Belgium Chinese Tea Arts Centre

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Category: Tea Talk (Page 2 of 9)

“Hand of Peace” in Antwerp

All major European cities or harbors like to claim themselves as “the center of Europe”, but center can only be one, so where is the true center in Europe exactly?  As matter of fact,  that was my question when prepared the market competitiveness analysis during the time I worked as Executive Director for the state of Bremen/Bremerhaven before I moved to Belgium in 1991. It’s said a photo speaks better than thousands of word, the answer for this question is clear from the following photo, because the heart for trade and investment in Europe requires well structured, convenient and efficient transportation networks  by sea/land/river for the distribution of goods from one point to other European destinations in 360 degree radiation range:

27/09/2018 was a proud day for Chinese and all Antwerpenaars when international diplomates got together in  “Palace on the Meir”, a protected monument built in the 17th century, to witness the signing of MoU (the Memorandum (memorandum of understanding) by FEMOZA, Diplomatic World and EFTCC for the Diamond Silk Road train connection project.

It is also the day when Chinese sculptor, YAN ShuFen’s outstanding sculpture based on the symbol of hand and pigeon available to the public in the Antwerp Central Station. The Antwerp Central Station is known as the most beautiful station in the world, built in 1898 and finished in 1905. ShuFen’s sculpture “Hand of Peace” will be first displayed in Antwerp for one year and then tour to Shanghai and then return to her permeant home in Antwerp.

Hand is a city symbol of Antwerp that has an amazing legendary story of why our beautiful city was named as “Antwerp (Antwerpen)”. The symbol of Antwerp Hand stands for FREEDOM, EQUALITY, LOVE, OPENNESS and FRIENDSHIP, these are what Antwerp standing for hundreds of year in Europe. The symbol of pigeon, as we know,  of course, stands for universal beliefs in PEACE and HARMONY.

The combination of these two symbols in one unique art work spells for hopes not only for economic, trade and industrial links, mostly it means to fulfill hopes and dreams of people from different cultures and nations to cooperate alone the modern Silk Road train connections in the One Belt One Road project.

In the inauguration ceremony, it is very interesting what Mr. Ludo Van Campenhout, the Alderman of Antwerp City, mentioned in his speech that Antwerp has played an important role in the tea trade from China to Europe since 1720’s.


Tea trade since the first Grand Silk Road in the East-Han Dynasty (25 – 220 A.D.) via land connected people and culture through trading;  The route connected East with West stretched futher from land to sea via the Maritime Silk Road.  Series of treasure voyages (1405 – 1433) lead by Admiral Zheng He in Ming Dynasty further lead to the connection from China all the way to Europe (to Antwerp) directly.

Here I would also like to highlight another tea trade route that  has almost dust sealed in history which was the Sino-Russia Tea Trade Route.  Traders  brought tea from Wuyi to Hankou (Wuhan, Hubei), then continue the journey through safari by camel to Russia. That Sino-Russia tea trade route brought Chinese tea to Russia via the Mongolian Plateau and the Siberian hinterland that spreaded tea seeds in different cultures alone the way.

Tea trees grow slowly, so as to the integration of tea culture in human history; once tea seeds were embedded, another page of exciting story  of tea culture began. The taller tea grees grow, the deeper roots go.

That Sino-Russia Tea Trade Route definitely played an important role to bring tea seeds from Russia to Europe; tea drinking culture quietly integrated in East European cultures in the 18th to the 20th century. The Sino-Russia Tea Trade route completed a pocket for tea trade and cultural influence from China to Europe with the Maritime Silk Road.

