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Hawke’s Bay February 2013 Newsletter

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NEXT MEETING:

 Acclaimed Chinese Artist  Zhang Song Tao  Demonstration & Display

painting by Zhang Song Tao 

Date:   20th February 2013

Time:   7.30pm

Where:  Hastings District Council  Chambers in Lyndon Road.

 Zhang Song Tao’s artworks are often published in major Chinese and international newspapers and magazines, and are bought by Asian and foreign art lovers and collectors. The Hawke’s Bay Chinese Association has brought Mr Zhang to New Zealand and Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule will welcome him.  He will demonstrate and display his artwork.  

 

 

ICD 2013

Local entertainers to take the stage include Te Aute College students, the Samoan Fetuao Youth Choir, and dance groups from the Philippine, Tongan and Thai communities, as well as performances from a Chinese children’s singing group and a Tai Chi demonstration. Food will once again be a feature available from our Chinese, Russian, German, Philippine, Indian, Indonesian, Thai, Brazilian and Sri Lankan communities.  See Branch News and Events

The Osmanthus Gardens at Cornwall Park will be lit up with lanterns from 25the Feb to 2nd March
The Osmanthus Gardens at Cornwall Park will be lit up with lanterns from 25th Feb to 2nd March

Chinese New Year Celebrations  started on February 10th this year. People born in the year of the Snake are more intuitive, introspective, refined and collected than those born under other animal signs. They are attractive and do not become flustered easily, are graceful, exciting and dark at the same time.

Contemplative and private, Snake people are not outwardly emotional. They can appear cunning and reticent and work very modestly in the business environment. They will plot and scheme to make certain things turn out exactly as they want them to and are not great communicators.  

Picture2

China Book Review  by Matthew Griffiths  

The Fat Years by Chan Koonchung (Doubleday, 2011)

This book by Chan Koonchung, the Shanghai-born and Hong Kong raised author now based in China, sketches out a view of China that is a little too close to reality for the comfort of the authorities. Officially banned in China, it has reportedly gained a wide underground audience there.

The novel is set in the near future. A global financial crisis even worse than 2008, has hit the global economy. China however, has survived and prospered as the rest of the world has fallen into economic depression. People in China are happy and content and China has reclaimed its pre-eminent place in the world. The central character, Old Chen, a wPicture1riter brought up in Hong Kong and Taiwan, is living in Beijing and among those contentedly going about their lives. Amid the near universal happiness, however, something is not quite right. Around the time of the financial crisis, a whole month disappeared, and some people have not forgotten. Two years after the strange events of that time, Old Chen bumps into a couple of old friends who both tell him that all is not well. Each is pursuing the matter in their own way and slowly and reluctantly Chen becomes involved in their quest.

 

Written as a thriller, it engrosses the reader in a mystery of the events of the time, while introducing us to a variety of characters who represent people who are inside and outside the mainstream of modern China – including an online dissident whose son has Party ambitions, a real estate tycoon, a high-level political adviser, a high-price prostitute, underground Christians and a former slave worker. Fans of action and high body counts will be disappointed; it is a leisurely thriller by those standards. It’s exploration of the characters is sketchy rather than in-depth, but the glimpses they give of modern China are sufficient to flesh out a picture for the reader beyond the headlines of break-neck economic growth and China’s increasing international influence. It is critical of aspects of Chinese society and government and explores these through the lives of the characters and the strange events at the centre of the novel which they each attempt to piece together in their own ways, and eventually together, resorting to a risky plan to uncover the truth.

The Fat Years is an interesting and intriguing read. Its portrait of contemporary China, and a plausible and disturbing future not too far removed from it, is one many who know China will recognise. The book challenges the reader to consider the implications of the collective memory loss imposed by the government regarding events in China’s past and other aspects of the China’s current political and social environment. Is 90% freedom enough? Is a fake paradise better than a “good hell”? As China continues its economic development while maintaining its one party system these questions will continue to occupy minds both within and outside China.

The Fat Years is available from the Public Libraries in Hastings, Havelock North, Napier and Taradale.

[Matthew Griffiths is a long time member of the New Zealand China Friendship Society. He loves Chinese food, has visited China many times, studied Mandarin, and attempted to learn Tai chi. He and his Chinese-born wife Deborah have two bilingual children. They lived in China from 2008 to 2010 and he still can’t get enough.]
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