Saturday, August 13, 2011

Books on Asian Cultures

This is a selection of titles on Asian cultures:  

Culture India: Philosophy, Religion, Arts, Literature, Society edited by Mahendra Kulasrestha.  This is a re-publication of a work originally published in 1962 as a part of the Tagore Centenary Volume. It is a compendium of essays on Indian philosophy, religion, arts, literature and society contributed by eminent Indian scholars, including Radhakrishnan, Suniti Kumar Chatterji, Svetoslav Roerich among others. Essay topics include The Philosophy of India, Buddhism and the Upanishads, Ashoka: The First King of Peace, Varnashrama and Caste, Rigvedic Poetic Spirit and Sanskrit Literature.

Coming of Age: Forgotten Faces of a Greying Asia by David Tay and Poey Cher.  These 80 photo portraits by widely-recognised Singaporean David Tay are of aged Asian people of many ethnicities and walks of life. Some of the portraits are complemented with age-old sayings or literary quotations. Unusual insights are offered in this uncomplicated publication.

Zen and Japanese Culture by Daistz T. Suzuki.  Acknowledged as Japan's foremost authority on Zen Buddhism, Daisetz T. Suzuki's greatest achievement was to open up a path to the essential spirit of Zen thought to the West. He devoted much of his long life - he died in 1966 aged 95 - to this, but nowhere does he encapsulate his teaching and philosophy more powerfully than in Zen and Japanese Culture. First published in 1938 and fully revised in 1958 to incorporate new topics which had aroused Suzuki's interest, the book remains a classic study of the "the spirit of Zen". After briefly explaining what Zen is, Dr Suzuki considers in detail various aspects of Japanese life and art that this Buddhist discipline has influenced: the cult of swordsmanship, the tea ceremony, the haiku form, and the Japanese love of nature. Other essays are devoted to the relationship of Zen and Confucianism, to the role of Zen in the tradition of the Samurai and to Japanese art. The book also contains a bibliography, index, 69 illustrations chosen to complement the text and to highlight the finest in Japanese Zen art and calligraphy.

Malay Heritage of Singapore edited by Aileen Lau and Bernhard Platzdasch.  Malay life and culture on Singapore island can be traced back to the 7th century and it has of course always formed a basic factor in Singapore's history and development. The 16 sections in this extensively illustrated volume by specialists, and together they explore the many dimensions of the Malay heritage. The early history of Temasek, Singapura and the first British years are overviewed and then trade patterns, buildings, settled kampongs, community life, material culture including traditional weapons and costume, arts, music and leisure activities are all explored. Illustrations, archival material and reminiscences contribute to knowledge of the very diverse ways in which Malays and Malay culture are and have been part of Singapore's diversity. With bibliography, maps, and about 500 photographs.

In Grandmother’s House: Thai Folklore, Traditions and Rural Village Life by Sorasing Kaowai and Peter Robinson.  This is a gentle account of life in a then-remote village where the author was brought up by his grandmother who had spent her life (1921-1991) following traditional patterns of life in rural Thailand. He tells of local traditional beliefs, of daily life and hardships, and of the wisdoms he gained which have proved of lasting value in his city adulthood. With explanatory notes by the co-author.

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