Image result for tea trade to Europe

These significant historical Silk Roads plus tea trade routes built in the past over 2 century were able to stimulate the trade of Chinese tea from China to Central Asia then extended to Europe.  Whether it’s by land or sea, what those trade routes were able to achieve not only significant economic growth through the exchange of merchants, they connected people across nations, overcome cultural hedges of languages and religions; most importantly,  tea seeds were embedded and integrated in different cultures, a new tea culture was created in the world today.ZhengHeShips.gif

Tea is more than just a cup of delicious healthy drink, it reflects how we can live with peace and harmony in a collective society.  When examining the tea history in the past >3000 years, the rising curve matched with the improvement of common wealth, the national strength and culture development in China history.  The Chinese historical learning curve enhances our hope for a better future in the time of change today.

The undergoing modern Silk Road train connections is based on the One Belt One Road project will not only stimulate the growth of trade between East and West.  The modern rail way engineering technologies and networks could broaden its impacts on economic, political and cultural exchange.  The Diamond Silk Road train connections from Shanghai to Antwerp will boost the economic growth through trade across continents from the North Sea to Pacific and will further enhance the understanding and connections of people, especially the future generations and cultures, to shortern the distance between Europe, Africa, Central Asia and China.  The Diamond Silk Road aims to stimulate the free trade development across continents, mostly hope it will bring the vase diversity to become a better collective continent for PEACE, HOPE, HARMONY and PROSPERITY.

Certainly we hope the train connections can more efffectively deepen the connection of cultures, not only for tea trade but can enrich the connection of people across cultural barriers, stimulate the humanitarian communication and respect through a cup of tea.

Image result for tea culture

When China President Xi Jinping first mentioned the concept of the One Belt One Road to build the “Silk Road economy together” during his visit to Kazakhstan in September 2013, at the first many thought it was just a political slogan and there were many doubts about its feasibility. With the serious investments, agreements and railways structures, more and more nations realized “One Belt One Road”  is not a slogan but a real deal, economically and politically. More and more nations want to join tge train of prosperity.  Even though the cloud of suspicious, questions, even worries are not yet completely removed today, but obstacles are removing aside gradually, because the benefits of mutual economic growth are hard to ignore.

As we can imagine there are still many challenges are slying ahead before this gigantic One Belt One Road project;  there are still plenty political, train network engineering, customs clearance, border control issues should be overcome through complex negotiations.  However, the hopeful sphere is enriching everyday and hopefully we can celebrate a bigger ceremony for the inauguration of Diamond Silk Road train connections between Antwerp and Shanghai soon.

#hope #peace #harmony #prosperity #handofpeace #antwerp #antwerpen #antwerpcentralstation #belgium #chineseteacentre #chineseteaculture #silkroad #onebeltoneroad #diamondsilkroad #culturaldiversity #allinone #oneforall #euasia #connectingpeople #universalvalues #humane

copyrighted of Mei Lan Hsiao, founder of Belgium Chinese Tea Culture Association on 28/09/2018,  Linkeroever, Antwerp, Belgium

Moment of Mindfulness

Wealth can not be measured based on what you own, it is about how much can you share.

The more you use the word “I want”, the more fragile you become because the fear of losing.

Happiness is not on what you can calculate but in smiling and shinning eyes.

Mindfulness is not in books, speeches or exercises, it is in the moment when you align with your heart without you.

Never under estimated the power of using words.  Changing words, changing negotive thinking with more positive power, changing mind. Ease your mind, maintain calm and assertive, keep alert and embrace every moment, treat this moment as eternity and smile to wind.

Mei Lan Hsiao, 28/09/2018 Linkeroever

Unlock self before trying to unlock others

Many years ago when attended a Knowledge Management Conference in Vienna, I had a conversation with a Belgian HR executive who was not happy with the conference because to him, he did not get more precised suggestions on how to manage knowledge.  I suggested him to get people involve in the organization change process and learn to ask questions, because often people don’t realize the value of knowledge and experience they have unless he’s willing to listen and to discover. He looked at me and said “You live in Belgium for many years, you should know Belgian top managers don’t ask questions but give instructions”.   His unwillingness made me speechless.

More than a decade later, again I come across with the subject of how to reinnovate the organization through unlocking potential talents.  The initial thought that I have is another question: Truely want to unlock what are potentially“out there, somewhere”in the organization or in a relationship?

