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-Culture & Arts Workshops

Culture & Arts Workshops Day

Program Title: Cultural Workshops Day
Participants: Chinese Language Students
Workshop Date: 29th July 2009

Last week we spent a day doing Chinese cultural workshops. The workshops, organised for language and martial arts students, were chi gung, medicine, painting and cookery.

In the morning Master Chen introduced us to a system of chi gung called 'Daoyin', which is a relatively new system synthesized from older sets of chi gung ('chi gung', or 'qigong', are sets of breathing and movements exercises designed to promote health  - very popular in China, and increasingly so around the world). The Daoyin system was developed by Professor Zhangguangde at Beijing Sport University. 




 Daoyin Qigong Class

 Photo with Doctor Wang

 Topic on Five Elements (TCM Class)

After a gentle warm-up and a little stretching we began the class. The Daoyin chi gung system emphasises focussing the mind as well as the breath and body on the movement you are performing, so in effect it becomes a kind of moving meditation that also encompasses Traditional Chinese Medicine theory. For example, several movements in the system require the practitioner to press on different acupressure points and nerve meridians, stimulating the flow of chi around the body. This makes the system somewhat different from other forms of chi gung (at least ones I have encountered).

The Daoyin system has many movements and has several sections, so we focussed on the first section and repeated it several times. It was a lot of fun and by the end of the class everyone had enjoyed it and could remember the movements for the future. 

With a break for lunch at a restaurant selling Yunnanese food (cross-bridge rice noodles and so on) we then went to SCIC Cultural Centre for the cultural workshops. 

Firstly there was a medicine workshop, led by Dr Wang from the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine. I had spent a lot of time with Dr Wang previously when I was studying Tuina medical massage, so it was a great pleasure to see him again. The workshop focussed on Traditional Chinese Medicine theory and principles, for example the idea of 'balance' in a person's life (crucial to health), as well as the relationship between the five elements and how they affect health and wellbeing. 




 Practice Basic Strokes

 Mary & Song on the class)

 Photo with Artist Gao

After the workshop had finished we had the opportunity to try our hand at Chinese brush-painting. The workshop was led by an artist from the Beijing Academy of Fine Arts. Firstly, armed with a traditional brush and ink, we tried our various strokes out on our paper, before getting to work on copying a famous Chinese painting depicting a vase and two birds. Chinese brush-painting is different from traditional Western watercolours because one principle is never to go back over a stroke you have made: a series of single strokes therefore makes the painting. This gives the painting a simple but striking quality which I valiantly aimed for. I don't think my effort was quite what was intended but I had fun making it and now I have a nice souvenir of my efforts! 

The final part of the day was cooking our dinner. Chen had selected some simple, but traditional Chinese dishes like tomato fried eggs, beef cooked in black bean sauce and things like that. Before we began cooking though we had to go shopping, so Chen took us to an enormous market to get our vegetables. 




 Visit a local Martket in Wangjing

 Our cooking Class

 Enjoy our dinner

Chinese markets like this one can be found all over the country - to some extent they have died out in English cities to be replaced by supermarkets (although now they are making a resurgance). Going to a proper Chinese market is an experience in itself - this one is very big and sells all sorts of food, all freshly prepared - meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, plus household goods and supplies. The area where Chen lives also has a big Korean population so this market has a lot of Korean stalls.

After we had brought what we needed we came back and started cooking. Chinese cooking uses lots of oils, flavourings and spices, so it can take some getting used to if you are accustomed to a more regular Western diet. It is also breath-taking in its diversity - visitors familiar with Chinese food primarily from restaurants and take-aways at home are usually surprised at the many different dishes and cooking methods on offer. 

We all joined in preparing the meat and vegetables and cooked them all up in a big wok. Together with the usual white rice it was a very satisfying meal, all the more so because we had prepared it ourselves. We also helped things go down well with a few Chinese beers and a little baojiu (rice liquor). 

This was a great day and a great experience for us. We had all experienced something of China's wonderful culture. We now have some happy memories to take with us on our future travels!


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