As China changes, Teilhard de Chardin reappears
French Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin is making a comeback in China
The Second Life of the “Grand Ricci”
“Microaggression”: To Be or Not to Be Offended
Trans Pacific Partnership – Risk or Opportunity?
A Night Out
A short story from Paul Jacob Naylor
Utopia on a Smaller Scale
Jin Lu responds to Benoit's recent piece on the potential for new utopian experiments
Launch of a "Chinese Thought and Cultural Resources" training program in Shanghai.
Fudan School of Philosophy, in association with DPark, is sponsoring an English-language Certificate of Chinese Thought and Cultural Resources.
The Prophetic Task of Chinese Christianity
Benoit asks if China can mend the divisions in Christianity that are so deeply held in the West
Locating Utopia on the Map
Benoit asks if we have lost the ability to start experiments in social and humane engineering?
Maria’s Secret
A short story on the impact of domestic abuse
Renewal of Buddhism in Mainland China and its Interaction with the Government
Fr Christian Cochini describes Buddhism's historic role in China
The Red Side of the Moon: China's Pursuit of Lunar Helium 3
Fabrizio Bozzato explores the possibility of nuclear fusion using helium-3 from the moon, and the geopolitical implications this would have on earth
Book Review: Evan Osnos 'Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China'
Conor Stuart reviews Evan Osnos' new book: Age of Ambition
Avoid the 'gap-year cliche' while volunteering overseas
Somaly Mam. If that is her real name
Somaly Mam. If that is her real name
He eats, he sleeps: giving birth in Cambodia
He eats, he sleeps: giving birth in Cambodia
"Generation Z: ReNoise" and a Little Bit More

Opinions, Dreams and Videos

Renlai Magazine

  • 12月 ─ 痛苦──從訴說到療癒

    電子書全文

    電子書pdf免費下載

     

    當身體疼痛,心靈苦楚時,我們往往難以言語;然而當我們學會克服、超越、與痛苦和平共處後,我們會猛然發現,生命語言透過痛苦淬鍊出的詩與歌、繪畫與音樂、舞蹈與雕塑……竟是無比的豐多采。「痛苦」既然是人生中無可逃躲的功課,唯有面對它的試煉與塑,我們的生命才能真正獲得自由──一種深邃而真實的自由。

    目錄

    論辨空間

    03 誰是壞人?

      李禮君 作

    讀未來

    06 美國大選之後

    梅謙立 作

    08 讀者來函

    專輯

    11 行者

    寧愷王 作

    12 引文

      編輯部

    14 痛苦的救贖──專訪安寧療護推動者趙可式

      痛苦可以抹去人們心上的蒙塵,使人逼近生命的核心。

      編輯部 採訪整理

    22 走出生命幽谷──陪伴受苦者的人

      幾乎所有生命的弔詭,全都發生在這趟生死相伴的旅程途中。

      夏淑怡、余德慧、石世明、張譯心 作

    32 生命尋答的起程

      老祖母去世後,我在夢裡遇見她,她倚門望我,小燈昏照的背景一片墨。

      鄭慧卿 作

    38 陣痛之後

      我之所以難鼓起勇氣,克服心靈上最大的痛苦,是肚子裡有新生命的緣故。

      新井一二三 作

    44 女人為何痛不欲「生」?

