Learning China through its food

Updated: 2013-09-18 11:36

By Chen Jia and Chang Jun at Davis, California (China Daily)

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Learning China through its food

Xu Lin, director-general of Hanban, the nonprofit agency that administers Confucius Institutes worldwide, chats with William Lacy, vice-provost for University Outreach and International Programs, during the kick-off ceremony of a new Confucius Institute at UC-Davis on Monday. Photo by Chen Jia/ China Daily

The great philosopher Confucius (551 - 479 BC) could never have imagined that one of his random scraps of wisdom - "One should eat no rice but is of the finest quality and no meat but is delicately minced" - would one day serve as the foundation for the establishment of the world's first Confucius Institute focusing on Chinese food culture in the United States.

Nor could he have envisioned that one day Westerners would learn his profound thinking by studying the world of Chinese food and beverage.

On Monday, a new Confucius Institute devoted to the Chinese food and beverage culture got cooking at the University of California-Davis in partnership with Jiangnan University in China.

"Food brings people together, and cooking, too. This is a perfect match," said Martin Yan, a popular cooking program TV host in the US and Chinese chef.

"Through the study of food, we understand history, culture, lifestyle, philosophy, even politics. Through food, we then have better understanding of each other," Yan said.

As culinary advisor to the new Confucius Institute, he was among hundreds of scholars and researchers from the two institutions, and guests from all walks of life, who participated in the grand opening ceremony.

Linda Katehi, chancellor of UC-Davis, said the Confucius Institute adds to the school'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.

Xu Lin, the director-general of Hanban, the nonprofit agency that administers Confucius Institutes worldwide, read a congratulatory letter from China's President Xi Jinping at the opening ceremony on Monday.

"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-US relations," Xi wrote.

More than 20 years ago, Xi was first connected to UC-Davis as secretary of a municipal committee. With his help, Elizabeth Gardner, the widow of UC-Davis physics professor Milton Gardner, had the special opportunity to visit Guling, China, to discover the beloved childhood home of her husband and talk with his old Chinese friend.

According to Hanban's latest data, a total of 429 Confucius Institutes and another 629 Confucius Classrooms are in operation around the world, spanning 115 countries and regions, and another 500 overseas institutions are on the waiting list.

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