The first thing is to unlock your own mind, free yourself from perceptive“layers of frame”and learn to listen without preconceive conclusions.

Before trying to unlock others, try to unlock yourself

Before trying to change others, try to understand and change yourself.

Before questioning others, learn to question self first.

So questions will be:

  • How much do you really know about yourself, 
  • Have you really try to listen and understand
  • How flexible you are willing to be.

Problems probably are coming from outside, but the key of change should right in your heart.

Can or will you able to discover and hold it in time? This not the question of TO BE OR NOT TO BE, but simply a question to find the key.

Inspiration of Ch’an (Zen)

What is Ch’an (禪, also known as Zen in English)?

To make it easy, can try to understand the meaning behind that Chinese character
單 Single, so what does “Single” means in life?
衣 Cloth, so what does “Cloth” means in the learning of Chan?

The learning of Chan (Zen) goes beyond reading books, articles, listening to speeches from different Guru, it is about how well can you manage the learning about yourself and being yourself. Most importantly, how to live.

What is Love?

What is love?
Love is about devotion
Love is about commitment
Love is about giving your heart without calculating what to gain in return.
Love is about compassion
Love is about understanding
Love ia about tolerating
Love ia about accepting
Love is all about honesty from heart

Love brings endless positive thinking and energy, on the other hand can be very fragile to break. A mirror probably can be mended, nevertheless the existing cracks can not be denied. Repair need both parties who both are willing to be honest to each others, willing to give more than double efforts and patience. Again, it starts from honesty and communication

Indeed love means blind, is about feeling but again it does not mean forgetting rationality. Whenever facing temptations, simply remember one simple fact ~Money can buy sex but not love.

Appreciate what you have in time,don’t wait till it is too late to regret.

It’s more important to prepare mind than tea setting

For each tea ceremony, despite people might give it different names such as tea ceremony, cha xi (tea setting) or Cha ke (tea workshop), of course what to prepare and how to arrange the setting are important:

Before the event

  1. Environment setting, including hardware and software in environment and ambiance setting
  2. Choosing tea, choosing suitable tea types and quality, etc.
  3. Choosing suitable matching tea ware
  4. Tea setting
  5. Familar and practice each step in tea ceremony process carefully

Indeed making a cup of tea seems easy but there are plenty details involve, however the most critical preparation would be the “Mind Preparataion“, because it requires the basic disciplines in

  • The mind is calm and peaceful assertive in tranqulity
  • Maintain a clarity and respectful mind
  • It’s about professionalism
  • It’s about energy in body and mind
  • Avoid too much taboo and impetuous, avoid showing off and avoid being too excessive

No matter what, remember the focus of the event is about Tea but not You

The tea setting requires a lot of inspiration and creativity, so set your mind free and enjoy each nature element.  The environment setting and tea setting are easy, nevertheless how to prepare mind probably is harder than you think but on the other hand can be very easy once you are able to put the priority and focus correct.

The cultivation of heart and mind requires sincere learning attitude and commitment to learning in life.

The success of tea, is in people

The failure of tea, is also in people

Everything begins with Genuinity and Honesty

The flavor and taste in tea are driven by Authentic and Clarity 

Serve tea in heart and mind with Calm and Tranqulity 

Disciplinary based on Respect, Respect and again Respect

The Ancient Tea Horse Routes

Extremely dangerous and difficult natural environment and transportation conditions create a strong defence on the South-West China. For thousand of years countless horse transporters used their strength and wisdom created an epic legend of Ancient Tea Horse Route.

The legend of Ancient Tea Horse Route started from the most prosperous period in Tang and Song Dynasty, prosperousity extended in Ming and Qing Dynasty and reached its peak after the establishment of Republic.