      專訪台大社會系吳嘉苓教授,揭示產痛與族療、人性與科技之間的弔詭。

      編輯部 採訪 李禮君 整理

    50 苦與樂:從自殺到自在

      我們都活在避免承受痛苦的年代,快樂變成比較容易的解決方案。

      沈秀貞 作

    56 more……more…more…

      關於痛、苦的書籍、機構團體、網站等資源。

      蔡宗霖 整理

    永泰話象

    58 東埔寨印象──兒童篇

      有人說東埔寨的兒童是幸福的,天真燦爛的笑容裡根本不懂什麼叫貧窮……

      王永泰 文/攝影

    人文論辨

    66 自由與桎梏──我的政治省察

    回溯個人和集體的過去,將有助於獲得嶄新的泉源,以創造我們共同的未來。

      魏明德 作 楊麗貞 譯

    心靈地圖

    78 與痛苦共處

      當人們一再要你打起精神,你會不會特別感到厭煩?我會。

      隆納德(Robert J. Ronald, S.J.) 作 張令憙 譯

    作品

    82 瓶淵揚花──彭先誠畫作評介

      笨篤 作 月牙 譯

    國際

    86 從歐洲認同談歐盟彊界

    本文探討歐洲的彊界、認同與政治情勢,有助於我們思考自身的身分認同,共同創造屬於我們的未來。

      布朗什(Jean-Louis Bourlanges) 作 林美珠 譯

    書評

    98 回歸生而為人的原點

    作者所提出的反省,正是一個人「何以為人」的理由。

    張明薰 作

    100  尋父之旅

      追索三教共祖亞巴郎的身分根源,以試圖面對當前困境的探問歷程。

      蔡怡佳 作

    影像與想像

    102  《生命》──仁者的鏡頭

      吳乙峰的鏡頭總是從最低處拍起,與受難家屬共同問天。

      沈秀貞 作

     

     

    Written by
  • 11月 ─ 家是天堂,還是地獄?

    電子書全文

    電子書pdf免費下載

     

    二○○四年,我們的「家」真的「變」了嗎?節節上升的離婚率、年年下挫的生育率、與日普遍的單親、雙薪、兩地家庭、外籍新娘……這一切都迫使我們正視:我們的「家」出了什麼問題?我們還需要「家」嗎?本期專輯邀請您和我們共同踏上探索「家」的旅程──原來,家是天堂還是地獄,端繫於您我手中!

    目錄

    論辨空間

    03 宗教的未來

    魏明德 作

    讀未來

    06 美國大選:懷疑中的人民

    梅謙立 作

    07 伯勞與外勞

    陳素香 作

    專輯

    08 引文

    李禮君 作

    10 家是永遠的避風港

    專訪兒童局黃碧霞局長,暢談兒童與家庭的未來。

    編輯部 採訪 李禮君 整理

    16 離家,是為了想回家

    為了取得一張離家的許可證,幾乎透支了我全部的熱情與生命。

    楊淑娟

    20 走出埋怨家庭的智慧

    華人家庭陷入「黏」與「比」的文化情結,如何找到人生定位點?

    沈秀貞 作

    30 讓愛成為現代家法

    專訪定庭暴力防治委員會林慈玲女士,揭示台灣家暴問題真相。

    編輯部 採訪 蔡宗霖 整理

    36 寒玉的故事

    一個遭受婚暴的女人與家庭治療師的對話。

    金士嵐 作

    44 他山之石──淺談歐美家庭政策

    台灣的家庭變遷,歐美國家也曾一一經歷。他們如何面對?

    紐濟達 作

    52 家庭的危機、傳承與創新

    家的未來根植於過去的土壤,枝葉與果實將展現全新的樣貌。

    魏明德 作 李燕芬 譯

    56moremoremore

    關於家庭的書、團體、網站等資源。

    永泰話象

    58 睡著的寶藏巖聚落

    躲在鏡頭後面的人,用影像娓娓訴說生命的故事。

    王永泰 文/攝影

    人文論辨:日本女作家導覽

    66 瑰麗斑爛文學路

    日本女作家以豐富的想像與絢爛的文采,確立後世的「感受性」與散文傳統。

    林永福 作

    76 山田詠美:靈與肉

    新井一二三 作

    78 吉本芭娜娜:身體知道希望的可能

    張維中 作

    80 柳美里:真誠的凝視

    張明薰 作

    82 江國香織:最平靜的瘋狂

    林安妮 作

    心靈地圖

    84 中國人在巴黎

    一個留學生,充滿驚奇與感動的異鄉生活體驗。

    蔣潔 作

    國際

    88 世界十二個衝突地區

    世界上仍有許多地區飽受戰亂和恐怖威脅,我們應正視並尋求解決之道。

    雷克里凡(Jean-Marie Lecrivain) 作 謝佐人 審訂 蔣之英 譯

    作品

    94 低迴吟詠的靈魂:陳克華詩三首

    陳克華 詩/圖

    書評

    98 在科學邊界開彊拓土

    孫維新 作

    100  閱讀臺灣

    薛化元 作

    102  探索漢語的奧祕

    邱明麗 作

    影像與想像

    104  困頓的時刻

    三位導演表達困頓的不同方式與影像意涵。

    沈秀貞 作

    Written by

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Tuesday, 28 October 2014

As China changes, Teilhard de Chardin reappears

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was all the rage in Catholic circles and beyond them thirty to fifty years ago. He is credited with having had a major impact on Vatican II (1962 – 1965). As a scientist, he was at the forefront in his chosen field – paleontology.

