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Friday, December 8, 2023

China’s Grand Banquet: A Culinary and Cultural Ode to International Cooperation

CultureArtChina's Grand Banquet: A Culinary and Cultural Ode to International Cooperation

The Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) hosted by China recently captivated guests from across the globe, particularly during the grand banquet. The evening was a resounding testament to China’s history, culture, and its vision for future collaborations.

A video unveiled by China’s Central Television showcased the diverse and sumptuous menu that the banquet boasted. Guests were treated to an array of culinary delights ranging from cold dishes to gourmet treasure soups. The menu’s highlight was the iconic Peking roast duck, a dish that is emblematic of China’s rich culinary history. Accompanying these were fried boneless beef ribs paired with asparagus and taro. For dessert, guests indulged in fruits and ice creams, washing it all down with beverages that included coffee, tea, red wine, and the traditional Chinese liquor, baijiu.

Musically, the banquet echoed the same international spirit. Traditional songs representing various countries and continents serenaded the attendees. Classic melodies from China and Russia started the musical journey, but it was the collaborative songs from different nations that underscored the central theme of the evening: interconnectedness.

In terms of visual and spatial aesthetics, the banquet hall was a visual treat. The decor was infused with tales from China’s illustrious history, including the graceful Dunhuang flying Apsara, Zhang Qian’s mission to the Western Regions, Xuanzang’s pilgrimage to India, and the sea voyages of the famed explorer, Zheng He. These historical vignettes served as poignant reminders of the ancient Silk Road’s philosophy and cultural richness.

To the banquet’s southern side, there was a display reminiscent of the ancient Silk Road’s beginning. It featured the Bell Tower of Xi’an, representing the road’s terrestrial origin, juxtaposed with the maritime docks showcasing the starting point of the Maritime Silk Road. This area was adorned with iconic Chinese cultural goods like porcelain, tea, and silk. It also highlighted imported vegetables and fruits from the Western Regions.

In contrast, the northern side of the banquet hall was a tribute to modernity. It showcased the 21st-century Silk Road, symbolized by the iconic Temple of Heaven. This area was a tech enthusiast’s delight, highlighting high-speed trains, aircraft, China-Europe freight trains, and cutting-edge energy vehicles. It celebrated modern-day connectivity, infrastructure prowess, and the evolving nature of global information exchange.

Further augmenting this juxtaposition of the ancient and modern was a vast blue surface depicting the essential nodes of the contemporary Maritime Silk Road. Busy cargo ships, centered around the automated dock at Yangshan Port, symbolized bustling trade. The entire setup, adorned with peace doves, reflected the Belt and Road Initiative’s goals of peace, prosperity, and mutual growth.

The attention to detail was evident even in the smallest of elements, such as the unique craftsmanship of plates, wine pots, and seasoning bottles. The design intricately wove traditional Chinese artifacts with elements from Western culture, creating a harmonious blend.

Beijing-based cultural critic, Yu Jinlong, emphasized the delicate balance maintained during such state banquets. Respect for international dining preferences, acknowledgment of cultural taboos, and striking the right balance between tradition and innovation were essential.

Zheng Changling, from the Chinese National Academy of Arts, highlighted how such banquets were not new for China. He drew parallels with the feasts during the Beijing Olympics and Asian Games. The core design of this particular banquet, he mentioned, was a symbol of the equal cooperation and shared growth ideals of the BRI members.

The banquet was more than just an evening of fine dining and music. It was a powerful representation of China’s achievements in culture, trade, and innovation. It underscored China’s commitment to cooperative global development and sent a clear message of its willingness to collaborate for a brighter, shared future. As China continues its trajectory of rapid economic growth and global openness, such events fortify the belief in a more harmonious, equitable development landscape through international cooperation and the continued advancement of the BRI.

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