Taste of Beijing, London September 2016

Walter Fung describes an event in London co-organised with SACU, Peking University and Beijing Publishing Group.

This major event, held at the British Library in London was co-hosted by The Beijing Publishing Group (BPG), Peking University and SACU. It was an integral part of BPG’s 2016 British Tour and Cultural Exchange Event which will also took BPG to Oxford and Edinburgh.

BPG comprises eight publishing houses, five magazines and fourteen subsidiary companies. It is one of the largest publishing groups in Beijing with 850 employees and produces more than 7,000 publications every year. Peking University, originally known as the Imperial University of Peking was founded in 1898 and is one of the leading universities in China. It traditionally has been a pioneer in China’s modernisation with emphasis on patriotism, progress, democracy, science and innovation together with high educational standards.

The event was opened by addresses from representatives from the organising three partners plus speeches from Mr Xiang Xiaowei, Minister Councillor to the UK and Mr Lei Fengyuan, Chairman of the China Association for International Exchange of Personnel , UK. Each stressed the importance of this event for promoting understanding, friendship and trust between the peoples of the two countries, China and the UK. More people-to-people contact, more bridges, more tolerance, patience and cultural exchanges are essential.

Trio of organisers
A trio of Taste of Beijing organisers: Professor Sun Hua (Peking University), Zoe Reed (SACU) and Mr Qiao Bin (BPG).

A total of 500 books published by BPG were on display, many of them in both Chinese and English. An important feature of the event was the launch of four books in Chinese, considered important to the aims of all three partners, i.e. contributing to understanding and good relations between China and Britain. These four books had been translated into Chinese from English and were being launched at this event. The books were; ‘The Man Who Loved China’ (a biography of Joseph Needham) by Simon Winchester, ‘I See a New China’ by George Hogg, ‘Aid China (1937-1949), a Memoir of a Forgotten Campaign’ by Arthur Clegg and ‘A Bridge Between Hearts’ by Zoe K Reed.

Professor Sun Hua spoke on the books by Simon Winchester and George Hogg, Jenny Clegg summarised important aspects of the book written by her father, Arthur Clegg and Zoe Reed highlighted the contents of her book about her parents, including their contact with Joseph Needham.

Arthur Clegg’s book recorded that the China Campaign Committee (CCC) from 1937 organised support for China against Japanese aggression at a time when Britain was still trading with Japan. Their activities included campaigns for the boycott of Japanese products such as silk and toys. It also worked to improve knowledge of China, its culture and problems to the British public. Victor Gollancz of the Left Book Club was a prominent member of the CCC and published Edgar Snow’s book ‘Red Star over China’, which was a revelation of the Chinese Communist activities in resisting Japanese aggression. The CCC raised funds for the Chinese Red Cross, the Chinese Industrial Cooperatives and Bailie schools in China.

China played a crucial role in the defeat of Japan, but after the war, its importance was played down. As Rana Mitter, the Oxford University China specialist recently put it, ‘China’s contribution disappeared down a hole created by the cold war.’

Book exhibition area just outside the lecture theatre

Zoe Reed’s book incorporates the book by her father, KC Sun, ‘An Engineer’s Journey’, which related his life as a Bailie schoolboy who met George Hogg and how Joseph Needham brought him to the UK, where he formed a relationship with someone who was to become Zoe’s mother. Her book continues the story and includes her mother, Susan’s difficulties as a single mother at a time when there was considerable prejudice against single mothers and how she was helped by Joseph Needham. The title ‘A Bridge Between Hearts, Anglo-Chinese Friendship and Understanding’ is a very appropriate one.

Tan Liefei, a Chinese scholar delivered a speech on his experiences and views on Beijing. He spoke in Chinese and it was translated into English by an interpreter at his side. This was followed by a formal signing of a Strategic Cooperation Agreement between BPG Fangcao Education and Technology (Beijing) LLC and Anglo Chinese School in London.

The afternoon session featured the theme of ‘Chinese literature going global’ and focused on the book, ‘Gold Mountain Blues’, translated from Chinese into English by Nicky Harman. It features the fortunes of five generations of a Chinese family from Guangdong in Canada and China. This book will go on sale in the UK in 2017, but it has already won awards in several countries. Mr Qiao Bin, the President of BPG presented an award to Nicky who then explained the difficulties in translation due to cultural differences. For example, a green face to Chinese people can imply anger, but means jealousy in Western culture.

Martial Arts
Wang Tianming, Executive President of the Association of Children Martial Arts of Beijing Martial Arts Association giving a demonstration.

A speech by Chinese writer, Xu Zechen followed. He is the author of Running Through Beijing, He spoke of life in contemporary Beijing and how the city has changed rapidly in recent years. The presentation of the Essay Awards to students from St Georges School at Harpenden (George Hogg’s former school) and Oundle School (Joseph Needham’s former school) followed.

The proceedings were brought to a close after John Moffett of the Needham Research Institute spoke on Joseph Needham’s activities in wartime China. Needham made five main research journeys, each one lasting several weeks. In addition to his scientific work, he provided the British Government with other important information, for example on Chiang Kaishek and the Kuomintang. After the war, he intended to record his work in a single volume, but this has eventually, over the years, ran to 25 large volumes. In fact, two more are in preparation at the present time.

The second day of the event, Thursday 15th September, was less formal and was conducted entirely by SACU members. The BPG personnel had moved on to Edinburgh. There was time to view the exhibition of photographs and documents, ‘Wartime Science - through the Lens of Joseph Needham’.

Anne Greene
Anne Green, Felix Green’s daughter, introduces her father’s film, ‘Eight or Nine in the Morning’

There were talks by John Moffett, of the Needham Research Institute and Frances Wood, who both spoke on ‘leaning from Dunhuang’. There was a showing of a film focusing on some aspects of the SACU tour of 2013,’Footsteps of Joseph Needham’. A Chinese film crew followed SACU members on the tour and interviewed Frances Wood and Tony Butler. This was believed to be part of preparations for a film series on Chinese television in Tianjin. The video footage was of especial interest to those who were on the tour.

Throughout the day, an exhibition of photographs of Joseph Needham and his work in China was on display in the Chaucer Room of the British Library. The last item on the agenda was a Felix Green film, made in the 1960s, ‘Eight or Nine in the Morning’. It was introduced by Felix Green’s daughter, Anne Green and Michael Sheringham. Anne explained that her father had the freedom to film what he wanted and was not subject to any restrictions by the Chinese authorities.

SACU Council is grateful to all contributors, both guests and presenters to this very successful event; over 200 people were present on the first day and over 70 on the second. Especial thanks are due to Rosamund Wong who coordinated the administration and invitations.

Footnote; This event (14th September) was reported on Chinese TV, CCTV, on 16th September. The news item included a short interview with Frances Wood and appearances of yours truly and Zoe’s aunt, Isabel.

© Copyright Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding (SACU) China Eye magazine Autumn 2016

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of SACU.
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