Now the thought of the influential but no longer popular French Jesuit is making a comeback and from an unlikely place – China.

The relationship between Teilhard and China was much deeper and more decisive than most of his readers realize. Teilhard was based in China for 23 years (1923-1946), and wrote his two most influential books there. They included several of the writings that would later be gathered under the title "The Divine Milieu", and, most importantly, "The Phenomenon of Man."

The Jesuit scientist was already 42 years old when he went to Hebei Province in northern China on archeological digs. And he he had come to China not entirely by choice: an article on original sin saw a question mark put over him in "orthodox" circles, and he was directed by his religious superiors to concentrate on scientific research in the Chinese hinterland rather than tackling tricky theological subjects.

Teilhard was not a new Ricci in hios adaptation to Chinese culture and mores. Nor was he at ease with traditional missionary methods. And he felt himself often to be an exile. Still, it is in China that he made his most exciting discoveries, identifying in 1930 "Beijing Man' as a "Homo Faber", and conducting extensive geological surveys across China.

As the text of his "Mass on the World" eloquently testifies, it is primarily the Chinese earth, replete with early testimonies to the development of life, which inspired Teilhard and provided him with the basis for the full development of his thought.

But such exploration came from a choice he made early on after arriving in China: he had left the private museum of natural history created in China by his colleague Emile Licent, choosing instead to join the Geological Survey Bureau created by the Chinese government.

He is remembered as one of the three founding fathers of Chinese paleontology. When leaving China, Teilhard eloquently spoke of his "enormous gratitude" for the country in which he made so many friends, conducted so many exploratory missions, and was able to reflect in new ways on humankind's and cosmic destiny.

After his death in 1955, Teilhard's thought exercised an enormous influence on the Catholic Church and beyond, before somehow waning towards the end of the 1970s. During the same period, Teilhard was of course never mentioned in China.

Today, the situation seems to be reversing. During the 1990s, the Chinese Institute of Paleontology was the first to rehabilitate his name and scientific contribution.

What about his cosmological and theological thought? Professor Wang Hayan of Beijing's Language and Culture University wrote her doctoral thesis in Paris on Teilhard. She was the first to popularize his concepts in Chinese context, publishing an Anthology of his works based on his Complete Works.

As well, "The Phenomenon of Man" and many other his seminal works have been translated, sometimes twice. Older Chinese Jesuits published early translations in Taiwan from the 1960s, and some of them now available in the PRC. And the process continues with a short book by Teilhard, "The Place of Man in Nature", published by Beijing University Press in October 2014.

The translator of this last work, Alex Wang, is a Chinese-born senior manager of a French firm. He was awarded two doctorates in Paris - one in engineering and the other in philosophy. Wang has enthralled with Teilhard's vision for many years and was the main organizer of a colloquium entitled "Teilhard and the Future of Humankind" which was held in Beijing on October 19, 2014.

This was the first event dealing with the entirety of Teilhard's thought, not only his scientific writings, to take place in the Chinese language and in Mainland China. It attracted a galaxy of talent:
• Professor Huang Huiwen, from the Chinese Institute of Paleontology, recalled Teilhard's contribution to Chinese Geology;
• Professor Li Tiangang (Fudan University) spoke of Teilhard as a "global man", helping us all to put our various levels of relationship into a broader context, challenging the common time-space continuum in which we move and think;
• The Mongolian writer Yang Dorje eloquently recalled the travels of Teilhard in the remote Ordos region and quoted the Chinese translation of "The Mass on the World." Evoking the physical relationship that still links humankind to matter and the earth, Yang Dorje highlighted Teilhard as a cosmic poet and thinker, anchoring us deeper in our origins and destiny.
• Liu Feng, the creator of XLab in China which specializes in training students to collaborate in their work, spoke of the concept of "Noosphere' and "Omega Point" in relationship with the insights provided by contemporary cybernetics.
• Thierry Meynard, a Jesuit teaching in China, reminded the audience of the way Teilhard was envisioning the future of humankind beyond national and ethnic barriers and the way such vision was congruent with the United Nations ideals developed at the same time.

The colloquium drew 100 participants, mainly university professors and doctoral students. It concluded by deciding to launch the Chinese association of the friends of Teilhard and on a program of promotional activities for 2015, the year of the sixtieth anniversary of the death of Teilhard.

