Where is your “Caput Mundi” – Capital of the World?

The Secret Garden of N Teaser

We were greeted with warm “Buongiarno”s amidst the crisp fresh morning air when we landed in Rome. It was spring, and I was there to attend a global event organized by the non-profit organization I belong to. I have spent time carefully planning my itinerary – I knew I wanted:

  • to see Michelangelo’s David in Florence,
  • to get onto a gondola ride and be at Caneletto’s St Marc’s square in Venice,
  • to reflect on my life while gathering with the others at St Peter’s square in Vatican City,
  • to taste the best gelato in Rome, and
  • to simply be a nosy tourist to marvel at the monuments and sites featured in the scenes of the mystery thrillers of “The Da Vinci Code” and “Angels and Demons”.

Yes, I was excited about this trip! As the taxi zig-zagged through the Roman’ streets to bring us to our hotel, I watched the city and its people waking up to the morning rhythm of life. Suddenly the word “Caput Mundi” flashed through and interposed between the morning street scenes – a word I’ve come across, perhaps in my research for my itinerary.

The Latin phrase “Roma Caput Mundi” – literally means “Rome, head of the world”. We know Classical Greece, Ancient Rome are considered the cradles of western civilization, influencing thoughts, languages, beliefs, customs etc of people from Europe, which later spread to America and Oceania.

Having been born and spent my adolescence years in the east, my eastern civilization root reminded me that we also have a similar word – it actually is the name of a country: Zhōngguó 中国, literally means “ the central/middle of the kingdom/nation”. This chinese name for China is still used today, though not many may have realized the term first appeared in China on a ritual vessel during the Western Zhou dynasty (1046-771 BCE), while Rome at its peak (recognized as the largest city by the western civilization) was during the epoch around 100 BCE – 400 CE.

I bemused at the thought of how these two civilizations, both great as they are made the same claim that their own country was the “center” of the world (which factually we know there can only be one) – yet, this belief is not uncommon at all. As I toured through the great cities in Italy, I was most impressed by the wisdoms of the Romans, the well-travelled merchants, the skilled builders and painters, the structured governance etc have all made Rome such a great centre and influencer of the western civilization. I then reflected these were the exact same attributes that have made China the “middle kingdom” and exerting its influence in the eastern part of the world.

So, where is “Caput Mundi” in this debate?

In my opinion, first “Caput Mundi” shifts with time. In today’s modern world, some may say it is the USA because of its important influence on the rest of the world, yet many are beginning to speculate if this may shift to Russia or China in the near future. Secondly – though the world will have a “Caput Mundi”, I believe we as individuals, will each have our own “Caput Mundi” – Mine is where I live. As I moved from one country to another, I realized focusing my attention to learn from the community I live in, integrating into the local activities, learning the customs and trying out the cuisines etc have brought much fun and have helped me to live a richer life – so within my microcosm and short history of life– I have also shifted my “Caput Mundi” with times…

Now, where is your Caput Mundi?

Keng Keng

Greetings and welcome to the world of TCG.  I am the founder of TransCultural Group (TCG) – a cross-cultural carrefour where we hope people may meet, share and learn from each other beyond cultural boundaries.  Indeed, my life journey has brought me to many places around the world.  I have visited beautiful monuments, explored historical ruins, tasted delicious cuisines, learned intriguing customs and heard many interesting stories – best of all these rewards is the warm friendship with people I have met from six out of the seven continents (yes – you’re right, I have yet to visit Antartica!)  Other than my focus on TCG, I enjoy good foods, music, arts and history.  I believe life is a journey, and the decision is in our hands to decide how we want to experience it.  Bon voyage!  

The Secret Garden of N Teaser

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

TCG - child airplane pretend

Advancing Humanity through Exploration

Inspired by J.C. Maxwell (1831-1879), who published the Theory of Electromagnetism, my final year undergraduate project at KCL was to design and fabricate a Microstrip Antenna for satellite communication. Today I still remain on the mailing list of a group of British IEE engineers living in France. Because of that, I got to watch NASA’s live broadcast…

Gaining from Cross-Cultural Experience

Regardless of the different colours of our hairs and eyes, or the different languages we speak, did you realize we all hold and bite into an apple the same way? My curiosity about myself being a human and what makes me a person resulted in watching several documentaries about our bodies and how our minds…
TCG 2021 January Kindness, virtues, connection

Kindness, Virtues, Connection

Raised with Eastern philosophical root, I always embrace duality (Ying and Yang) when examining life’s happenings. As Winston Churchill said when he worked with other world leaders to form the United Nations after WW II: ” Never let a good crisis go to waste!” How useful his insight can be for all of us, considering…
TCG pandemic

Pandemic, Divisions, Collision

What a chaotic year! 2020 has certainly shaken the world. Below is the list of my top three observations. Troubling, but there are reasons why these things happen, and there are valuable lessons for us. Three other words also came to my mind: KINDNESS, VIRTUES, and CONNECTION. I will be sharing more in 2021! Meanwhile, wishing you, your…

Meeting of the Minds – Building Cross-Cultural Friendship

Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash Ting! said my WhatsApp. I glanced at my mobile and saw that a message had come in from my newly-formed local foreign ladies group. It was just after the lunch hour on a Wednesday and I was curious who had posted a message. I clicked on the group to open the message.…
TCG Newsletter 2020 Nov survival of the friendliest

Survival of the Friendliest: The New Evolutionary Theory

“Survival of the Friendliest,” might that be a typo? Do you mean Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory, “Survival of the Fittest?” No, it was not a typo. I meant to share the new evolutionary theory based on the research of Dr. Brian Hare, a professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke University. This view will challenge the…
TCG building a strong network - hands

5 Easy Tips for Building Yourself a Strong Network

There is more to success than being task and goal-oriented. Social skills play a vital role so you can excel and succeed in your studies, career, and life in general. According to top-rated Wharton professor Adam Grant, a study conducted on six hundred medical students in Belgium found that self-centered, task-oriented individuals excelled in their first year. However, others who were more generous, helpful, and team-oriented would surpass them in the course of their medical school.