ICCS Newsletter Autumn 2003


1. Programme: Meetings now in the United Arts Club
2. Poetry: the Ambassador's Choice.
3. "A Year in China Can Change Your Life!"
4. An Evening of Chinese Music
5. Chinese Folk Art and Toys
6. The Year of the Monkey
7. Chinatown - New Year 2004
8. Chinese New Year Celebration in Kilkenny
9. Traditional Chinese Painting
10. Book Ideas
11. A Proverb
12. Information for Members by Email
13. Language School
14. Reminder -- Subscriptions

1. Programme

For information on our programme, click HERE.   

Please Note our new meeting venue,

United Arts Club,
3 Fitzwilliam Street,

(just off Baggot Street,)
Dublin 2,

and new meeting days,

the FOURTH WEDNESDAY of each month.

As a result of refurbishment to the Institute of Engineers of Ireland we were obliged to seek a new venue for our lecture programme.
We were most fortunate, with the assistance of our own Jenny Slevin-Williams who is also a member of the United Arts Club, to move to this excellent venue.

The United Arts club is situated at No. 3 Upper FitZwilliam Street in the heart of Dublin's Historic Georgian Quarter. The Club is within a short walking distance of Grafton Street.

We are delighted with the move, the location is very central, with plenty of public transport passing just a short distance away. It is also great for parking, with ample parking, free after 7.00pm, the whole length of the street.
The United Arts Club has a fine lecture room, and our members can relax in the bar before and after the talk, in a most cordial atmosphere

The United Arts Club has, since its foundation in 1907, been a center for people interested in literature, music, painting, drama and good conversation. Amongst its activities are the holding of exhibitions, concerts, recitals, discussions, lec­tures, poetry readings, chess and bridge. Since the Club is a center of the Arts and a social club, it occupies an important place in the artistic and social life of the city.

2. My Favourite Poems: Ambassador Sha Hailin

Some months ago, it was proposed that we should explore the idea of asking some eminent Chinese people to tell us about their favourite poetry, with a view to presenting their choices in this Newsletter. It was felt that we should begin by approaching His Excellency Mr Sha Hailin, Ambassador of the People's Republic of China: if he could find the time to respond, it would get the series off to the best possible start.

In the course of our letter, we said "[We] would be very grateful if you could pick a favourite poem (or two, or more!) for publication in our Newsletter. We would hope to have the Chinese text, an English translation, and a few words from you saying why the poem specially appeals to you……. We would be very grateful also if you could give a list of, say, ten of your favourite poems (authors and titles only!); this would give a very interesting point of orientation for members wishing to do some poetry browsing.".

All this was really asking a lot of a very busy man. However, with great kindness, he replied by sending us all that we had asked for, and much more: in fact, ten poems (Chinese text and translations), all both printed and on disk; and the following letter:

Sha Hailin.jpg "As Ambassador of the People's Republic of China, I am grateful to do something for the Irish-Chinese Cultural Society. There are so many beautiful old Chinese poems what I like very much. It is not easy to choose which are my best favorites. I just send you some, most of which express people's emotion of missing their friends and beloved ones when people can not be together. We can not imagine how our life is like without the friendship and love. I think it is the major reason why I appreciate these poems. You can choose one or two of them for publication in your Newsletter. I enclose a diskette in the letter, and hope it makes easy for you."

The difficult part for us was having to choose one out of the ten. Eventually, the poem by Su Shi (who is also known as Su Dong Po) was chosen, for its wonderful humanity. However, there will be future Newsletters to learn about the other nine!

We wish to express the most sincere gratitude of the Society to the Ambassador.

Shui Diao Ge Tou
(to "Song for the River Tune ") *
Su Shi   (Song dynasty)

"When shall we have a bright moon?"
Holding up a wine cup I queried the Blue Heaven:
"Tell me, in the celestial palace up so high
What year in its annals is tonight."
I'd like to ride the wind and go there
But was afraid it would be too cold up on high
In those sumptuous places and marble halls.
I rose to my feet and danced with my own shadow.
'Twas not too bad down here!
The moon turned round the vermilion penthouse,
Casting its beams down through the lattice windows
And shining on the sleepless.
It need not evoke sadness, you know,
But why is it always so bright when the loved one's away?
We all have joys and sorrows, partings and reunions.
The moon, its phases of resplendence,
Waxings and wanings-
Nothing in this world is ever perfect.
I wish a long life to us all.
Then, however far apart we are
We'd still be sharing the same enchanting moonlight.

