ICCS Newsletter Spring 2019



1. Programme
2. 9th Sept - The Annual Barbeque took place at the Centenary Methodist Church/Wesley House, Leeson Park
3. 26th September 2018 – Denis Mullen: Violin Concerto ‘The Butterfly Lovers.’
4. 24th October - Briony Widdis, “The Known Unknown: Researching a Hong Kong Family Past”
5. 28th November 2018 – “Love Actually” Qian Li
6. Shanghai Empire East Group.
7. Mid-Autumn Festival Celebration.
8. 69th Anniversary Celebration for the Founding of the People's Republic of China.
9. Wild Lights.
10. Foodfest, Wesley House 6th December.
11. Members' objets d’art. Denis Mullen Yanyi Blake
12. Chester Beatty Collections go digital
13. 2019 Spring Programme.

1. Programme

For information on our programme, click HERE.   

Please note our meeting venue,

United Arts Club,
3 Fitzwilliam Street,

(just off Baggot Street,)
Dublin 2,

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 from 1983

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 with her.

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.
Paul Murray

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.
Deborah Wilson

5. 28th November 2018 – “Love Actually” Qian Li

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 in Glendalough.

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!

Yvonne Murray

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 disgruntled-sounding flamingos?

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 via phone.

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
Yanyi Blake

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 Blair.

“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 host.

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 Party.

Summer Outing to be arranged
Free entry for members to talks. €5 charge for non-members.
Email: irishchineseculturalsociety@gmail.com Website: www.ucd.ie/iccs
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