Cultural classes in Tainan

We’re nearing the end of our time in Tainan; less than ten days left. It feels bittersweet. We look forward to seeing our families, but we’ve become accustomed to living here, and we’ve all felt very welcomed. I will miss Tainan when I’m back in Auckland. 

The Chinese language centre at Cheung Kong University has been incredibly generous to us, particularly in our four cultural classes. 

I’ve previously written about the cultural class on Tainan history, and since then, we’ve been taught the art of tea making, hanbing baking, and seal chiselling!

Our first cultural class outside the classroom was based in a beautiful old tea house which enclosed a small pond filled with koi fish. 

The process of traditional Taiwanese tea making requires two teapots, two sets of tea cups (one to drink with and one to smell), saucers, tea scoopers and tongs, which all sort atop a draining board. It is an intricate process designed to get the most flavour out of the tea and portray respect and civility to your guest. 

After our class, probably my favourite class at uni so far, we went downstairs and across their bridge to the restaurant, where we had a delicious and thoughtfully arranged hot pot meal. All organised by the Chinese language Centre. 

The traditional wedding cake. Mine looks a bit battered – it was tricky trying to get it out of the mould!
Here’s my finished product; I hope she likes it!

The following week, we had a hands-on baking class in traditional Chinese engagement cakes filled with red bean paste. They are intended to be sent to the family members of the engaged to announce that they are getting married. My girlfriend was intrigued by this class; she asked me: is this a sign (to get married)? We both laughed. 

Following that class was our last one, this Tuesday, making our on seal. A seal is a regular tool here for people to sign documents where we would use our signature. However for us, we were fascinated by it. Some of us decided to take it very creatively as an opportunity to create a picture on a seal or a more traditional version based on our Chinese names.

To anyone that knows me, I’m the proud uncle of Emeri or 张珞祎, my half-Chinese niece. So I thought it would be a cute gift to chisel out her name on the seal. 

It was really difficult and gave me an immense appreciation of the craft. The class ended up going on an extra four hours with the high-experience seal maker and calligrapher staying on to make sure each design was beautiful. 

Thanks for reading. I hope this gave you some insight into what it’s like here. The CLC has been incredibly generous with these classes, and if you come on this trip in the future, I’m sure you will feel the same. 

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