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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.

Finding the Confucian HeartAndy Dayton, Associate Web Producer
Last week as I was fleshing out the particulars for our program “Recovering Chinese Religiosities,” I stumbled upon an interesting article about a discovery that the director of the Harvard Yenching Institute referred to as “like the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.” In 1993, Chinese archeologists uncovered several bamboo strips near Guodian, China. Those strips were found to contain what is thought to be the oldest written version of the Tao Te Ching, as well as many writings from supposed Confucian disciples. The texts are said to have challenged many previous assumptions about both Taoist and Confucian history:
For years scholars believed that Confucians were little concerned with human emotions. But in the Guodian texts, the element “xin,” — a pictographic image of the human heart — appears over and over again as part of several Chinese characters. It’s a startling display, both philologically, in terms of understanding the evolution of Chinese characters, and philosophically. “These texts conclusively show that emotions or feelings as we understand them today were major philosophical concerns,” Tu says. The Guodian texts offer detailed descriptions of a range of human emotions. They also extensively explore the relation between heart, mind, and human nature; between the inner self and the outer world; and whether human nature is good or evil — a cumulative emphasis on the inner dimensions of man that most scholars formerly believed came much later in Chinese intellectual history.
Continuing the lesson we learned from our program with David Treuer, here’s another example of how meaning is often tied to language — the deeper symbolic meaning of the pictographic heart is lost when the text is translated to English. I was also struck by the fact that, while the linguistic elements of this story are specific to Chinese culture, it also displays how the metaphorical relationship between the human heart and emotion seems to be a cross-cultural one.
I can’t help but wonder: What exactly is it about our own biological blood pumps that seem to inspire so much symbolism and meaning?

Finding the Confucian Heart
Andy Dayton, Associate Web Producer

Last week as I was fleshing out the particulars for our program “Recovering Chinese Religiosities,” I stumbled upon an interesting article about a discovery that the director of the Harvard Yenching Institute referred to as “like the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.” In 1993, Chinese archeologists uncovered several bamboo strips near Guodian, China. Those strips were found to contain what is thought to be the oldest written version of the Tao Te Ching, as well as many writings from supposed Confucian disciples. The texts are said to have challenged many previous assumptions about both Taoist and Confucian history:

For years scholars believed that Confucians were little concerned with human emotions. But in the Guodian texts, the element “xin,” — a pictographic image of the human heart — appears over and over again as part of several Chinese characters. It’s a startling display, both philologically, in terms of understanding the evolution of Chinese characters, and philosophically. “These texts conclusively show that emotions or feelings as we understand them today were major philosophical concerns,” Tu says. The Guodian texts offer detailed descriptions of a range of human emotions. They also extensively explore the relation between heart, mind, and human nature; between the inner self and the outer world; and whether human nature is good or evil — a cumulative emphasis on the inner dimensions of man that most scholars formerly believed came much later in Chinese intellectual history.

Continuing the lesson we learned from our program with David Treuer, here’s another example of how meaning is often tied to language — the deeper symbolic meaning of the pictographic heart is lost when the text is translated to English. I was also struck by the fact that, while the linguistic elements of this story are specific to Chinese culture, it also displays how the metaphorical relationship between the human heart and emotion seems to be a cross-cultural one.

I can’t help but wonder: What exactly is it about our own biological blood pumps that seem to inspire so much symbolism and meaning?

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The Eight Is Magical
Shiraz Janjua, Associate Producer

Here’s a little 55-second taste of next week’s show. Krista interviewed anthropologist and filmmaker Mayfair Yang about religion in China. This came toward the end of the interview after the “serious” questions.

