On November 3rd, 2019, the London School of Economics and Political Science hosted a tourism and culture event to celebrate “Beautiful Sichuan, Home of the Panda.”
Among over one hundred attendees were Ms. Ma Lei, Deputy Director of the Cultural Department of the Chinese Embassy, UK and representatives from the UK Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the British Institute of Directors, the UK Ministry of Investment and Trade, the Ministry of Health, HSBC, the UK Department of Education, LSE professors and students, the Confucius Institute for Business, London (CIBL), and other Confucius Institutes.
Inside the auditorium, guests were immersed in the atmosphere and symbols of Sichuan culture: cute mini-pandas, national-treasure dolls; Discovering Sichuan books; painting and calligraphy workshops invoking Sichuan’s long history and magnificent mountains and rivers; a feast of traditional Chinese, and particularly Sichuanese, food and wine; and speeches about Sichuan intermingled with live music and dance performances.
Speakers included: Dr Neil McLean, Academic Director LSE; Xia Jianhui, Education Consul at the Chinese Embassy in the UK; Yao Jieping, Inspector of the Sichuan Provincial Department of Tourism and Culture; and David Singer Lamaih, Chairman of the UK Board of Directors. Following a short film depicting the splendor or Sichuan, guests were fascinated by the traditional Sichuan opera-mask-changing dance. As the dancer shifted magically from one striking face to another, using techniques rooted in the origins of Chinese dramatic art, and making the first face disappear completely, she left the audience wondering, “How does she do that?”
Bringing an international flavour to the stage, Adam Davis, a talented British singer/songwriter, music producer and also a student of the Confucius Institute for Business London, treated the audience to a musical feast. For the first song, “Chengdu,” named after the capital of Sichuan Province, Adam was accompanied by Wu Yafei, Zhong Yi and Chen Xi, three beautiful girls from his choir (all doing media and international marketing degrees), elegant in their traditional red cheongsam dresses: “I walk through the streets of Chengdu … until all the lights are extinguished“. As male and female harmonies pushed the atmosphere to a powerful and confident climax, the audience raised their phones to capture the moment.
In a change of mood, mezzo-soprano Phoebe Haines and Adam Davis performed “Lake Baikal,” Adam’s outstanding voice and clear Chinese pronunciation blending beautifully with Phoebe’s professional operatic delivery to highlight the song’s charm and beauty. Visually, the contrast of the white evening jacket and extravagantly-flared long, red dress was extraordinarily dazzling, giving the event an opera house feel. Then, Adam accompanied Phoebe’s powerful “Kangding Love Song,” which shows listeners the “horse on the hill”, looking up at the “young cloud” above its head.
This was followed by a performance of Swan Lake – panda style – which instantly brought a smile to the face of every guest. The pandas, who wowed the whole audience, picked up their toes, kicked, swung, and slammed… Our national treasure is so cute!
Sponsorship for the day was provided by the Sichuan Cultural Tourism Bureau, Tianjin Airlines, Haidilao, Cambridge China “Restaurant”, Brighton Panda Supermarket, Muxiang Garden Restaurant, LSE, and the CIBL. The donated presents and raffle prizes included: face-changing Peking Opera Masks, Panda dolls, Seabed meal coupons, Luzhou Laojiao, LSE Confucius Institute cultural immersion coupons, and the special prize, an England-China round-trip airline ticket.
By integrating culture, tourism and business, the event aimed to enabled more British friends to better understand Sichuan, its culture and its charm, and to further promote tourism, cultural exchanges, and cooperation between Sichuan and the United Kingdom.