cathedral vandalized during the Cultural Revolution.

This is much more than a fluff piece on interior decoration. It’s a must-read if you are in any way interested in Christianity in China. It’s a great article.

The Discussion: 4 Comments

“unhealthy karaoke songs?”

Would that include the theme song from Kimba the White Lion? (He’s Japanese, you know.)

July 19, 2006 @ 9:01 pm | Comment

Dang, not Qingdao. That’s one of the cities I’ve been meaning to check out. On the beach, German beer…but censored Karaoke?! That just ain’t right.

July 19, 2006 @ 10:45 pm | Comment

The Taiwanese are smart to believe in ghosts. Ghosts are serious stuff. Even Derrida wrote about them. ๐Ÿ˜‰

The Ministry of Culture is clearly very, very bored.

July 20, 2006 @ 9:16 am | Comment

Good article on the St Ignatius Church in Shanghi. I wish they would come down here to Shenzhen and put some decent art in the church here. The church is outlined in neon at night so you won’t exactly miss it. Christmas decorations inside included santa caps, stockings, flashing Christmas lights and spinning lights behind Jesus in the creche scene. Ballons too. Outside was a 20 foot inflatable Santa.

July 21, 2006 @ 11:54 pm | Comment

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