Oxford, and LMH in particular, host many interesting events but I must say that I’ve never attended an event in Oxford like this Anhui tourism event at LMH. Having cycled through countless roadsuntil I thought I must now be in Cambridge, I eventually arrived at LMH and followed signs to reach Talbot Hall. I suppose my expectations of the event were on par with every other Oxford event – students awkwardly hovering by the free food/drinks and a semi-relaxed, semi-awkward atmosphere. Instead, I was immediately greeted like an esteemed guest, given a name badge and asked to sign a visitor book. I felt slightly farcical when I realised I was signing a book along with important Chinese government officials but it felt flattering nonetheless.
I’ve never attended an event in Oxford like this Anhui tourism event at LMH
Walking into the hall was like being instantly transported to the days of MUN – Chinese and English flags on each table, men and women dressed in business attire and networking and booklets laid out on each table. The informaino provided to us felt imformative yet still creative, as though the region were a haven for all types of holiday-makers.
Whilst I felt rather out of place in this rather business-like environment, the event was nonetheless very interesting. I myself have a particular interest in Chinese culture and have visitd the country several times. I always feel when visiting that I have discoered something I could not have possibly found in my last visit, and this was no different.
It felt strange, gven my familiarity with some of the customs my hosts presented, to see them here, on a sunny autumn day in Oxford, with no serene lakes or beautiful red paodas in sight. It did feel somewhat Waiting for Godot-esque, as the presenter approached the dais several times, then retreated and the promotional video replayed again and again…
As someone who is fascinated about Chinese culture and has just returned from China this summer, I was curious to find out more about the Anhui province. Located in the heart of eastern China, the Yangtze River and Huaihe River divide the landlocked province into three districts. As I found out, it boasts many quite beautiful natural landscapes and several ancient cities such as Shexian, Shouxian, Bozhou and Anqing. I also found out that it is famous for being a manufacturer of rice paper, inkstones and ink sticks used in calligraphy and tea – things which I was to become familiarised with in the fascinating demonstratinos after the talk.
After the introductory talk, various Anhui provincial government officials spoke to the audience about the province and Mr Angus Philipps, Director of the Oxford International Centre for Publishing Studies also spoke about the benefits of Anhui and Oxford forming links and exchanging cultures. Surprisingly, I had never attended a talk on the importance of cultural exchange, yet I now realise the extreme importance of theorising this. My daily life is so influnced by internatinoal cultures, and particularly the many fascinaing cultures of central Asia, that I am now very surprised that I had not come across the thought before.
By far the most interesting part of the entire event though was the short Huangmei opera performance, a traditional style of Chinese opera that originated as a rural folksong in the Anhui and Hubei provinces and became celebrated as a distinctive opera style. The hand gestures were quite different and more fluid than those I had seen in a Sichuan opera performance previously. The range of operas performed in China is quite amazing and I always enjoy listening to the performer’s voice. The fluctuations in tone and pitch are very distinctive to Chinese opera, based on the fluctuains in vernacular speech, which I am told is very difficult to translate into modrn music..
The hosts, from the Anhui Tourism office, were kind enough to give each guest a box of black tea to take home as well. Whilst I didn’t stay for the networking afterwards, it was certainly an unusual Thursday morning and I would certanly like to visit Anhui next time I’m in China!