ICCS Newsletter Spring 2019
For information on our programme, click HERE.
Please note our meeting venue,
United Arts Club,
3 Fitzwilliam Street,
(just off Baggot Street,)
and meeting days,
the FOURTH WEDNESDAY (mostly!)
of each month.
For information on our programme, click HERE.
9th Sept - The Annual Barbeque took place at the Centenary
Methodist Church/Wesley House, Leeson Park
A pleasant day to match the occasion featured an address by
Ambassador Yue, plenty of fine food and some virtuoso musical
performances to round off proceedings.The Ambassador is pictured
here with Olga Wang, Yanyi Blake and Shu Rong.
The young musicians pictured with ICCS President Yanyi Blake are
(from l. to r.) Gerry Yang, Leon Reilly, Keelan Reilly, Tracy Luo
and Henry Li.
3. 26th September 2018 – Denis Mullen: Violin Concerto
‘The Butterfly Lovers.’
He Zhanhao and Chen Gang composed ‘The Butterfly Lovers’
Concerto while they were students at the Shanghai
Conservatory of Music. Denis, ably assisted by Yanyi, gave
us a multimedia experience of this iconic work which was
first played in 1959 to celebrate 10 years since the
founding of the People’s Republic of China. The recording we
listened to is by the Central Philharmonic Orchestra of
China (now China’s National Symphony Orchestra) and dates
The concerto is based on a love theme that goes back to the
Jin Dynasty and the storyline is predicated on the fact that
girls were not supposed to be educated so Zhu Yingtai the
female protagonist in the love story, has to pretend to be a
male in order to attend College. On her way she meets the
male protagonist, Liang Shanbo, who doesn’t realise that she
is a girl. Zhu falls in love with him and gives him hints to
that effect but he doesn’t pick up on these hints. She
invites him to her home and says she’ll match-make him with
her sister but, on accepting the invitation, Liang finds out
that Zhu is actually a girl and immediately falls in love
In the meanwhile, however, she has been promised to a wealthy
merchant and so he can’t marry her. As a result, his health
deteriorates and he dies soon afterwards. As Zhu sets out to marry
her merchant betrothed stormy weather conspires to prevent the
wedding procession from escorting her beyond Liang's final resting
place and she throws herself in so they are together at last and the
lovers emerge from the earth as butterflies: symbols of the
endurance of their love beyond the grave.
In the concerto the violin is associated with Zhu and the cello is
associated with narrative, from the joyful folk melody representing
Zhu and Liang’s 3 busy years of school, to the violin and cello’s
emotional duet expressing the couple’s love for each other and the
poignant strains of the solo violin as it engages with the forces of
the orchestra, symbolising Zhu’s protests against her family’s
wishes. The ending is bitter sweet with ‘a final melodic phrase from
the solo violin, concluding mysteriously on a high D.’
It was a most enjoyable evening and we can take our awareness of
this interesting cultural parallel between a Romeo and Juliet tale
(with Chinese characteristics!) into Jerusha and John’s upcoming
talk on analogies between Chinese and Western history.
4.24th October - Briony Widdis, “The Known Unknown: Researching
a Hong Kong Family Past”
Briony is undertaking a PhD in Belfast using her family archives to
research the historic attitudes and mores of colonial life in Hong
Kong from 1930-1960s. In her family home, there were long-known
beautiful examples of Chinese treasures – vases, paintings,
ceramics, and textiles, from her grandparents’ (and aunt’s) time in
Hong Kong, but on closer investigation, a wealth of photographs have
given an invaluable well-documented history of her grandfather’s
time there as well… so she began to delve deeper into their history.
Her grandfather Douglas was born and raised in County Fermanagh. On
completing his degree, he travelled out in the early 1930s to Hong
Kong, teaching at King’s College for 10 years! Once settled, he
arranged for his fiancée (met at university) to join him, and they
married the day after she arrived in the colony. Briony’s father was
born 2 years after her aunt. Ann left with her children in 1940 to
spend the duration of WWII in Sydney, while Douglas was interned in
a POW camp!
Life in the colony followed a fairly standard pattern of returning
home “on leave” every 3 or 4 years, but, while in Hong Kong,
socialising was mainly within the European club, and women’s lives
were otherwise segregated to a large extent from the men’s. Douglas
and Ann’s son Julian was educated back “home”, in Northern Ireland,
but due to his sister’s epilepsy, she remained with her parents.
