The light shines out under the curtain of night, and as we approach, it gets brighter and stronger, just like the music and singing from the same source. We finally see what it is - a translucent cloth illuminated by a single bulb, a canvas for the colorful silhouettes of cut-out figures acting out the story of how the folk hero Zhu Yuanzhang rose from his peasant roots and overthrew the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), and then founded the Ming empire. Despite runny noses from the frigid cold, members of the audience sit cross-legged on the frozen earth in front of the stage, entranced by the performance. In Huaxian county, Shaanxi province, where it all began more than 2,000 years ago, shadow puppetry is still very much a part of most any important occasion in village life - be it birth, death or marriage. The performance in front of us, for example, commemorates a funeral. For puppeteer Wei Jinquan, the sadness is doubled. He buried his father, shadow puppet master singer Wei Zhenye only four days ago. The senior Wei was 81, and among those who had gathered to perform in his honor was his son.
KATHMANDU - China and Nepal pledged to further relations as Premier Wen Jiabao wrapped up an official visit to the Himalayan nation on Saturday.
The show starts and gongs and drums sound backstage. Other instruments join the chorus, each different but all in harmony. The shadow puppets appear next, and fierce fighting and acrobatic moves earn applause from the audience.
Mugur Ciugancan (you can call him "Wei Hua") stands out in the Four Seasons, a quiet Japanese restaurant near Beijing's Solana mall. The handsome young Romanian pop singer has just settled into a cozy booth after a week of rehearsal and recording for CCTV's upcoming Spring Festival show, Songs and Smiles. A bit weary and eager to relax, he still seems to contain a disproportionate amount of the energy in the room. His body is constantly in motion: He talks with his hands, points to the choicest items on a menu he knows well, and waves at passing members of the restaurant staff. A decade ago, Ciugancan was riding an early wave of foreigners who made a place for themselves in China by taking the stage and singing in both Mandarin and their home language. The fedora-topped singer had plenty of confidence back then - the 18-year-old had already recorded two albums in Romania and had been singing on Romanian TV for a year.
The 18th-century English poet William Blake once wrote "to see a world in a grain of sand". It is probably metaphysical for many people, but it's no exaggeration for Zhang Chao, a Beijing-based micrograph enthusiast.
MUMBAI - Paul Scholes should play on beyond this season after a shock return from retirement that has saved Manchester United a fortune in the January transfer window, according to the club's ex-captain Gary Neville.
Throughout Mexico and much of Latin America, the old migratory patterns are changing.
Science and Technology
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - Until last year, this city and the surrounding county had been seismically dead since Scots-Irish settlers arrived in the 18th century.
LOUISVILLE, Kentucky - Bourbon, a singularly American spirit, is undergoing a boom. At a time when many American industries are struggling, distillers here are cashing in on an American renaissance in whiskey-based cocktails, as well as a growing thirst for bourbon around the world.
Arts and Styles
NOVA IGUACU, Brazil - The train to this city on Rio de Janeiro's edge carries passengers from the urban underclass chasing dreams big and small: teenagers trying out for a soccer club, a maid studying to be a nurse.
'I've been baking my whole life. I'd just never done it professionally," said Charlotte Neuville, the fashion designer who has launched a new business called The Fashion Chef.
Christian Hoffman lives near the China World Trade Center, but he cycles to the 798 Arts district in East Chaoyang for work. He believes in an eco-friendly lifestyle, and he cooks and eats that way as well.
Huang Ying is better known as Ying Huang, the name on her Facebook page as well as her official website. And, the coloratura soprano from China is also well known from her various roles in opera.
One of the best ways to see India is from its rooftops. No crowds, just a quiet, comfortable space from which to watch that amazing world go by.