A Chinese Cultural Appreciation Experience at the Chinese Embassy in Washington D.C. by Xiaoqiong Si

Together with other Chinese scholars, I was invited to the State Dinner at the Chinese Embassy in Washington D.C. held from 6:30-8:30 pm on September 15th. That night, I was quite impressed by a Chinese art piece called Purple Breeze Comes from the East! Meanwhile, the Chinese food served were truly memorable for its real Chinese taste!

Purple Breeze Comes from the East: An Artwork Embedded with Chinese Element

Purple Breeze Comes From the East

After safety check, a counsellor led us to tour around the embassy before the dinner started. There are many pieces of traditional Chinese arts at the both sides of the corridor to the dinner party hall. Chinese classic poems in different scripts, calligraphies from ancient China, blue and white porcelain vases are exhibited to present the long history of China.

Among them, there is one contemporary piece of artwork called Purple Breeze Comes from the East. The artist is called Xu Bing who always incorporates communication, language, western and eastern culture into his works to provoke visitors’ thoughts of the concept of beauty. His workpieces, usually in the form of the Chinese characters, have been collected and exhibited at many national museums in China, England, America, Japan, Australia and other countries around the world.

Made of organic glass, Purple Breeze Comes from the East is a large hanging installation of hundreds of heat-shaped acrylic pictographs. It is 8 meters long and spans for around 4 meters, hanging in the main chancery building, as explained by Counsellor Yu. Walking closer, Counsellor Yu continues, each character in the installation depicts an ancient nature-based Chinese pictograph, such as cloud, water, air and rain, which are the key four elements in nature.

I admired this masterpiece as it is perfectly embedded with Chinese culture. The pictograph shapes not only like natural cloud, water, air and rain but also embodies the Chinese characters. The phrase of Ziqi Donglai (Purple Breeze Comes from the East) describes a purple breeze approaching to people and now has demonstrated a good omen in modern Chinese. Under the lights, this artwork glows in purple light and reflects the rays against the walls around it and the ceiling above it.

Chinese Buffet

After living in the US for over a month, you can’t image how much I desire real Chinese food. Luckily, after the exciting tour, I was led into the Hall of State Dinner. The main decoration is in red, a very Chinese color for big events. Mooncakes, dumplings, red wine, fried rice, boiled shrimps were ready for a celebration banquet.

<em>Chinese Buffet</em>

The round mooncake is a typical Chinese bakery product for Mid-Autumn Festival. A round mooncake serves as an indispensable delicacy for friends and family gatherings during this cultural event. The mooncake I ate there contained red beans and tasted sweet, and reminded me of the home-made mooncakes and the warm years I spent with my family before going to college.

During dinner, I also was introduced to several new friends who are studying at Harvard, Duke and UNC. We chatted and exchanged academic and travelling experiences as well as driving tips. Each of these young scholars is working hard for his/her master’s or PhD degree. Watching their smiling faces and listening to their exciting moments as well as reflections on study abroad, I feel the strong demand of Chinese young people for overseas study and international communication.

In conclusion, not only the Chinese buffet contented me very much, satisfying my desire for Chinese food. In addition, my homesickness has been alleviated through making new friends. The Chinese art has inspired me to dig deeper into Chinese culture. And talks with these young scholars have convinced me of the importance of overseas education and comparative study on Chinese and American education. It’s definitely one of the most unforgettable nights in my life!

Chinese Mooncake Stuffed with Read Bean Paste