At the colloquium, a 45 minute documentary entitled "Teilhard and China" premiered. It was co-produced by the Xu-Ricci Institute at Fudan University and the Taipei Ricci Institute. The work, directed by Benoit Vermander, SJ and Cerise Phiv, was filmed in Auvergne (where Teilhard was born), Paris, Shanghai, Beijing, Ningxia and Inner Mongolia. It also includes testimonies by Henri du Passage, a nephew of Teilhard, who recalls how much his uncle suffered from the rejection he often experienced in Catholic circles, especially after his travel to Rome in 1947.

Besides recalling the Chinese adventures of Teilhard, the film documents an intercultural workshop on Teilhard's thought conducted in the Ordos desert in August 2013. In the place where Teilhard wrote "The Mass on the World" young intellectuals from Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, Fudan University and the "Shanghai Culture" journal read and discuss excerpts from "The Mass on the World' and "The Phenomenon of Man." They felt moved by the "radical optimism" that such works engender in the reader, helping her to go beyond failure and limited life-span so as to insert one's work and life into a process of cosmic and spiritual evolution.

Teilhard may not have secured a place in China's intellectual landscape just yet. But the Jesuit thinker is definitely reaching a new public, and several MA theses dealing with him have been or are presently being written in several Chinese universities.

There are reasons explain for such developments:
(a) Teilhard provides resources for thinking one's human condition beyond cultural and national determinisms;
(b) his own life illustrates how the presence of a priest-scientist in China was challenging the traditional missionary model;
(c) Globalization gives new relevance to the way Teilhard was envisioning evolution and the management of increasing complexity.
(d) Finally, Teilhard's life experience offers a touching resonance with his own choice of "radical optimism" when set in the context of the future of humankind.

It is not impossible that some of basic intuitions of the Jesuit scientist will bounce back to the West from Chinese experience and interpretations.

Monday, 27 October 2014

“Microaggression”: To Be or Not to Be Offended


The term "microaggression", coined in 1970 by an American psychiatrist Chester Pierce, has taken on a new life in recent years after a Columbia University professor Derald Wing Sue, a Chinese American, published a book on the topic in 2007 with several collaborators. It is used to refer to small non-physical acts – verbal or non-verbal, intentional or unintentional, ranging from ignorant, annoying, ridiculous, slighting, insulting to hateful - that offend people because of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, disability, or any other perceived marginalizing factors. Viewed individually, each act may seem small, subtle and harmless, but cumulatively, they can create an unpleasant, hurtful or even hostile environment for their target. By far the most explosive topic is that of race and ethnicity, which constitutes a large percentage of reported microaggressions. Statistics also show that minorities are much more likely than whites to think racism exists in the US. There is tremendous amount of anger both from those who think they suffer from them and those who dismiss them as "leftist whining" or conspiracies.

Monday, 27 October 2014

The Second Life of the “Grand Ricci”


At the end of August 2014, Beijing Commercial Press (or Shangwu, one of the biggest Chinese publishing house, owner of the Xinhua Dictionary, the world's most popular reference work) launched a volume more than 2,000 pages: The Ricci-Shangwu Chinese-French Dictionary, a revised and shortened edition of the "Grand Ricci", the seven-volume dictionary published in 2001 by the Ricci Institutes of Taipei and Paris. (Since then, the two Institutes have entrusted the Ricci Association with moral and financial rights over the work.)

Monday, 13 October 2014

Trans Pacific Partnership – Risk or Opportunity?


Enrico Cau is an Italian-born Master Candidate at the Graduate Institute of Strategic Studies (GIASS) and a Fellow Researcher at the Center for Advanced Technology (CAT) of Tamkang University. He has a long experience in the areas of translating, interpreting and international affairs, with a specific focus on Asia Pacific issues. Below is his tentative paper on the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Launch of a "Chinese Thought and Cultural Resources" training program in Shanghai.

With the continuous development of the Chinese economy and China's more prominent role in the world, Chinese traditional culture correspondingly receives increased attention. To help managers in Chinese or foreign companies gain an understanding of Chinese philosophy, history, and contempory culture, Fudan School of Philosophy, in association with DPark, is sponsoring an English-language Certificate of Chinese Thought and Cultural Resources. The program is tailored for foreign and Chinese entrepreneurs/executives willing to mobilize such resources for managing their business endeavors in a culturally and socially responsible fashion.

