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Scarves emblazoned with red dragons draped over their black business suits, Chinese officials lit incense and bowed solemnly at the feet of a mythical ancestor known as the Yellow Emperor.

The avowedly atheist Communist Party is promoting worship of the ancient figure as it seeks to bolster its legitimacy -- and emphasise Chinese blood ties, including with Taiwan ahead of the inauguration of Beijing-sceptic president Tsai Ing-wen.

Thousands gathered in the heartland province of Henan, where the Yellow Emperor –- described in archaic annals and present day schoolbooks as the

founder of Chinese civilisation -- is said to have been born 5,000 years ago.

 

Shots from gold-painted cannon began the annual ceremony, and the crowd, many in replica antique costume, listened to a booming announcer heralding the "ancestor of the Chinese nation".

High-ranking cadres –- including the province's top official, and a former vice culture minister -– processed up a red carpet, placed offerings in front of an altar and gazed into the statue's chiselled visage, before bowing.

Lydia Zhou, an investment manager who flew from Shanghai to attend, told AFP: "I'm here to worship. He is our ancestor and this is his birthplace."

 

 

South Korean author Han Kang won the Man Booker International Prize on Monday, sharing the £50,000 ($72,000, 63,500 euros) award with her translator -- who had only taught herself Korean three years before.

Han Kang, 45, an author and creative writing teacher who is already successful in South Korea, is likely to enjoy a spike in international sales following the win for "The Vegetarian".

"I'm so honoured" she told AFP. "The work features a protagonist who wants to become a plant, and to leave the human race to save herself from the dark side human nature.

"Through this extreme narrative I felt I could question... the difficult question of being human."

She was the first South Korean to win the prize.

Described as "lyrical and lacerating" by chairman of the judges Boyd Tonkin, the tale traces the story of an ordinary woman's rejection of convention from three different perspectives.

It was picked unanimously by the panel of five judges, beating six other novels including "The Story of the Lost Child" by Italian sensation Elena Ferrante and "A Strangeness in My Mind" by Turkey's Orhan Pamuk.

"This is a book of tenderness and terror," Boyd told guests at the award ceremony dinner at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Han Kang's first book to appear in English, "The Vegetarian" was described by newspaper The Guardian as a shock to the system.

"Across the three parts, we are pressed up against a society's most inflexible structures -- expectations of behaviour, the workings of institutions -- and we watch them fail one by one," Daniel Hahn wrote in a review.

- 'Climbing a mountain' -

For the first time this year, the award went jointly to the translator, Deborah Smith, 28, who only started learning Korean three years before she embarked on the translation.

"This was the first book that I ever translated, and the best possible thing that can happen to a translator has just happened to me," an emotional Smith told AFP.

"When I was 22 I decided to teach myself Korean… I felt that I was limited by only being able to speak English. I'd always read a lot of translations, and you get the sense of this whole world being out there, very different perspectives, different stories," she said.

"It felt as thought I looked up almost every other word in the dictionary. It felt a bit like climbing a mountain. But at the same time just falling into this world that was so atmospheric and disturbing and moving -- it was a wonderful experience."

 

 

US actor Robert De Niro is involved in a project to build a new luxury hotel in the heart of London, he has revealed.

The 83-room Wellington Hotel project, if approved, would be built in Covent Garden and is expected to feature a spa and two restaurants.

"London is one of the most exciting and cosmopolitan cities in the world," the 72-year-old star said in a statement released Saturday.

"It makes perfect sense to develop a hotel that represents all of that in the heart of this city in Covent Garden."

 

 

Jubilant Ukrainians erupted in celebration Sunday after Jamala won the Eurovision Song Contest with a powerful tribute to her Tatar people's deportation from Russian-annexed Crimea in 1944.

"Yes!!!" Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko tweeted. "An unbelievable performance and victory! All of Ukraine gives you its heartfelt thanks, Jamala."

"Glory to Ukraine!" Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman added.

And Kiev Mayor Vitali Klitschko -- a former boxer who strongly backs Ukraine's new shift toward the West -- said he never doubted Jamala's victory because she was "genuine".

The 32-year-old winner is a member of the Muslim Tatar minority of Crimea who saw her great-grandmother deported along with 240,000 others by Stalin in the penultimate year of World War II.

Many of those died on the tortuous voyage to Central Asia and other distant lands.

 

 

A new iPad app intended to make William Shakespeare's works more accessible is being launched by actor Ian McKellen and director Richard Loncraine on Saturday, the 400th anniversary of the Bard's death.

The app users see actors reading out "The Tempest", facing the camera with no costume or staging as the text scrolls, and its developers said they hope eventually to cover all of Shakespeare's 37 plays.

"This is not a production. We're in our own clothes, the actors are not relating to each other. The person we're relating to is you, the person at the other end of the app," said McKellen, who worked with Loncraine on a production of "Richard III" 20 years ago.

"We're trying to help you," he said.

"Shakespeare did not mean you to read it. He wanted the actors to read it, learn it, put the script aside and speak it to the audience," he added.

"The Tempest" was chosen because it is Shakespeare's last play but also the one that appears first in a compilation of Shakespeare works put together in 1623 -- seven years after the famous playwright's death.

Users can pause the readings to click on notes whose level of detail can be adapted if the viewers are schoolchildren or university students.