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Food from ChinaAndy Dayton, Associate Web ProducerLast week, while taking a break from updating the Web site for our program "The Ethics of Eating" I decided to see if I could find any images that would be useful for an upcoming program about China.
Next thing I knew, I found myself reading about ethical eating once again, stumbling upon the image above, which was used in a blog post about organic food products from China. The post briefly discusses the questionable certification of organic foods coming from China, and quotes a 2006 article from the Dallas Morning News:

Fred Gale, a senior USDA economist who has researched Chinese agriculture, said it was “almost impossible to grow truly organic food in China.”
“The water everywhere is polluted, and the soil is contaminated from industry and mining, and the air is bad.”
The story continues:
The USDA National Organic Program does not certify foods as organic; it certifies organic certification agencies. Forty of these are in foreign countries.
Many of the responses we’ve received for the recent rebroadcast of Krista’s conversation with Barbara Kingsolver were skeptical, to say the least. While this article by no means proves that all organic foods from China are fraudulent, it reaffirms for me that this sort of skepticism is probably necessary for this issue. Our cultural relationship with food continues to need reevaluation, but a larger solution may not be so simple as growing food on your own land (if you’re lucky enough to own land) or buying items stamped “organic” at the grocery store.(Photo: Mike Licht/flickr)

Food from China
Andy Dayton, Associate Web Producer

Last week, while taking a break from updating the Web site for our program "The Ethics of Eating" I decided to see if I could find any images that would be useful for an upcoming program about China.

Next thing I knew, I found myself reading about ethical eating once again, stumbling upon the image above, which was used in a blog post about organic food products from China. The post briefly discusses the questionable certification of organic foods coming from China, and quotes a 2006 article from the Dallas Morning News:

Fred Gale, a senior USDA economist who has researched Chinese agriculture, said it was “almost impossible to grow truly organic food in China.”

“The water everywhere is polluted, and the soil is contaminated from industry and mining, and the air is bad.”

The story continues:

The USDA National Organic Program does not certify foods as organic; it certifies organic certification agencies. Forty of these are in foreign countries.

Many of the responses we’ve received for the recent rebroadcast of Krista’s conversation with Barbara Kingsolver were skeptical, to say the least. While this article by no means proves that all organic foods from China are fraudulent, it reaffirms for me that this sort of skepticism is probably necessary for this issue. Our cultural relationship with food continues to need reevaluation, but a larger solution may not be so simple as growing food on your own land (if you’re lucky enough to own land) or buying items stamped “organic” at the grocery store.

(Photo: Mike Licht/flickr)

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Ancestors at Meal Time
Trent Gilliss, Online Editor

Yesterday, Krista had an early evening interview with the chair of the Asian Studies department at the University of Sydney, Mayfair Yang. Thankfully, within the first five minutes (before I had to leave and perform my parental duties), I was able to capture this endearing story.

Her tale about cuisine was a perfect continuation of Krista’s interview with Nicole Mones a few days earlier. I’m trying to find expedient, thoughtful ways of including our readers and listeners in the production process. The product is a bit rawer, but, from what I’ve gleaned from the response to our unedited interviews, people appreciate hearing the savory elements that might not be as polished.

Right now I’m able to film, edit, and upload this video using my Nokia N95 mobile phone. In the coming weeks though, I hope to stream our cuts-and-copy sessions live using this same phone and a great third-party service. I’m testing it now and am astounded at how well it works. In the meantime, please let me know what you think of our endeavors. Post a comment here.

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Building Guanxi
Trent Gilliss, Online Editor

Sitting behind the glass during one of Krista’s ISDN interviews remains a thrilling experience for me. So, I have no problem convincing myself that others may find pleasure in gaining access to material before it makes its way — hopefully — into a radio broadcast. (By the way, I’m struggling to find a better way to say that since a growing number of our listeners are podcasters and streamers. Audio program sounds pretty droll. Got any ideas?)

And, as journalists in public broadcasting, we have the onus of disclosing more and sharing more with our audiences. So I’m doing just that. Armed with a Nokia N95 — the Swiss army knife of mobile phones for collecting, producing, and distributing content — I shot and edited this clip of Krista interviewing novelist Nicole Mones for a potential program about contemporary Chinese society and their reverence for cuisine as a necessary means of relationship and connectedness, guanxi.

Oh, and the tapping your hear in the background is Colleen transcribing a rough copy of the interview for us to reference when we start editing and producing the program.

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