This English-language program seeks to enhance international and Chinese managers' knowledge of Chinese cultural resources so as to enrich and facilitate the exercise of their corporate missions and social responsibilities in China. The program is designed and taught by professors from the School of Philosophy at Fudan University. Its unique teaching and rich research resources have been organized to create a ground-breaking training program adapted to the needs of decision-makers through course work, interactions with native informants, and field trips.

The program starts next January and lasts for nine weekends spanning over one year.

Details are included in these two online brochures:

http://www.dpark-shanghai.com/pdf/brochure-base.pdf

http://www.dpark-shanghai.com/pdf/brochure-suite.pdf

Antonio Duarte, director of Dpark, and Benoit Vermander, professor in the School of Philosophy, Fudan University, will present the program at a lecture and discussion evening on September 25th, 2014, at DPark  (No.738 Changyang Road, Shanghai). Please confirm attendance to: 

 

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

La seconde vie du Grand Ricci


Fin août 2014, les Presses Commerciales de Pékin (l'une des plus grandes maisons d'édition chinoise, éditrice, entre autres, du Dictionnaire Xinhua - le dictionnaire le plus vendu au monde) ont sorti un volume de plus de 2000 pages, le « Dictionnaire Ricci Chinois-Français », une édition révisée et raccourcie du Grand Ricci , le dictionnaire publié en 2001 par les Instituts Ricci de Taipei et Paris, dont les droits ont depuis été confiés à « l'Association Ricci pour le grand dictionnaire français de la langue chinoise » . L'ouvrage devrait atteindre les librairies de Chine début octobre.

Depuis les premiers contacts entre les Instituts Ricci et les Presses commerciales (Shangwu), il aura fallu attendre quinze ans... Mais le délai était largement justifié : les Presses commerciales ont effectué un travail d'exception, qui fait de ce dictionnaire – et pour très longtemps – l'outil de référence lexicographique entre le chinois et le français. Le choix des expressions a été fait avec scrupule, les expressions douteuses ou fautives ont été corrigées, un choix éclairé de nouvelles expressions venues du chinois contemporain a été introduit sans pour autant affadir l'ancrage du Ricci dans l'histoire de la langue et de la pensée chinoises. Les traditions lexicographiques combinées des Presses Commerciales et des Ricci ont livré ensemble ce qu'elles avaient de meilleur... Ouvrant le dictionnaire, je me remémorais avec joie ma première visite dans le « temple » intimidant des Presses Commerciales en 1999 : Zhang Wenying, l'éditrice qui m'accueillait alors a finalement coordonné jusqu'au bout le projet. Entre tous les partenaires impliqués, la confiance et l'estime n'ont fait que croître au long des années.

L'origine du grand Ricci remonte au « Bureau d'étude sinologique » de Zikawei, à Shanghai, dans les années 1880, et au travail accompli par les sinologues jésuites français Léon Wieger et Séraphin Couvreur dans le Hebei à partir de la même époque. Il avait été repris notamment par les pères Eugen Zsamar, Yves Raguin, Jean Lefeuvre et Claude Larre après qu'ils avaient quitté la Chine. Il était grand temps que ce fruit de la sinologie jésuite « rentre » en Chine, et qu'il le fasse corrigé, mûri, porté à fruition par la meilleure institution lexicographique chinoise. La parution du « Ricci-Shangwu » n'est pas seulement un événement éditorial. Ancrée dans une longue histoire, elle est un signe fort de fidélité et d'espérance.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Utopia, on a Smaller Scale


Benoît's "Locating Utopia on the Map" has prompted my endless musings on utopias. Without going back as far as to Adam and Eve or Plato's Republic, one such utopia which left a vivid impression on me is the early Christian community of the first century Jerusalem established by Peter, as narrated in the Acts. The believers sold all their possessions, held everything in common and distributed goods based on needs. All was well, except when a man named Ananias and his wife Sapphira secretly kept a portion of the money they received from selling their land, they were both immediately punished with death at Peter's feet.


I often wonder how such a vision could be realized in present-day America. How many camels would go through the eye of a needle when the very people who claim the most literal and fundamentalist adherence to the Bible also happen to be aligned with a conservative voting block that most radically opposes any perceived "income redistribution"? One way for them to explain things away is to claim that the believers in Peter's church were only supposed to give up a portion, not all of their assets. I do not blame them for their unwillingness to give up their entire property, because I honestly admit that I would have a hard time renouncing mine, and I love my own garden much more than my neighbor's (this last point, however, might actually count as a virtue by the Ten Commandments). I am simply amazed at their sophisticated way of interpreting the Bible.

