Last Saturday the Davis community celebrated Global Confucius Institute Day and the Davis Chinese Film Festival’s opening ceremony at the Mondavi Center. The gala event featured a photo exhibit, a showing of Eat Drink Man Woman by Oscar-winner Ang Lee and a question-and-answer panel of four distinguished speakers. Not only did the event present fine forms of art but also intimate perspectives of Chinese culture and values.
Global Confucius Institute Day commemorates the 10th anniversary of Hanban (Chinese National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language). It also pays honor to all institutes devoted to teaching Chinese language and culture, including UCD’s very own Chinese Language program. In fact, the Davis Confucius Institute centers its teachings on Chinese food and beverage culture.
Michelle Yeh, panel moderator and UC Davis’ department chair of East Asian Languages and Cultures, provided educational insight on the significance of learning food history.
“Food provides a unique prism through which to understand society, history and culture,” Yeh said. “Chinese food has a history of 5,000 years; it has developed many regional fares, each with distinctive features and tastes. It’s no exaggeration to say that Chinese cuisine is an exquisite art form and a powerful cultural expression. For Chinese people, food is not only sustenance but also medicine, symbolism, social relations and rituals.”
Fittingly, the gala’s showing of Eat Drink Man Woman depicted Chinese familial structures and traditions through food.
Sheldon Lu, a UC Davis professor of comparative literature who was one of the panelists, stressed what he hoped attendees gained from the movie and subsequent Q & A.
“[I hope attendees understand] how the old generation needs to adapt to change, new ideas and new lifestyles; and at the same time, the young generation needs to appreciate traditional values. The old and new should try to understand each other’s values and perspectives,” Lu said.
Along with nuancing the Davis Confucius Institute’s mission, the film screening also kicked off the Davis Chinese Film Festival, which will took place over five different days in Sept., showing a total of 12 movies.
MUSE spoke with the film festival’s co-chair, Ning Wan, who commented on the unique ways film represents Chinese culture.
“Movies are made up of a story, a visual aesthetic, a soundtrack, a script, acting styles and many other components that are shaped by culture,” Wan said. “The audience can take in different cues about Chinese culture, history, life, etc. through a movie that might not be as readily apparent through other forms of art. Movies can showcase things in real time such as dance, conversation flow and mannerisms.”
The film festival will feature a total of 12 hand picked movies. According to Wan, the film committee made sure to select films that mostly focused on life in modern China. However, a few movies take place during historical periods.
“The 12 movies will allow the audience to look at different aspects of life in China. […] We hope that through watching these movies, people will learn more about Chinese people and their culture,” Wan said. “Similar to how the U.S. is comprised of states with different cultures, China is made up of many provinces whose cultures cannot be captured in a single movie. There are so many different cultures in China; we hope that people leave with a better understanding of Chinese life.”
Overall, the celebration was meant to be a grand toast to Chinese culture’s legacy. The overall goal of the gala was to open doors to new understandings about new and old Chinese culture, but also to introduce some of the many unique cultural perspectives the Davis Chinese Film Festival will manifest.