SuShiChar.gif SuShiPinyin.gif

* Note: In the Song dynasty, such poems were composed to be sung to existing tunes. The title of the tune gave the name to the poem, so this name usually bore no relation to the subject matter.

3. 'A Year in China Can Change Your Life! '

A review of the September talk by Sharon Keilthy


Sharon spent a year in the far north east of China in the town of Mudanjiang in Heilonjiang province. She had accepted a post as English teacher in a school in Mudanjiang, a city of one million (a town in Chinese terms), and found herself to be very well accepted, as well as an object of interest: there were only 8 or 9 other foreigners, mostly teachers, in the town.

Sharon decided early on in her stay to seize with both hands the opportunity she was presented with: to avoid any whiff of expatriate isolation, and to immerse herself completely in the language and culture around her.
She was very fortunate to be enthusiastically assisted in this by "laolao", the granny in her host-family. They became great friends despite an age difference of about 50 years, and this autumn, Sharon was able to re-visit her and all her other friends in Mudanjiang.

It must have been lonely for her at times but it was clear from her talk and her photos that the year did give direction for her future, for she created a cultural and language training business here in Dublin, in response to her own infectious great interest in the country, and realising that Irish-Chinese ties can only become stronger.

Sharon, with her first-hand knowledge of life and attitudes in "small-town" China, was, not surprisingly, besieged with questions at the end.

This was an engrossing talk, liberally illustrated with computer images, and a splendid start to the season in our new venue, the United Arts Club. Thank you, Sharon.

4. An Evening of Chinese Music

The October Meeting: a recital by Summy Wong and Liu Xiaona

This great evening was, we believe, unique in the history of the Society, in having traditional Chinese music played live on traditional Chinese instruments. The instruments in question were the guzheng, played by Summy Wong, and the erhu, played by Liu Xiaona.

There was, however, a very poignant opening to the meeting, when the President spoke of Linda Wang, lovely individual and outstanding musician, who had originally agreed to play the guzheng on this occasion: tragically, incredibly, Linda was murdered in July. There was a minute's silence as a mark of respect to her.

Summy.jpg guzhengflat.jpg

Summy Wong, Linda's close friend, kindly appeared in her place, playing the guzheng, and introducing the music.

The guzheng is a large zither-type instrument, over 5 feet long, and weighing around 14 Kilos. It usually has 21 strings, played by plucking with special artificial fingernails. Summy, well known for her great work and friendly manner as Honorary Secretary of the Irish Chinese Information Centre, showed that she is also an able musician. Her excellent playing of pieces such as "Autumn Recollections" and "Fisher Boat Song at Evening", as well as an arrangement of the popular song "Nanni Wan", was very warmly received.

Liu Xiaona, who studied music in a conservatoire in China before coming to Ireland, played the erhu for us.

erhu_diagram.gif LiuXiaona.jpg

The erhu is a sort of fiddle with two strings: the bow is trapped between them. The sound-box opening is covered with a snakeskin membrane, giving the erhu its distinctive, expressive tone. The fingers stop the strings in mid-air, without touching the wood of the neck, which makes it fiendishly difficult to play. However, one could not imagine this when listening to Xiaona's seemingly effortless performance, whether of slow pieces like the evocative "Erquan Spring Reflecting the Moon", or fast ones like the galloping "Sai Ma". This was splendid playing indeed, greatly appreciated by the audience.

David Judge also contributed by bringing along two other instruments, a sheng and a dizi, and extracting a note or two from them. He showed photographs of other instruments, and played pieces to demonstrate their distinctive sounds, using a tape recorder (scarcely traditional, but made in China). He also used it to play two folk songs, with words and translation.

There was a barrage of questions at the end, about details of the instruments, and also about music and musical education in China generally: Summy, and Xiaona, fielded them all most ably, and interestingly.

We thank them very much for an outstanding evening.

5. Chinese Folk Art & Toys

The November Talk by Anita Tatlow


Anita Tatlow gave us a unique and memorable evening as speaker for the November meeting.