In 1951 Douglas was appointed Director of Education, became a member
of the Legislative Council, and later, back in the UK, became an
advisor on Education to UNESCO, and a Justice of the Peace! As a boy
growing up in Ulster he had been much influenced by the likes of Sir
Robert Hart and Prof Jeremiah Healy, and worked hard within the
community to foster good relations and improved conditions for
locals. Ann worked as a teacher, but her main role was to support
her husband, and to this end she was active in working to eradicate
TB, and was a member of the Hong Kong Council of Women. There she
met many Chinese, but socialising between the communities was men
with men, and women with women! Briony’s grandfather eventually
retired back to his family home in Fermanagh in 1976. His home there
was filled with exquisite treasures of paintings, porcelain,
figurines, cloisonné of Chinese origin, and a wealth of photographs
celebrating their industrious life in Hong Kong. We saw photos of
dinners and entertainments aboard ship – the most economical way to
travel “home on leave” and various functions celebrating “home”
within the close-knit society of ex-pats in Hong Kong and were
reminded that, in such alien surroundings, thrown together in close
proximity, people who would not otherwise have been friends became
close and reliant on one another, and the strong delineation of
class and status amongst the people working there extended within
the Europeans as well as between locals and expats!
Briony drew her talk to a conclusion by discussing the question as
to whether the colonial lifestyle was something so anachronistic
that maybe it should not be remembered and recorded, or whether
looking into the past gives a better understanding of how to proceed
in the future.
5. 28th November 2018 – “Love Actually” Qian
Qian Li is the founder and Chairperson of this Charity which aims to
help Chinese families with special needs children living in Ireland.
Qian got the inspiration for the idea of helping others in January
2014 as she wished to raise funds for a good friend of hers who was
diagnosed with breast cancer and the first event she held was a hike
Other fundraising events soon followed including a Charity Fair in
2015 facilitated by 70 volunteers, which was attended by more than
500 people, a badminton tournament in aid of Syrian refugees and
another event which helped children in a very rural area with
extreme poverty. Over the years the Charity’s focus gravitated
towards working with local Irish charities, taking part in the
V.H.I. Womens’ Mini-marathon in aid of the LauraLynn Childrens’
Hospice and working with the Peter Mc Verry Trust on the issue of
Youth Homelessness as well as promoting Special Olympics Ireland
among the Chinese community here.
Qian told us about the first talk event in Trinity College on the
theme of Power by Connection (aided by the graphic facilitation
skills of Angelia Yu Xinge who demonstrated her ink art virtuosity
at the Society’s A.GM. last year.
These talks featured 3 speakers: Jane Mckenna (founder of
LauraLynn), Darragh Doyle (Food Cloud) and Dr. Fangzhe Qiu (Irish
Language and Literature). Dr Qiu’s talk featured a unique cultural
twist as a speaker read an Irish poem which a Chinese lady then
translated into Mandarin! A lot of effort has gone into bringing
Love Actually to where it is today and Qian confided in us that, at
times, she had found it more challenging than her daytime job!
However, there are now 6 board members in place who deal with areas
as diverse as project management, risk management and accounts.
Love Actually’s core project is helping Chinese families with
special needs children to access necessary services and integrate
better into Irish society. In this regard they have worked with
Prof. Sanbing Shen, Professor of Fundamental Stem Cell Biology at
Galway University, who conducts studies in autism and we were
informed that a student with autism will become the first such
student to gain a Doctorate degree in Ireland.
Love Actually will be organising the Love Actually Talk 2019 on 13th
Feb featuring Senator Joan Freeman, author Cathy McCarthy and
Professor Shen. There will also be talks for parents about how to
cope with autistic children and how to help the children to relax.
Other initiatives planned for the future include a mini-marathon in
June 2019, regular monthly meet ups and family days for couples with
special needs children, the introduction of a web site with a
donation facility, the production of promotional products, an
ongoing search for a site for a Family Centre with a children’s play
area, a conference room for parents and a kitchen. Sounds like more
than a few daytime jobs put together!
6. Shanghai Empire East Group.
The Shanghai Empire East Group spent a busy time in Ireland,
performing their mix of dance, acrobatics and oriental drumming on
Culture Night at Meeting House Square, Temple Bar, before going on
to the Mid-Autumn Festival at the Civic Plaza in Bray and the 69th
Anniversary of the Founding of the People’s Republic of China.
7. Mid-Autumn Festival Celebration.
Spot the ICCS members among the crowd at this mid-Autumn Festival
Celebration at the Civic Plaza in Bray which was organised by the
Ireland China Professionals Association.
Veronica's watercolour of a little girl
lighting candles to celebrate the Festival of the Full Moon.
8. 69th Anniversary Celebration for the
Founding of the People's Republic of China.
9. Wild Lights.
Not the Hong Kong skyline but one of many eye-popping sights from
Wild Lights at Dublin Zoo as it was turned into a light-filled
wonderland of silk lanterns again this year, featuring an Ocean of
Light, a Winter Wonderland, the North Pole and a Celebration of
China. As for the performances by Chinese artistes we were
particularly impressed by the skill of the girl with the hula hoops.