The Ancient Tea Horse Routes are divided in three routes:

  •  Shaanxi <-> GanSu
  • Shaanxi <-> KangDing <-> Tibet
  • Yunnan <-> Tibet

These routes connect Sichuan, Yunnan and Tibet, further extended to Nipol, India, Bhudan, Sikkim, Laos. Its purpose went beyond a simple trade route, but a bridge to connect cultures and to exchange religions and humane values. The water transportation was almost impossible due to extreme difficult terrain, transportation by horse became the best solution. It is not exaggerate to describe the Ancient Tea Horse Routes as a legend of flesh, blood and lives.

The construction of modern highways has significantly improved the unresearchable traffic problem, the traditional memory of ancient horse transporters travelled with tents, shabu-shabu and guns gradually faded away. The Ancient Tea Horse Routes today remains as the most mysterious and spectacular natural scenery in the world where contains endless astonishing and breath-taking cultural and natural heritage .

The Ancient Tea Horse Routes itself is culture that we can’t use describe with words for its magnificent beauty, the marvelous epic legend shound’t be forgotten.

Tea completes me

I am grateful everyday and every time when I have a cup of tea. Because, it is not about how much fun of spending time,.money and efforts that I have devoted to tea and Chinese tea culture, it is how tea and wisdom in Chinese tea culture transformed me to become a better person.
Everytime I look down to tea in the cup, I see not only my self-consciousness, but also love and wisdom from my parents, and I see those hard working people who do their best to preserve the balance in the Nature and doing their best to continue the most valuable Chinese culture – #Humane and #Harmony,
In life, it is not those happy moment and cheerful memories complete me, but it is how those painful experiences and people hurted me helped to shape me; and tea supported me to reconnect myself in every down curve.  In short, you can say, it’s tea that completes me. 
I can’t stop the time, but in tea, I remain as a forever young and innocent child.

Brewing a cup of tea

How to brew tea?
What is the right brewing method for tea ceremony?
1:10? 1:30? 1:50? 1:75? 1:100? or ….?

Frankly speaking are there right or wrong answers to these questions? Is the answer limited to quantity/volume only?

Each tea even from the same type, from the same region, but even same tea from different season and/or making process can create different characters. Tea is not a Rockefeller science but it is about nature and how to understand and adapt to the nature that to bring out the best taste.

As to the answer to tea ceremony, the answer will be another question – what do you want to achieve or to be enlightened from the process?  It is about process, but yet not limited to process only.

“Cha Dao” in short can be translated as “The way of tea”. The question will be which way? for who? what and how?  What can we learn from the Chinese character of Zen “禪” which can break into two parts “衣 Yi : Cloth” and “單 Dan : Single”?

Mama, we too want to have a peaceful and steady life!

What is the further development after the last reportage?  I am curious.  I went to the peace demonstration launched by the World Uyghur Congress in Brussels on 27/4 which I was hoping to have the first hand objective observation.  I do not understand the Uighur language so I can only observe from distance through their non-verbal body language.  I noticed occasionally there were some look like Chinese face passed by the scene, when they spotted those Chinese faces, then they yelled and asked those people to  leave.  It is not the safety of Uighur demonstrators that worried me, I more concerned those passed-by Chinese faces.  That day also there were some Belgian young people held signs for “Peace through Dialogue” but there were kindly suggested by the Belgian policies to leave for the sake of their safety.  When thinking backwards, I was glad not only to see the presence of Belgian policies who are more experienced in handling various political demonstrations, but mostly how does the enforced law-abiding social education works.  It would be  hard to imagine the scenario in case of the original intention of peace demonstration goes wrong because of too much negative emotion and psychological pressure from the demonstrators.

In the situation that I did not understand the language but could only feel from their tones and non-verbal body languages, I have to admit that I felt discomfort that day because of hidden aggression and angry eyes.  At that time, I had some simple questions in mind:

  1. Isn’t the theme of the demonstration meant for “Peace”?
  2. How can they find a good balance and persuasive arguments for peace with underlined hateful energy and exclude-others’ mind?
  3. Can such slapping face negative energy really help for the peace and prosperity development that people in Xinjiang need?

