Thinking Chinese Conference (31 Mar - 1 Apr 2015)
Thinking Chinese 思華 . 華思 UCL Quad, 31 March - 1 April 2015
A ground-breaking interdisciplinary two-day conference was presented by UCL and Ming-Ai (London) Institute.
The Thinking Chinese Conference took place at UCL, in collaboration with the UCL history Department and China Centre for Health and Humanity, bringing together academics, heritage professionals and representatives from Chinese community organisations. Linking with the themes of the concurrent exhibition in UCL's South Cloisters, over two days the conference explored the history of Chinese since the 19th Century who studied in Britain and became professionals, diplomats, scientists, writers, performers and artists along with the ways in which Chineseness has been represented in the UK. Audience participation was actively encouraged and there were lively discussions on the role of Chinese heritage in the UK and abroad.
The conference marked the final exhibition and event series of the British Chinese Workforce Heritage (BCWH) oral history project (2012-15). UCL is ranked joint fifth in the world's top ten universities. Graduates from 150 countries study at UCL including 2,000 Chinese students and the university has a strong international reputation for access, innovation and excellence. Free places at the conference were made available due to the generous support of UCL History, enabling community volunteers and students to join the discussions.
'Thinking Chinese' Overview (Day One: 31st March 2015)
Prof Zheng Xiao Guo (UCL's Vice Provost for China) introduced the conference followed by presentations on Chinese community history from Michael Murray (Heritage Lottery Fund) and Chungwen Li (Ming-Ai (London) Institute). The first day's panels explored the significance of Chinese naval and military forces from Greenwich Fuzhou meridian and China's relationship with the West during both World Wars with speakers from UCL and the National Army Museum. The British Chinese Armed Forces Heritage Project was introduced by Prof Jonathan Liu (Regent's University): a joint project between Ming-Ai (London) Institute and Regents University London which will record the history of British Chinese military connections. Further panels reflected on pioneering Chinese academics studying in Britain from the 19th Century onwards who became diplomats, performers, writers and professionals. Such scholars included Yan Fu who translated classic English intellectual books which influenced the beginning of Chinese modernity.
In the afternoon a roundtable discussion with a panel of eight experts and practitioners in the fields of medicine, herbal medicine, UK healthcare, population health and was chaired by Prof Therese Hesketh (UCL Institute for Global Health) where the motion for debate was: Is traditional Chinese medicine really relevant? The merits of Eastern and Western perspectives on alternative and scientific healthcare methods were debated with much audience participation.
'Thinking Chinese' Overview (Day Two: 1st April 2015)
The second day began with film footage of the British Chinese Food Culture Project (2011-12); uncovering the legacy of Chinese food within British culture and featuring renowned celebrity chef's such as Ken Hom (OBE). Dr Vivienne Lo (UCL CCHH) presented a simulating historic exploration of Dimsum Diplomacy between the East and West.
Discussion panels investigated diverse representations of 'Chineseness' from language teaching and Victorian pantomime to British-Chinese interiors with speakers from SOAS, University of London and University of Westminster. Ideas of 'Chineseness', Race and Eugenics were critiqued by speakers from UCL, University of Liverpool and University of Winchester. David Yip provided an insightful personal story of his experience of auditioning and playing the role of the Chinese Detective (BBC, 1981-2), as well as revealing the challenges of Chinese stereotyping within Western broadcasting.
The conference concluded with a political debate chaired by Prof Jonathan Liu (Regent's University London) where the motion stated: Breaking our Silence: Voices from the Chinese Community. The panel featured a multitude of community representatives from various political parties, educational institutions and community centres. This topical discussion fuelled a wide range of viewpoints of Chinese representation in contemporary Britain, particularly raising awareness within the Chinese community of the importance of voting within local and national elections.