We do not know how long this early Christian community would have lasted had it not become scattered under persecution, but the relationship with surrounding communities does constitute a crucial factor for the survival of any utopia. That is why imaginary utopias tend to be set up conveniently on an island, such as Thomas More's eponymous story, which reminds me of a less famous work by a French Enlightenment writer abbé Prévost, whose voluminous novel Cleveland or the English Philosopher contains a subplot about a group of Protestants fleeing persecution who settled on an unknown island surrounded by rocks. In this perfectly idyllic society, there was no need for money and the residents shared everything based on their needs. A crisis arose, however, when the female and male birth rate became mysteriously so imbalanced that over a hundred maidens were waiting to be married. When six young men were recruited to join the colony, the elders decided that the only equitable way to determine who they should marry was to draw lots. The utopia started to disintegrate when it attempted to dictate the residents' innermost feelings in the name of equality.

Defining utopia, which connotes imagination and illusion, as social experiment, as Benoît did, may help to ground its plausibility. Utopia may become feasible if we renounce the all or nothing approach and experiment on a smaller scale. One of the reasons why Robert Owen's experiment at New Lanark enjoyed success for many years while his adventure in New Harmony, Indiana failed to take shape was because in New Lanark, he built upon an existing infrastructure and made noticeable improvements on workers' conditions, while in New Harmony, it was much more challenging to design a brand new society that would satisfy the needs and aspirations of new arrivals with vastly different backgrounds and principles.

When designing a utopia, a primary question emerges: where to recruit members for such a community? Past utopias were usually built by people who shared a similar ideal, such as religion. I also wrestle with the question of what to do with the children born from the members of such a community. While adults can accept a "social contract" on a voluntary basis, how can we ensure the children's freedom of choice, especially if the relationship between the utopia and the larger society is more or less hostile?

I can envision such a community for people 60 and older who share a strong emotional bond. In China, former high school classmates can conceivably create various types of communal living arrangements. Having spent their tender years together and bonded in some cases by a lifetime of friendship, high school classmates constitute an important support network in China. In many instances, formal or informal leaderships already emerged, facilitated by various social media, with more or less frequent activities organized such as reunions, celebrations, funerals and hardship donations. Alumni groups tend to maintain excellent relationship with the larger society which views such a bond as natural, uncontroversial and worthy of encouragement. Because members have held vastly different professions and achieved more or less material success in life, it is possible that some of them might be willing to share their respective expertise and devote a portion of their wealth to create various models of retirement community that offer mutual material and emotional support while positively impacting the social and natural environment. Given that the loneliness of the elderly is an increasingly grave problem facing modern society to the point that Pope Francis considers it one of the two greatest evils, communal living of older adults may be a type of utopia worthy of some consideration.

This is a response to an article by Benoit Vermander, which you can read here. Photo credit: New Harmony by F. Bate (View of a Community, as proposed by Robert Owen) printed 1838 Wiki Public Domain.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

A Night Out

The following is a short story from eRenlai Paul Jacob Naylor, who spent time in Taipei last year learning Chinese and researching the role of Islam in Chinese and Taiwanese history. Paul has a blog were you can read more of his short stories and journalistic pieces from his time spent in Syria.

Bright flashing lights and loud music. Neon tops, cleavages, baseball caps, muscles, hair gel, tattoos, sweat and smoke. Bottles of beer and cocktails glow under UV lights. Sticky floor. A loud voice tells us to put our hands in the air. People collapsed in corners holding their head in their hands, people making out, a sign that says 'If you need to throw up please use the bathrooms.'

It has happened. I have frozen. The night started off very well. We went for rechao, drank plenty of tai pi, went to a bar. Got talking to a film-maker who was making a documentary about an orangutan sex slave in Borneo. Then someone – was it Kirsty or was it Steve?- decided we should go to Babe 18 and now I have frozen. I have no idea how long I have been standing here but I can't seem to do anything else. I was having a good time in the line outside, making jokes, trying it on with the girls, but as soon as I walk down the shiny metal staircase and have to think about cloakroom charges and drinks tickets I just zone out, become an observer.

