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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.
Absolutely gorgeous image of a giant Buddha carved into a hillside in Leshan, China.
(h/t @carnellm)

Absolutely gorgeous image of a giant Buddha carved into a hillside in Leshan, China.

(h/t @carnellm)

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By inaction one can become the center of thought, the focus of responsibility, the arbiter of wisdom. Full allowance must be made for others, while remaining unmoved oneself. There must be a thorough compliance with divine principles, without any manifestation thereof. All of which may be summed up in the one word “passivity.” For the perfect man employs his mind as a mirror. It grasps nothing: it refuses nothing. It receives, but does not keep. And thus he can triumph over matter, without injury to himself.
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ZhuangziZhuangzi (Chuang Tzŭ), from Lionel Giles’ Musings of a Chinese Mystic

The idea behind the Taoist sage’s language is appealing, but I’m not sure I fully grasp its meaning — or that I fully buy into it. Perhaps someone could help me better comprehend it?

(via trentgilliss)

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newshour:

Villagers in Zhengyangguan, in China’s eastern Anhui province, raise two children dressed as a deities onto poles. The “floating ballet” is an annual ritual once celebrated in many other villages but is now on the decline with fewer children now participating.
(Photo by AFP/Getty Images)

~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

newshour:

Villagers in Zhengyangguan, in China’s eastern Anhui province, raise two children dressed as a deities onto poles. The “floating ballet” is an annual ritual once celebrated in many other villages but is now on the decline with fewer children now participating.

(Photo by AFP/Getty Images)

~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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Autumn Harvest Festival Pays Homage to the Moon

by Susan Leem, associate producer

Traditional Moon CakeThe egg yolk inside the moon cake evokes the full harvest moon. (photo: Mike Clarke/AFP/Getty Images)

For many Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese, the moon festival or mid-autumn harvest festival falls on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month. That is, today, September 12th, 2011.

Legend says the wife of a great archer flew to the moon after drinking a powerful elixir that was meant for him as a reward for shooting down extra suns that were scorching the earth. It’s a time to join with family to share a traditional moon cake, a bean paste-filled sister to the American fruit cake meant for giving rather than actually eating. Families also gather to watch the scheduled full moon. The Hong Kong Observatory has even made a chart of recommended viewing times.

Harvest MoonA harvest moon. (photo: beaumontpete/ Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

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China’s biggest strategic resource is not oil, not rare earths, not even pandas. It is young women.
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Luo Tianhao, as quoted in Damien Ma’s recent blog post in The Atlantic.

China valentine
A women looks at a bouquet of roses at a flower market in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province of China. (photo: ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images)

by Susan Leem, associate producer

I couldn’t help but swoon a little when reading Ma’s piece. Luo Tianhao proposes a “mei nu" tax (read Ma’s post for more detailed explanation) on Chinese women who marry foreigners to prevent them from leaving the country. Though Ma meant to illustrate a comical bureaucratic solution to China’s longstanding concern about men outnumbering women, I saw it as a kind of backhanded love letter to China’s women.

An economist would see the quote above and weigh that claim against the proposal and try to parse out its potential for success (or maybe quickly denounce it based on moral principles). But, to me, it reads almost like a Hallmark card for the emotionally clumsy on Valentine’s Day, “Dear Jane, you are my biggest strategic resource, better than oil, rare earths, or even pandas.”

Damien Ma doesn’t give much credence to this proposal. But like the awkward, late valentine, maybe it is the thought that counts.

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One Hundred Million Seeds of Porcelain Contemplation

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Ai Weiwei holds hand-painted, porcelain sunflower seeds from his installation at the Tate Modern in London.

Ai Weiwei holds porcelain seeds from his Unilever installation titled “Sunflower Seeds.” (photo: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s latest installation at the Tate Modern is an incredible feat: one hundred million hand-painted pieces of porcelain that resemble the shells of sunflower seeds. One finds oneself moved to understand its meaning, to grasp its scale, to contemplate the immense amount of energy and ability of so many artisans to produce something this massive — and oh-so delicate — all so that can be walked on, laid on, picked up, thrown, raked, or what have you in the midst of the minimal gray landscape of Turbine Hall.

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A close-up view of some of the porcelain husks used in “Sunflower Seeds.” (photo: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Nothing appears to be what it seems. And, for Weiwei, the meaning goes much deeper: “From a very young age I started to sense that an individual has to set an example in society. Your own acts and behavior tell the world who you are and at the same time what kind of society you think it should be.”

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A girl and her mother sit and toss some of the 100 million porcelain seeds in the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern in London. (photo: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Where Anton Gormley’s massive humanoid sculptures somehow aid your eye on focusing on the environment in which they’re set, nature strangely becomes the focus. Here, I can only imagine, these objets d’art, these precious works of individual hands, become the focal point as you crush them beneath your heels. The sonorous echoes of this footfall is a social and political act in itself — probably one each observer doesn’t fully appreciate until you walk out to the River Thames and trample silently on concrete and manicured turf.

