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Confucius Institute opens at Davis

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September 10, 2013 |

A new institute devoted to Chinese food and beverage culture — the first of its kind in the world — is getting cooking at the University of California, Davis.

The public is invited to attend the opening ceremony of the Confucius Institute at UC Davis featuring Chinese song and dance at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts at 8 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 16.

A book signing with Martin Yan will be held in the Mondavi Center’s lobby at 7:30 p.m. before the 8 p.m. ceremony.

The ceremony program will include remarks followed by performances of Chinese song and dance by award-winning students from Jiangnan University.

Acts include “Jasmine Flower,” a Chinese folksong known to the world; Tibetan dance; a dance representing young equestrians galloping on the grasslands of Mongolia; and a peacock dance from the Xishuangbanna homeland of the Dai people.

Admission to the opening ceremony and performance is free; visitor parking is $8. Those planning to attend are encouraged to register at tinyurl.com/pu6lqk8.

People from near and far will be welcomed again as the Confucius Institute offers a savory program of courses, lectures, workshops and other events on Chinese food and beverage, culture and language.

Four visiting scholars from Jiangnan University will work with UC Davis representatives this fall to plan the fare for the institute. What’s being explored includes lectures on the lure of Chinese tea and cuisine, and the mores of social drinking; workshops on Chinese cooking, Chinese holiday food and doing business in China; food-tasting events; intensive Mandarin-language learning camps for high school students; and  graduate student and faculty research opportunities.

The institute combines the signature strengths of UC Davis and China’s Jiangnan University as world leaders in food and beverage science and technology, with the goal of promoting understanding of Chinese food and beverage culture.

In addition to fostering education and research, the institute will encourage conversation between the food and beverage industries of China and California.

Linda P.B. Katehi, chancellor of UC Davis, said the Confucius Institute at UC Davis adds to the university’s world-class stature.

“UC Davis offers these experiences to prepare our students for global citizenship, enrich the diversity of our community and share our leading scholarship in collaborations around the world,” she said.

In a letter to Katehi, Xi Jinping, president of China, wished the new institute success.

“Learning each other’s language and culture will be helpful to enhance the mutual understanding and friendship between the Chinese and American people and to promote the growth of China-U.S. relations,” he said.

The president was first connected to UC Davis more than 20 years ago as a secretary of a municipal committee. He invited Elizabeth Gardner, the widow of UC Davis physics professor Milton Gardner, to visit Guling, China, to discover the beloved childhood home that her husband remembered on his death bed.

Since 2004, the Hanban arm of the China’s Ministry of Education has partnered with universities and other organizations to establish more than 400 institutes worldwide to promote understanding of Chinese culture.

There are more than 90 Confucius Institutes in the United States — including four others in California at UCLA, Stanford University, and California State Universities at San Diego and San Francisco — but the one at UC Davis is the first in the world devoted to Chinese food and beverage culture.

Jiangnan University, located in Wuxi and the heart of the Yangtze River Delta, is recognized as one of China’s leading research and teaching institutions. It is ranked No. 1 in China in food science and technology by the ministry of education, operates the only national lab of food science and technology in the country and provides major institutional support for China’s food and beverage industry.

Certified as a national “key university” by the ministry of education, Jiangnan University is increasingly recognized as a leader in international exchange in the fields of food science and technology, biotechnology, industrial design and textile technology.

With a century-long history, Jiangnan University has 17 schools and offers 48 undergraduate programs in 10 disciplines. It has about 20,000 undergraduates, 7,500 graduate students and more than 9,000 students continuing their education part time.

 UC Davis is known globally for its achievements related to food and beverages. Its programs in food science and technology, winemaking, brewing and nutrition are rooted in some of the foundational disciplines of the University of California. In these programs, researchers and students explore the scientific, technological, cultural, economic and health facets of foods and beverages.

Charles Shoemaker, a UC Davis professor of food science and technology with extensive experience in China, serves as the director of the Confucius Institute at UC Davis. Linxia Liang, director for Asian international programs at UC Davis and a scholar in Chinese law, serves as co-director. Serving as deputy director is Jianqiao Dong, professor and dean of the school of foreign studies at Jiangnan University.

Serving as culinary adviser is celebrity chef and restaurateur Martin Yan, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in food science from UC Davis.

“Food brings all of us together,” said Yan. “Food is also history, culture, anthropology. … From studying food, from enjoying food, we can talk about tradition, heritage. … Food is a reflection of culture, history, religion and many other things.”

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