She began by telling us how her interest in the subject developed - not a way the audience might have guessed. When she and her husband moved to Hong Kong, for what turned out to be a 31 year stay, she started working as a physiotherapist in a hospital with children having severe handicaps, in particular cerebral palsy. Following advanced international practice, she pioneered the use there of toys and play as therapy. (This was done in spite of considerable opposition, as up to then such things had been considered frivolous, or even, in some cases, unlucky.) As an example, she gave the case of a child who could not be motivated by conventional means to try to raise his arms, but who would do so automatically to hold a mask in front of his face as fun.

Having started by looking out everywhere for toys that could be helpful to her work, she gradually began to develop a collector's interest in the objects themselves - toys which were of a folk art nature (characterised by being hand-made from easily available, cheap [or free] materials), and then other folk art objects as well.


A puppet from Anita Tatlow's collection

There followed a tactilo-visual treat for the audience. Not only did Anita show many beautiful slides of items in her collection, but she also brought a large number of the objects themselves, and courageously let us inspect them, feel them, and experiment with them: stroke the fabrics, wiggle the snakes, spin the whirlers, get the pendulum to wag the tail of the very delicate stork, throw the telephone-book shuttlecock. Masks, stuffed toys in zodiac and many other forms, puppets, charming mechanical devices - the variety was endless.

(This scribe regrets that he was so engrossed by the talk and the exhibits that he forgot his duties as photographer until the objects were packed away: a shame, as a more photogenic occasion it is hard to imagine.)

The talk also raised a very interesting issue of the comparison between China and the West in the importance attached to toys (for children in general, not necessarily handicapped), and the ways in which children are encouraged to use them. A lively question-and-answer session followed at the end.

We are very grateful to Anita for generously giving us such an enjoyable, and also thought-provoking, evening.

6. 2004 Year of the Monkey

2004 Year of the Monkey

January 22, 2004 ushers in the Year of the Wood/Green Monkey "Jia Shen".

A Year of Movement, discussion and the exchange of ideas.
A year highlighting: Politicians, diplomats, ambassadors,
writers, spokesmen, storytellers, orators, salesmen, and confidence games.

Welcome to the "Riverboat Gambler" year of the Chinese zodiac - the Irrepressible Monkey

7. Chinatown Dublin 2004

NewYrFestival Dragon.jpg For four days, between the 24 and 27 January 2004 (Sat. - Tues), Smithfield will be transformed into Chinatown - a fusion of Asian and Irish culture bustling with entertainment, activities and street traders.
The Chinese Embassy has donated two large Chinese lions as a gift to the festival. Smithfield Square will be decorated traditionally with Chinese lanterns, banners and flags.
There will be Kung Fu demonstrations, Tai Chi, Lion dances, musicians and surprise guest artists. Smithfield will become a vibrant, colourful marketplace selling Chinese food, goods and wares.

We hope to keep you updated on further developments.

8. Chinese New year Celebration in Kilkenny 31st January

MonkeyYear The Irish Chinese Contact Group are hosting their Chinese New year Celebration in Kilkenny. They have organized an afternoon Dinner at the Ormond hotel in the center of Kilkenny City on the 31st January at 3 pm. They have children's entertainment arranged for 2.pm followed by a Chinese Meal. For those not wishing to eat Chinese the chef has arranged an alternative menu.

The Irish Chinese Contact Group is an all Ireland organization set up to assist people wishing to adopt from China. They assist people in their document preparation, they advise people on the adoption procedure, they assist in post placement issues, they provide a forum for adopted parents to discuss issues of child development. They also provide a cultural and social programme to its members.

If you want further details on their New Year Dinner or any other matter, you can contact their secretary at iccg@eircom.ie or the Chairperson Anne McKiernan
tel: 021-4291840

9. Traditional Chinese Painting

The landscape, flower and bird types of painting, together with the earliest human figure painting, comprise the three main categories of traditional Chinese painting.

The court style of painting tended to be elaborate and ornate. In contrast, the literati painters preferred to paint according to their own fancy and without restriction, and advocated a fresh, free, understated and elegant style. The names of the sender and recipient, along with the chop of the artist, are an integral part of a traditional Chinese painting.
(For the original site, with further similar images, and enlargements of those above, click HERE)

10. Book Ideas For the New Year

Originally with Christmas in mind, I took a quick look at some books which might be of interst to members. Most are available at Easons, Waterstones or on the Web at Amazon.Com, or Amazon.co.uk.