For anyone who may wonder, assurances were given that the animals
were protected by a black out of all enclosures but did I hear a few
10.Foodfest, Wesley House 6th December.
Many thanks to Shu Reng and Shu Rong for the wonderful food and to
Yanyi and Debbie for organising. We didn’t need to roll up our
sleeves since all the work was done for us and with such skill!
Some of the delicious dishes we sampled.
Glutinous Rice Flour Pancake with black sesame and sweet osmanthus
filling Celery with Bean Curd Stick Mix Fried Wonton with Chinese
chives, Minced Pork, Shrimp and eggs filling Braised Aubergine
coated with whipped eggs.
11. Member’s objets d’art. Denis Mullen 19th
Century Qing Period Blue and White Vase.
Nineteenth Century Century Qing Period Blue
and White Vase and Cover of baluster form, decorated with
figures in a pagoda, set in a river landscape. 21 cm high.
This was Lot 220 which was purchased by me at an auction by
Sheppards of The John Farringdon Collection which was held at Capard
House, Rosenallis, Co. Laois, on 22nd September 2015. The price paid
at auction was 130 euro. My great-grandfather Thomas Downes was a
landscape gardener who moved between engagements setting out formal
gardens. In researching family history, it arose that some of his
children around 1874 to 1876 were born at this location. Access to
this most imposing mansion and estate was not possible. However, the
house and amazing collection of contents, with many fine Chinese
antiques came up for sale in September 2015. Pre-auction viewing
gave me access to the house and grounds, and I determined I would
buy one Chinese piece as a souvenir of my ancestral connection to
this place. My grand-mother was born at Thomas's next engagement
nearby at Derry, Rosenallis, in 1878.
As luck would have it, I was witness to a very special occurrence.
Lot 220 was not due for sale until an after-lunch sale session, I
came late in the morning, and found out that due to early heavy rain
and traffic congestion due to the National Ploughing event starting
that day at Ratheniska, the auction had started late. I found myself
sitting at the back of the sale room in Capard House with a Chinese
couple beside me. Sheppards had developed a niche for selling items
found in country houses and attics originally brought back from
China, and now sought by Chinese buyers. Lot 143, a pair of large
Chinese Qing period powder blue vases, each 2.5 feet high, were on
sale with a reserve of 30,000 – 40.000 euro. When this item came up
for sale everyone became quite excited as the bids were upped by
10,000 to 20,000 each time, with overseas bidders from China bidding
The vases were sold for 560,000 euro to the Chinese couple sitting
beside me, to large applause. I was quick to congratulate them. This
was the highest price ever paid at auction in Ireland for Chinese
porcelain. Lunch break had been delayed to allow this lot to be
sold, as the buyers had to catch an afternoon flight from Dublin. My
modest Chinese vase had shared a special event, and this is why I
brought it to the ICCS Chinese Miscellany event, to share the tale.
Along the River During the Qingming Festival
Along the River During the Qingming Festival, is a painting by the
Song dynasty artist Zhang Zeduan (1085–1145). It captures the daily
life of people and the landscape of the capital, Bianjing
(present-day Kaifeng) during the Northern Song. The theme is often
said to celebrate the festive spirit and worldly commotion at the
Qingming Festival, a long scroll on which successive scenes reveal
the lifestyle of all levels of the society, from rich to poor, as
well as different economic activities in rural areas and in the
city. The painting is considered to be the most renowned work among
all Chinese paintings.
12. Chester Beatty Collections go digital
13. 2019 Spring Programme.
23rd January: Jerusha Mc Cormack and John
“A Western Take on China Today.” We propose an overview of Chinese
developments in recent time compared to Western ways of doing things
over a considerable number of centuries. China is not Western, of
course, but we can find analogies in Western history that diminish
the sense of strangenes .
11th February – Chinese New Year Dinner.
Ka Shing Restaurant, Wicklow St
27th February – Denis Mullen.
‘Shanghai Scenes - Old and New.’Denis, who first visited Shanghai in
1985 will present his personal choice of scenes, old and new, of
this amazing and vibrant mega-city that has been at the heart of
China’s modern history for nearly two centuries.
27th March – Richard Doran.
‘Working in broadcasting in China.’ Richard will give us some
fascinating insights into his work in the broadcast media in China
where he has worked on Beijing Radio, Beijing Television, China
Central Television and China Radio International as a bilingual
24th April – Ann Wickham-Mc Donald.
‘Ancient cultures and textiles of Guizhou.’ Ann will give us an
account of her visit to explore Miao villages throughout Guizhou and
experience their varied cultural traditions, including their
exquisite costumes and the textiles they create.
22nd May AGM followed by ‘Bring and Tell
Summer Outing to be arranged
Free entry for members to talks. €5 charge for non-members.
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