This year will be the 9th year since the bloodshed incident happened in Xinjiang on 5/7/2009, it’s conceivable that The World Uyghur Congress might again highlight the “Chinese Jasmine Revolution” it started with peace demonstration eventually went so wrong with deadly social unrest incident which eventually ended with bloodshed tragedy. It is hard to compare and analysis the actual situation based on the number of victims that claimed by the WUC and China official announcement.  The official announcement for dead toll from the China government is 198 and mainly Chinese Han people, however the allegation  from WUC is another story, they claim there were more deaths but couldn’t present any actual evident to support their allegation.  So far the truth remains in “He says, She says”, so what is the reality and what is virtual? We can imagine how that bloodshed incident keeps many international human right activists with specific political agenda in mind busy.  However, one thing we are curtained is that that unfortunately incidents took place on 5th July 2009 has caused a gap between these two ethnic groups in Xinjiang,  and China government should  invest more and work harder to remand the bridge between gaps.

The challenge either for Chinese or Uighurs face in Xinjiang is not about the number of deaths in 2009, the most important challenge is building dreams for peace and prosperity for different ethnic groups in Xinjiang  From the history from WWII, we clearly understood that only truth and diligent efforts to build a common dream for peace and prosperity can heal wound, therefore we can only hope the mist will be cleared one day by historians in the future.

History is like water that can’t flood backwards. The persistent hated is helpless to correct mistakes happened in the past and wouldn’t bring deaths back, but what have already happened should be prevailed and learnt honestly.  All ethnic groups in Xinjiang province in China must work closely to create a better future with peace, safe and prosperity together for the current and the future generations.

The shadow of hate and opposition spread by the fundamental Muslim extremist who organized those unthinkable terrorist attacks in Europe and genocide happened in Iraq and Syria by Islamic State of Sharm (ISIS) since late 2000 still make the world dare not to relax, and most countries are still maintain high alert towards potential terrorism.  90% of Uighurs live in the Kashgar region in the southern of Xinjiang where it connects with Tajikistan to the West and borders by the Muslim sectarian Afghan and Pakistan on the Southwest.  How to maintain stability in the region plays a certain role to support the world combat to the religious extremism. This is the reality that perhaps the overseas Uighur doctrines should learn to understand; because it meets with the world’s demand for peace if they could have  a peaceful dialogue and cooperation with China government  to manage this problem in the region.

The cause of rising of fundamental regions extremism is because of poverty and low education, the key to solve these problems must start from improving people’s lives. From the white paper published by the China government in recent years, we noticed a lot of construction funds are invested to improve the transportation conditions, the safety of drinking water and GDP in the remote mountainous areas in Xinjiang.  There are many noticeable significant results at end of 2016, for example the poverty rate has dropped to 10%, the living conditions have improved quite a bit than before.

The peaceful demonstrations initiated by Rebiya Kader, an exile overseas Uighur leader, were unfortunately turned into a bloodshed due to improper crisis management.  Her family, brother, son and daughter, who did not participate the fight wrote her a letter afterwards and it has been published to the public.  The most profound emotional notion written in that letter perhaps is : Mom, we too want to have a peaceful and steady life.

Source: Tienshan Net

Photo:: Tienshan Net

Recently the world is excited by the Russia FIFA 2018 football game, so as children in China.  The China Football Federation  has organized the football training center in Kashgar region . What a beautiful future we can see from those young happy and smiling faces.

The world is tired by hatred and struggle of opposition.  For the young generations we love, we really should take our responsibilities more seriously to transform the negative and stressful energy to more positive and happy energy in our society. Instead of writing stories about hatred and differences, perhaps we should focus more on our ability and collective efforts to listen to the innocent laughter of children and give them a safe, peaceful and prosperous growing environment.  After all, children who have hope and positives energy are the best seeds to drive the change in the future.

Hopes start from today!

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