The Guardian has put together this insightful short video of Ai Weiwei discussing the humanity that drives his social and political stances on his art, the creative thinking coming out of China, and the way way technology enabled him to amplify his voice and “to speak for generations who don’t have a chance to speak out”:

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This is not simply something from below, but it’s being met from above in constructive ways as well … the fact there are centers for religious studies arising at universities around China with public support, the fact that there’s now a discourse about the positive role that religion can play in Chinese society.
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—Tom Banchoff, director of Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs

All this week, NPR has been airing Louisa Lim's reports from Beijing that highlight various aspects of religious growth and change in China, including stories about burgeoning support for Buddhism, women's mosques and female imams, divided Catholics, and the rebirth of folk religion. “God is rising here…” says one Chinese Christian woman quoted. This series "New Believers: A Religious Revolution in China" helps illustrate how that’s happening.

Colleen Scheck, senior producer

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China’s Day of MourningShubha Bala, associate producer
On Wednesday, China declared an official day of mourning for the victims of the earthquake last week in a remote Tibetan region in the Qinghai province. At least 2,183 people have been killed in the earthquake, and 84 people are still missing.
The government shut down many entertainment activities including karaoke bars and online gaming sites. Search engines and newspapers were black and white for the day. And all TV stations could only broadcast state media of the rescue efforts for the entire day.
Image to the right: residents, rescuers, troops, and officials observed three minutes  of silence at 10 a.m. on Wednesday in Xinig, the capital of the province that experienced the quake. (photo: AFP/Getty Images)
 Students at a school in Hefei, in central China’s Anhui province, hold a candlelight vigil to mourn victims of the earthquake. (photo: AFP/Getty Images)
 Students line up for a moment of silence. (photo: AFP/Getty Images)
Tibetan monks, wearing rescue mission vests, offer prayers for the day of mourning. The monks say they had been asked to leave the region on Wednesday and that they were absent from the national media on that day. (photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images)
In the lead image, a Xining airport worker grieves while standing in silence to mourn the earthquake victims. (photo: Liu Jin/AFP/Getty Images)

China’s Day of Mourning
Shubha Bala, associate producer

On Wednesday, China declared an official day of mourning for the victims of the earthquake last week in a remote Tibetan region in the Qinghai province. At least 2,183 people have been killed in the earthquake, and 84 people are still missing.

The government shut down many entertainment activities including karaoke bars and online gaming sites. Search engines and newspapers were black and white for the day. And all TV stations could only broadcast state media of the rescue efforts for the entire day.

Image to the right: residents, rescuers, troops, and officials observed three minutes of silence at 10 a.m. on Wednesday in Xinig, the capital of the province that experienced the quake. (photo: AFP/Getty Images)

Chinese Students Hold a Candlelight Vigil to Mourn Earth Quake Victims
Students at a school in Hefei, in central China’s Anhui province, hold a candlelight vigil to mourn victims of the earthquake. (photo: AFP/Getty Images)

Students Mourn Victims of Recent Earthquake
Students line up for a moment of silence. (photo: AFP/Getty Images)

Tibetan Monks Mourn Earthquake Victims
Tibetan monks, wearing rescue mission vests, offer prayers for the day of mourning. The monks say they had been asked to leave the region on Wednesday and that they were absent from the national media on that day. (photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images)

In the lead image, a Xining airport worker grieves while standing in silence to mourn the earthquake victims. (photo: Liu Jin/AFP/Getty Images)

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Encountering Min and Mao

Shubha Bala, associate producer

Being new on the staff, I love hearing older programs that are new to me. Preparing for the Mayfair Yang show this week, Krista mentioned a past conversation with author Anchee Min, whose name came up again the next day when we received a copy of her latest book, Pearl of China.

Her interview in "Surviving the Religion of Mao" is a personal view into life growing up in Communist China, and as a devoted member of the Red Guard.

Anchee MinAn emotionally critical event occurred when she, as an 11-year old child, was told to publicly denounce her favorite teacher:

"I was awarded by the school and the principal and the entire district, the neighborhood, with red color, the certificate of Mao’s Good Child. And I was so proud. I was the child, the best child in the neighborhood, and yet my mother refused to put that certificate on the wall. She was not happy and told me she wants to disown me. And I was very confused. But she said something. She said, ‘Your father and I are teachers. Imagine if our student come up and denounce us, how I feel?’ She instill this common sense in me that conflict with my vanity and my devotion to Mao’s words."

She also reflects on embracing her identity as an adult:

"I feel that I am more Chinese in America than I could feel if I was in China. You know, the moment I step on my motherland in China, my guard will be up. I talk differently, behave differently."