A table full of discarded champagne flutes, a girl wearing a hat that says 'boy', a man with spiky hair, a chewing gum wrapper on the floor. Scanning the room looking for a familiar face but when I see one I don't go over, just keep scanning, looking busy, trying not to look like I am standing in the middle of the dance floor for no reason. Nobody else is looking around. They are all in their own worlds, doing their own thing. Why can't I do my own thing? Maybe this is my thing.

I look at the dance floor, imagine there's no music and think about why all these people are crowded into this small space and why they are moving around so much. I am in a silent disco with no headphones. I try to get into the mind of each person- 'Why did you come here tonight?' 'What is it you want?' 'Why do you have a hat that says 'boy' on it?' I reproach myself for being so arrogant and superior, but I don't feel arrogant and superior standing here. I just feel confused.

A western girl with a flower in her hair comes over to me. 'Just imagine it's your living room.' She says, dancing and looking straight into my eyes. 'Do you think these people realise there are other people around them? No, they come here to look at themselves in the mirror, to wear nice clothes, to show off their bodies.' She dances off.

An old man wearing a long-sleeved silk cloak is swaying to the music, holding his walking stick in the air. As he sees me standing there, a broad smile spreads across his face. 'A reed before the wind lives on, while mighty oaks do fall.' He says, guffawing, showing the depths of his toothless mouth.
I should drink some water.

'You've gotta finish what's in your glass before I make you another one.' says the bartender.

'But I don't want this one.'

'You gotta finish it.'

'I just want some water. I don't want another drink.'

'Finish it or charge is 200NTD.'

I head to the toilets to get rid of my drink and come back with an empty glass. Easier than arguing.

'No drinks in the toilets' says the bouncer.

I walk back to the dance floor. The old man is gone. I put my half-finished drink (I think it is a gin fizz) under my jumper and walk back to the toilets, folding my arms to hide the bulge. I get to the urinal, take out the cup and quickly empty it out.

'Hey, I saw that.' The bouncer is behind me.

'I just threw up.' I say, wiping my mouth.

'Come with me, now.' I follow the bouncer, still holding my cup. We arrive at the cash desk.

'Pay 200NTD or leave'.

It's cold outside and I realise I have forgotten my coat in the cloakroom, which also has my mobile phone in it. I turn round to go back down the stairs but the bouncer is still waiting there.
'Don't let that guy back in' he says to the security guard at the door as I approach.

I back out into the square, go across to the 7/11 to get a coffee. Nobody is there, not even the attendant. I look across to Babe 18. The queue has gone, the security guard is not there, and the main doors are shut up. The whole square is deserted apart from a scooter parked up in the middle of the square with the engine running and the lights on. The lights cut across the dark of the square, making the small thin trees send out wild shadows in all directions. I wait in the 7/11 and look at the clock on the wall. If it gets to half past twelve and nobody comes back to the scooter, I will get on it. The hum of the engine is the only sound I can hear, it fills my whole head.

By 12:35 I am on the Xinyi express road heading south east. A few solitary taxis pass by, the faces of the drivers hidden in shadow. The sounds of the city are soon lost completely as I leave the highway, pass shuttered noodle shops and the dim red glow of temples. The road climbs and the shops and dwellings get sparser until they stop completely, giving way to trees and bushes and the occasional tudigong shrine.
The drone of the scooter lowers and is replaced by a whirring, then a clattering, then silence. No more fuel. I pull into the side of the road as the headlights slowly dim, leaving me in total darkness. As the cooling engine crackles, the air becomes full of cicadas, the ping of bats and the nocturnal rustlings of unknown creatures.

But among the persistent drone of the cicadas, there is a more human sound. Somebody is singing in the forest. Pushing away branches and fending off clouds of mosquitos I leave the road and climb down a steep incline, towards the noise. The forest turns into a clearing. At the end of the clearing there is a small brick house. In front of the house is a low-walled courtyard. A small naked light bulb hangs above the entrance. Sounds of the accordion and keyboard accompany an echoed gravelly voice, singing in Taiwanese. A group of old men sit outside, smoking and chewing betel nut. They cannot see me approach. In the middle of the courtyard I can see the accordion player, a blind man with a beret, sitting on a chair. The whole crowd joins in the chorus, their cans of beer raised in the air.