Loncraine, who set up Heuristic Media, said the app "helps people to comprehend" Shakespeare but was "not meant to be a substitute" for watching a play.

"It was written 400 years ago so it's very, very difficult for modern audiences who haven't studied it," he said.

The programme "strips away elements that you don't need to understand the text," he said.

 

 

An unflattering painting depicting a nude Donald Trump went on show in London this weekend having being censored in the United States, where its creator claims to have received a thousand death threats from his supporters.

Los-Angeles based artist Illma Gore's Make America Great Again, named after the Republican candidate's campaign slogan, went on display at the Maddox gallery in the exclusive Mayfair neighbourhood on Friday, and is valued at £1 million (S$1.9 million).

"Make America Great Again was created to evoke a reaction from its audience, good or bad, about the significance we place on our physical selves," said the 24-year-old artist.

 

"I drew Trump nude, I was evoking a reaction from people... so I tried not to think about it until I spoke to a lawyer who suggested I go to the police about it and file a report in case something happens," she said of the death threats, which came after posting the painting online.

 

 

Harper Lee, one of America's most celebrated novelists who died in February, thought Donald Trump's infamous Taj Mahal casino was hell on Earth, a stash of her private correspondence revealed Monday.

The "To Kill a Mockingbird" author, whose masterpiece about racial injustice was read by millions, slammed the billionaire presidential hopeful's boardwalk resort in New Jersey in a letter to a friend in 1990.

"The worst punishment God can devise for this sinner is to make her spirit reside eternally at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City," Lee wrote in the missive, recovered along with several others from her New York apartment.

Lee, who was apparently entertaining visitors, stayed at the $1 billion gambling spot a few months after its April 1990 inauguration.

The resort is now owned by billionaire Carl Icahn, who took over in February after Trump Entertainment Resorts came out of bankruptcy, though it still bears the Republican frontrunner's name.

 

 

Did you hear the one about the Irishwoman who taught the French how to cook?

It may sound like some sort of dubious Irish joke. But in the case of Trish Deseine there is more than a grain of truth to the tale.

The farmer's daughter from County Antrim is France's bestselling food writer, having sold more than a million copies of her cookbooks.

She is also credited with fundamentally changing the way millions of ordinary French people cook by taking away the fear of living up to one of the world's greatest culinary traditions.

With books like "Petits Plats entre Amis" (Little Dishes Between Friends) and "Je Veux du Chocolat!" (I Want Chocolate!), she taught a generation intimidated by long shadow of France's gastronomic greats to dare.

For Deborah Dupont-Daguet, the owner of La Librarie Gourmande in Paris -- which claims to be the world's biggest culinary bookshop -- Deseine was nothing short of an inspiration with her clever, unashamedly simple takes on French classics and recipes from around the world

The first cookbook Dupont-Daguet ever bought was "Little Dishes Between Friends".

"It's weird but I learned French cooking from that book. You would never see those types of tips in a French cookbook 15 years ago. It's completely crazy," she said, "but it took an Irishwoman to tell us these things."

Even Deseine is still slighty bemused by her success. "I have theories, but I really don't know why," she told AFP. "People felt liberated because I was taking the fuss out of cooking. I think maybe it was okay for an outsider to say you don't have to go through 50 complicated steps. My approach was very natural and direct and sensual."

But having been France's Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson rolled into one, Deseine is now trying to crack an even harder nut.

 

Her new book, "Mon Irlande", or "Home" in its English translation, is an attempt to bring the simple virtues of Irish cooking to the French and the rest of the world.

No easy task for a country more synonymous with a certain black liquid refreshment and a long history of famine and hunger than its food.

But Deseine, 51, is convinced its time has come.

 

 

 

Frank Sinatra, Jr. died of a heart attack while on tour in the US state of Florida, his sister Nancy said. He was 72.

"The Sinatra family mourn the untimely passing of their son, brother, father, uncle Frank Sinatra, Jr. of cardiac arrest while in tour in Daytona, Florida," Nancy Sinatra said in a statement posted on Facebook on Wednesday. "Sleep warm, Frankie."

Sinatra followed his famous father's footsteps into the music business, beginning his singing career in his teens.

Starting in 1988, Sinatra served as conductor and musical director for his father in his final years of performing live.

Frank Sinatra, Sr., the Rat Pack star of the 1960s, died in 1998.

Sinatra was meant to perform at the Peabody Auditorium in Daytona Beach, Florida on Wednesday night as part of the "Sinatra Sings Sinatra" tour.

The theater announced his death on its Facebook page, after posting earlier in the evening that the show was cancelled because the singer had fallen ill after arriving in town.

The younger Sinatra might be best remembered for being kidnapped at age 19 by a pair of young men hoping to extort money from his famous father.

 

 

 

A surprise new album by Kendrick Lamar opened Sunday at number one on the US chart in the latest triumph for the critically acclaimed rapper.

The album -- the fourth by the 28-year-old, entitled "untitled unmastered." -- sold 178,000 copies or the equivalent in streaming in the United States in the week through Thursday, Nielsen Music said.

Lamar released "untitled unmastered." without previous notice on March 4 in the wake of the Grammys, where he was the music industry gala's biggest winner with five awards.

He characterized the album as a series of rough works from the studio, although the songs take on heavy themes including an opening track that mixes images of the biblical apocalypse and contemporary social ills.