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UCD launching center focusing on Chinese food culture

DancersConfuciusW

Students of Jiangnan University in China will perform colorful dance like this in a program of Chinese song and dance at the opening of the Confucius Institute at UC Davis on Monday, Sept. 16. The event is free and open to the public. Courtesy photo

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From page A1 | September 11, 2013 |

A new institute devoted to Chinese food-and-beverage culture — the first of its kind in the world — is getting cooking at UC Davis.

The public is invited to attend the opening ceremony of the Confucius Institute at UCD featuring Chinese song and dance at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts at 8 p.m. Monday, Sept. 16.

And people from near and far will be welcomed again as the institute offers a savory program of courses, lectures, workshops and other events on Chinese cuisine, culture and language.

The institute combines signature strengths of UCD and China’s Jiangnan University as world leaders in food-and-beverage science and technology, with the goal of promoting understanding of Chinese food and beverage culture.

In addition to fostering education and research, the institute will encourage conversation between the food and beverage industries of China and California.

Chancellor Linda Katehi said the Confucius Institute adds to the university’s world-class stature:

“UC Davis offers these experiences to prepare our students for global citizenship, enrich the diversity of our community and share our leading scholarship in collaborations around the world,” she said.

In a letter to Katehi, Xi Jinping, president of China, wished the new institute success.

“Learning each other’s language and culture will be helpful to enhance the mutual understanding and friendship between the Chinese and American people and to promote the growth of China-U.S. relations,” he said.

The president was first connected to UCD more than 20 years ago as a secretary of a municipal committee. He invited Elizabeth Gardner, the widow of UCD physics professor Milton Gardner, to visit Guling, China, to discover the beloved childhood home that her husband remembered on his death bed.

Since 2004, the Hanban arm of the China’s Ministry of Education has partnered with universities and other organizations to establish more than 400 institutes worldwide to promote understanding of Chinese culture.

There are more than 90 Confucius Institutes in the United States — including four others in California at UCLA, Stanford University, and San Diego and San Francisco state universities — but the one here is the first in the world devoted to Chinese food and beverage culture.

Charles Shoemaker, a professor of food science and technology with extensive experience in China, serves as the director of the Confucius Institute at UCD.

Linxia Liang, director for Asian international programs at UCD and a scholar in Chinese law, is the co-director. The deputy director is Jianqiao Dong, professor and dean of the School of Foreign Studies at Jiangnan University.

Serving as culinary adviser is celebrity chef and restaurateur Martin Yan, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in food science from UCD.

“Food brings all of us together,” Yan said. “Food is also history, culture, anthropology. … From studying food, from enjoying food, we can talk about tradition, heritage.

“Food is a reflection of culture, history, religion and many other things.”

Four visiting scholars from Jiangnan University will work with UCD representatives this fall to plan the fare for the institute. What’s being explored includes:

* Lectures on the lure of Chinese tea and cuisine, and the mores of social drinking;

* Workshops on Chinese cooking, Chinese holiday food and doing business in China;

* Food-tasting events;

* Intensive Mandarin-language learning camps for high school students; and

* Graduate student and faculty research opportunities.

The institute was established through a five-year agreement with Hanban and the partnership with Jiangnan University.

The Confucius Institutes are named for the iconic Chinese philosopher Confucius (551-479 B.C.), whose teachings espoused individual and governmental morality and propriety of social relationships.

A book-signing with Yan will take place in the Mondavi Center’s lobby at 7:30 p.m. before the 8 p.m. ceremony.

The ceremony program will include remarks followed by performances of Chinese song and dance by award-winning students from Jiangnan University. Some 10 acts include “Jasmine Flower,” a Chinese folksong known to the world; Tibetan dance; a dance representing young equestrians galloping on the grasslands of Mongolia; and a peacock dance from the Xishuangbanna homeland of the Dai people.

Admission to the opening ceremony and performance is free; visitor parking is $8. Those planning to attend are encouraged to register at http://tinyurl.com/pu6lqk8.

To learn about institute programs as information becomes available, visit http://confucius.ucdavis.edu.

— UC Davis News Service

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Julia Ann Easley

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