Her conversation touches on the Buddhist traditions of her grandparents, her mother hiding her Christianity even to her own daughter, and on the weight of choice in her life:

"…when I learned that my brother and my sister were rejected by American visas, and the American Consulate says that the only chance that they can come to America is to study is to have me go back, to exchange, which means I would go back to China for good, and I was not able to quit, you know, what I had achieved here. And that was a very selfish act. And after I made that decision, then I talked to my father. I said, ‘I couldn’t live with it.’ So I told my father that I want to come and to let my sister have the chance. And my father says, ‘No way, because you come home that doesn’t mean that they will get the visa, and that you will lose your visa for good. And my biggest fear is if China were to ever have a conflict with America, you will be the first person to be denounced as American spy.’ So, I ended up staying here."
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Download

Repossessing Virtue: Anchee Min on Repairing the American Individual
» download (mp3, 16:47)
Rob McGinley Myers, Associate Producer

The novelist and memoirist Anchee Min grew up in Mao’s China, during the Cultural Revolution. In our program "Surviving the Religion of Mao," she described that period, beginning in 1966, when Chinese people were forced into peasant labor camps and told to sacrifice everything they loved for the greater good of the country.

I was taught to write, “I love you, Chairman Mao” before I was taught to write my own name. I never thought I belonged to myself. It was never “I love you, Papa” not “I love you, Mama.” It’s always “I love you, Communist Party of China,” “I love you, Chairman Mao.”

We were taught if you can sacrifice your loved ones, if you can denounce your parents, if you can denounce your favorite teacher, you are capable of greater love for the humanity.

Anchee Min managed to come to the United States in the 1980s, taught herself English, and became a bestselling author in part by writing about the horrors of her childhood. So I was particularly interested in her thoughts about our current economic downturn. Having grown up in a culture of total sacrifice, and then come to a country that so celebrates the pursuit of happiness, what perspective does she bring to this crisis?  She has some hard and challenging answers.

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Download

Repossessing Virtue: Pankaj Mishra on the Dangers of Progress
» download (mp3, 14:06)
Shiraz Janjua, Associate Producer

Looking ahead to next week’s refreshed and resonant broadcast of our Buddha in the World program, here’s some new material with the guest of that program, Indian journalist Pankaj Mishra. In the original interview with Krista in 2005, he had come out of a personal adventure retracing the steps of the Buddha and reflecting on his modern-day relevance. He had some powerful things to say about globalization, so we sought out his thoughts once more, this time on the economic crisis.

Now, as he did in that program, he critiques the ideologies of progress and globalization. But his critique makes me think of something in our Recovering Chinese Religiosities program: we often measure progress solely through economic terms; we measure China’s and India’s increased economic power as invariably good. And the logic is fairly convincing: if a country has more money, its citizens must have a higher standard of living, and must therefore be happier.

But, unfortunately, the opposite must also be true — that when we lose money, we lose happiness, because we lose security. Never mind “we” — maybe I’m just talking about myself. I am secure when I know I have a roof over my head, a job, food nearby, the whole nine. Yes, I admit it: having money makes me worry less about the future.

So how do we deal with this unhappiness and insecurity? As Pankaj Mishra says, we don’t have to invent some new solution to our way of living. Our traditions already have resources to heal us. We need to live like we’re bound to the people around us. Perhaps doing so — especially in a society where we value individualism and specialization — would have prevented the larger crisis. Well, who can say. We can’t really apply that program across society, but we sure can try it in our own lives. I suppose as the news gets worse day by day, being bound to other people is one way we might collectively stay afloat.

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The Olympic “Ritual Frame”Andy Dayton, Associate Web Producer
I encountered an interesting blog post today called “Olympic Ritual and Religion, hosted by a Religion-less State." The article begins by pointing out that "Religion-less" China didn’t hold back when evoking the "implicit religious sentiments" of the Olympic Games in the Beijing Opening Ceremonies (perhaps the article’s author might be interested in hearing our recent program "Recovering Chinese Religiosities”). The part I found most interesting was focused on Pierre de Coubertin, who is credited as the founder of the modern Olympic Games:

As a French Catholic who never felt the need to leave the practices of faith, Coubertin was powerfully aware of the power of ritual and liturgical form. In one of his most insightful moments, he insisted that without the “ritual frame” provided by the Opening and Closing ceremonies, the Modern Olympic Games would simply become another set of World Championships—and the world already had enough of those. What it did not have enough of was religion, religion as a ritual practice, and that is what his version of modern “ambulatory” Olympics (a new city and host country, every time) were designed to provide.

(Photo: ♥ China ♥ guccio/Flickr)

The Olympic “Ritual Frame”
Andy Dayton, Associate Web Producer

I encountered an interesting blog post today called “Olympic Ritual and Religion, hosted by a Religion-less State." The article begins by pointing out that "Religion-less" China didn’t hold back when evoking the "implicit religious sentiments" of the Olympic Games in the Beijing Opening Ceremonies (perhaps the article’s author might be interested in hearing our recent program "Recovering Chinese Religiosities”). The part I found most interesting was focused on Pierre de Coubertin, who is credited as the founder of the modern Olympic Games:

As a French Catholic who never felt the need to leave the practices of faith, Coubertin was powerfully aware of the power of ritual and liturgical form. In one of his most insightful moments, he insisted that without the “ritual frame” provided by the Opening and Closing ceremonies, the Modern Olympic Games would simply become another set of World Championships—and the world already had enough of those. What it did not have enough of was religion, religion as a ritual practice, and that is what his version of modern “ambulatory” Olympics (a new city and host country, every time) were designed to provide.

(Photo: ♥ China ♥ guccio/Flickr)

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