Spectacular China
by Nigel Cameron (cost € 75.00)
SpectacularChina.jpg Commencing with its cover photo of the Great Wall, and leading readers through 180 color plates (some folding out to nearly four feet wide) of this most populous and pivotal nation, Spectacular China lives up to its title. The commentary illuminates China's man-made treasures and its landscapes. It ranges from the imperial and ancient, to the modern metropolises.

Lonely Planet China by Damian Harper et al (cost € 20.00)
LonelyPlanet.jpg Just as the authors describe China as "massive and endlessly fascinating", so is the material they have collected in this guide--an important travellers' opus. The 200-plus maps feature keys in English and Chinese script, there are essential details on transport options, a 12-page Chinese arts section, and a useful feature on the Chinese language. --Kathryn True
Chinese Cookery Secrets :
How to cook Restaurant Chinese Food.
By Deh-Ta Hsiung (cost €7.25 approx)
ChineseCookery.jpg Chinese restaurant cooking - in your kitchen! Deh-Ta Hsiung shares his life-long knowledge of Chinese restaurant cooking to help you successfully reproduce your favourite meals at home - from a simple, single dish to an elaborate, grand feast. In a clear, straightforward style, he vividly reveals the elusive secrets that produce perfectio
River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze
by Peter Hestler (cost € 27.35)
RiverTown.jpg This text presents an account of American aid worker Peter Hessler's time spent in the town of Fuling on the Yangtze River during the late 1990s, a time of great change for China. He observes the natural beauty of the area and shares the lives of the local people. He directs a production of "Hamlet" and runs in the town marathon. He also discusses how national and international events such as the construction of the Three Gorges Dam and the return of Hong Kong to the mainland affected the people of Fuling
Adrift In China (Summerdale Travel) by Simon Myers ( cost € 10.00)
Adrift-In-China.jpg China is the third largest country in the world, holds nearly a quarter of the earth's population and claims a recorded history going back more than 3000 years. Foreigners' reactions to China and its people veer from one extreme to the other, as if the gargantuan size of the place demands a sweeping response. Simon Myers spent years in the Middle Kingdom trying to fathom just an inkling of China. Firstly as a Western student, still preoccupied with searching for much-missed dairy products; then as a businessman selling the capitalist icon, Coca-Cola, inaugurated to Business Drinking and losing face; and finally, independence - on the road on a Chinese motorbike and sidecar. In this work he offers an informed and personal account of China, aiming to go behind the cliches and provide a different take on life in this fascinating and frustrating country

11. A Chinese Proverb

A Chinese Proverb

There is no victory in winning a hundred battles.
There is victory in subduing your enemy
without fighting at all.

Sun Zi, Spring and Autumn Period.

12. Information for Members by Email

The ICCS would like to set up an email data base of its members to keep them up to date on events which are happening in between issues of this newsletter. If you would like to get such information from the society would you kindly E-mail me at the address below and mark your reference ICCS E-mail data base.
This information will neither be shared with any other organisation nor passed on to any other external source.

E-mail: iccs@oceanfree.net

Colm Coleman

13. Language School: book


14. Subscriptions

The Subscription Year for the Society coincides with the Calendar Year, 1st January to 31st December. The Treasurer wishes to remind any members who have not yet paid their subscription for 2004 to do so now.

The annual subscription is €25.00 (covering two people living at the same mailing address),
with a reduced student rate of €8,
and a lifetime subscription of €250.

Subscriptions to be sent to:

Denis Mullen, Hon. Treasurer,
130 Mount Merrion Avenue,
Blackrock, Co.Dublin.

Cheques to be made payable to:
"Irish-Chinese Cultural Society".

This Newsletter is published by the Irish-Chinese Cultural Society.
Views expressed by individual contributors do not represent any official policy of the Irish-Chinese Cultural Society.
We would be delighted to receive articles, photos and stories for our newsletter.
The Editor welcomes all submissions, but cannot absolutely guarantee the return of any photos or documents supplied, and reserves the right to shorten or modify any letter or material submitted.
Please send to the Editor
Colm Coleman, 3 Pacelli Ave., Sutton, Dublin 13.
E-mail: iccs@oceanfree.net