COLOMBO -The origins of the Chinese culture traces back thousands of years and is considered as one of the world’s oldest cultures. With a rich history of more than 5000 years, it is the epitome of elegance, considering its exquisite heritage and beguiling customs and traditions. The Chinese culture features an abundance of material and spiritual values, unchanged over millennia. In spite of the influence from outside and numerous invasions, the Chinese culture preserved its individuality and unique identity. Chinese culture includes customs and traditions, music, dances, painting, language, cuisine, clothing and applied art.
Sri Lanka being a country that is commended for “being a land like no other” owing to its colossal history, cherished customs and robust heritage, shares a multitude of similarity with the culture of the Chinese. Although the two cultures are distinctly contrasting, the gist of bounty and fortune is shared by the two through expansive and venerable cultural consistence. Harking back to the memory of history, the notable presence in Sri Lanka of the learned Chinese monk Faxian and the stone tablet of the Chinese navigator Cheng Ho reveal to us over one thousand years of friendship and relationship between China and Sri Lanka.
The contrast between an array of cultures, is mainly formulated due to the geographical differences of a multitude of nations and societies. Factors such as climate, agriculture, industrial efficiency and other similar components assist in determining the variety between every culture. “Cuisine” is generally considered a crucial factor in signifying one culture from another, as agricultural efficiency can only be determined by its respective geographical amenities. Thus, the cuisine belonging to a certain culture is inevitably contrary to the cuisine of a varying culture. This juxtaposing nature of cuisine increases the vitality of being aware of the “food etiquette” of another culture.
The “Mandarin Institute of Sri Lanka”, Sri Lanka’s premiere institute dedicated to the Chinese Language had the honour of conducting a cultural program for the students. The session predominantly focused on “Chinese food culture” and was orchestrated by Ms. Jingfang Liu, a native Chinese speaker with a broad experience in a vast array of fields. She holds a bachelor degree of management in the “Beijing International Studies University, China” and holds a master’s degree from the “Nanyang Technological Institute, Singapore”.
The seminar rubricated prominent factors, namely, the convention of chopsticks and how it is used appropriately, the differences between food flavours in different parts of China, types of food consumed during Chinese festivals, identifying authentic Chinese restaurants in Sri Lanka, the tea culture in China, the dos and the don’ts of Chinese cuisine and other crucial components.
A commonly cherished fact with regard to the topic is that “Using chopsticks involves over 30 joints and 50 muscles in the fingers, wrist, arm, shoulder as well as thousands of nerves.”
The benefits of inter cultural knowledge is ineffably abundant. Particularly, the knowledge of cuisine affiliated to a varying culture subsequently supports the building of stronger relationships between individuals pertaining to different nations. Considering Sri Lanka’s robust relationship of mutuality between China, it provides a platform for various Sri Lankan’s to engage in international engagement. Thus, the knowledge of Chinese cuisine would consistently provide a nod on every agreement that is to be made harmoniously. It would be of vast assistance at any business meeting, it would help travel through China conveniently and would also accommodate ease in picking authentic Chinese restaurants across the globe.
Students who took part in the program expressed great joy in learning the food culture of China. They are confident to use chopsticks and to navigate in China for the best dishes around them, this program was an added value to their quest to learn Chinese language.
Stephanie Jansz- director at Mandarin institute of Sri Lanka says “we do not only provide the language skill but we strive to give our students a holistic understanding of the Chinese people and their country by organizing lectures relating to culture and history of China which makes doing business with China much easier for our Sri Lankan’s.
“Cultural differences should not separate us from each other but rather cultural diversity brings a collective strength that can benefit all of humanity”-Robert Alan.