In traditional Japanese tea ceremonies, sweets are given to guests before they receive the often-bitter taste of “macha” green tea to provide complementary textures and tastes.
Participants in the “Gateway to Asia” workshop on Saturday experienced a similar mixture as they sought to be immersed in Chinese and Japanese cultures.
“Gateway to Asia” opened at the Lory Student Center and was filled with a traditional-meets-contemporary learning experience for all in attendance.
Liang-Shing Fan, professor of economic theory and finance, began the day with a lecture about the major economics of India, China and Japan.
“American students are not paying too much attention to outside countries,” said Fan, who acts as a presidential adviser to Taiwanese President Chen Shui-Bian.
The purpose of the lecture was to introduce students and other audiences to the economic significance of the larger countries in Asia in contrast to each other and the United States.
CSU President Larry Penley traveled to China in September to speak at the World University Presidential Forum, a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of China Agricultural University. While there, Penley sought to establish relationships with Chinese universities for potential student exchanges, research collaborations and other partnership opportunities.
“China is the most preferred destination of relocating labor-intensive manufacturing industries because of the low wage,” Liang-Shing said. “Everything in Wal-Mart we flip and it says, ‘Made in China.’ In contrast to Africa, the biggest expansion economically is in China, India and Japan.”
The lecture proceeded with numerous workshops teaching the arts of origami, calligraphy, kimono dressing and the traditional Japanese tea ceremony.
Michael Ricci, a professor at the University of Colorado-Boulder, studied “chado” (way of tea) for three years at Ura Senke headquarters in Kyoto, Japan. He demonstrated the Japanese thin tea ceremony.
The “cha kai” (informal tea gathering) is a strictly choreographed making of tea. Volunteers asked to participate in the ceremony experienced the four principles of chado; “wa” (harmony), “kei” (respect), “sei” (purity) and “jaku” (tranquility).
CSU students, faculty and community members assisted with the workshop facilitation. Miho Akicuki, a CSU alumna, came back from Japan to acquire a teaching license for early childhood education. Akicuki helps organize events for International Programs at CSU and taught the origami workshop. She said she has had more opportunities to learn about Japanese culture because of her participation.
Smooth brush strokes and traditional Chinese and Japanese characters were taught by experienced calligraphers. Elizabeth Gilbert, a junior double majoring in creative writing and philosophy, attended the calligraphy workshop after hearing about “Gateway to Asia” in her Chinese literature class.
Before the class Gilbert had “no exposure to Chinese literature,” she said.
“We need to expose ourselves in a broader context, not just for utilitarian purposes,” Gilbert said. “These cultures are fascinating and singular in nature.”
Traditional men’s and women’s kimonos from China and Japan were draped over willing participants.
Those who wished to try their hand at rolling sushi and stuffing pot stickers attended the last workshop at the Aggie Center on Prospect Road for a first-hand experience.
Jerry Ondaro, overseer of the catering service at the LSC, for the first time spread rice, egg, vegetables and sushi onto a seaweed sheet.
“I don’t know of all the programs at CSU, but from what I have seen they are good promoters of international programs,” Ondaro said.
Emily Lance can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org