I leave the clearing and continue climbing down the slope. In no time at all the music has disappeared. The incessant chirping of cicadas and humming of mosquitos returns. A light breeze shakes the leaves of the trees above, faint traces of incense. At the bottom of the valley is a small temple, lit by the lights of a hundred flickering candles. Monks in red kneel before a statue, hidden in darkness, rhythmically chanting to the quick beat of a drum. I walk past them, following nothing in particular as the long night draws on.

The flat ground comes to an end and starts to rise. The other side of the valley perhaps. It seems I have been walking for ages but impossible to tell. Here there are rocks and boulders, slippery with moss. I begin to scramble up them. A snake slithers across my path, pale and ghostly in the moonlight. I stop for a minute to negotiate my way through the boulders when I hear the snap of a twig close by. I freeze. A rustling of leaves behind. Out of the forest comes a man wearing only a grass skirt. In one hand he holds a spear, in the other a dark bundle that seems to be tied with string. I breathe out too loudly. He hears me and shouts in an unknown tongue to the forest behind, gesturing in my direction. A voice replies. As he comes towards me he is lit up by the moonlight. He is carrying a bunch of human heads, knotted together by their thick black hair. Our eyes meet.

I scramble up the boulders, slip and fall several times, never looking back. The day begins to break and the top of the valley above is outlined on the pale blue sky. Breathless and covered with sweat, covered with grazes and scrapes, I pull myself up the final rock and surprise a few keen photographers. Taipei 101 blinks red in the dawn. I walk down the stone steps and reach Xiangshan MRT in time for the first train of the day.
Steve sits in the living room of our apartment in Taipower playing Fifa, a half-eaten happy meal lying on the table in front of him. 'How was your night?' says Steve. 'You disappeared.'

Photo credit: Amina88

Friday, 05 September 2014

The Prophetic Task of Chinese Christianity


Chinese Christianity is confronted to many challenges, some of them present from the start of its history, others fostered by current social and political conditions. There is however one challenge that I would like to point out, which is not proper to China but about which Chinese Christians could, I believe, make a difference that would, on the long term, hugely impact World Christianity.

As in other parts of the world, Chinese Christians inherited the divisions that came from the history of the West: the "Eastern {Syrian} Church" that modestly expanded in China around the 5th-9th centuries was already marked by the theological and cultural divisions agitating the Church during that period. Tridentine Catholicism firmly shaped the Chinese Church from the end of the 16th century onwards. The arrival of Protestant missionaries during the nineteenth century radically diversified China's religious landscapes. Cultural differences among the Catholic religious congregations that were in charge of the missionary endeavor also fostered different types of devotion and liturgical sensitivities. Even Orthodoxy has left some marks on Chinese Christianity.

Such diversity is not without merits. It offers various outlooks on Christian traditions and overall understanding. It opened up a variety of paths for the development of local communities. Still, Chinese Christianity taken as a whole has suffered from the hostility and misunderstandings that the various denominations have brought with them and that some of its leaders are stirring even today. If open hostility is usually avoided, indifference and self-centered development are the norm, to the extent that Protestant and Catholics often have difficulties to recognize each other as sharing the same creed and the same baptism. The ecumenical encounters that may happen are enforced by the state administration, and have no impact on grassroots communities. Each Church is mainly preoccupied with its endogenous growth, and even when religious groups are subjected to the same challenges (as is recently the case in Zhejiang province and, progressively, other places) they are at pains to identify a commonality of interests. 

Making China a beacon of ecumenical cooperation sounds like a far-away ideal, a dream without basis in reality. However, would not such cooperation be a road for the development of Chinese Christianity by healing past misunderstandings, and asserting a communion of faith conducive to a better appreciation of Christian ethos by Chinese society as a whole? Would it not be a "conversion within the conversion" that would give impetus and accrued reflexivity to Christian Churches experiencing the challenges associated with rapid, sometimes anarchic growth? Would it not give them accrued leverage upon the state? And, more importantly, would it not be a way to mobilize Chinese traditional resources of religious toleration by showing the world ways to pragmatically but purposefully overcome past divisions within Christianity?

It is precisely because Chinese Christianity is in a predicament that it needs to look for inventive ways of developing and asserting itself. And instead of being seen by other Churches as a "mission field" that permanently needs help and support from them, China's Churches could and should be making a decisive contribution to the future of Christianity. There is no better way for this than being at the frontline when it comes to the overcoming of the divisions that Western Churches brought with them along with the Gospel of reconciliation.

Photo by Liang Zhun

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