The Shire Reeve's Tale: 15

Today, along with senior colleagues, I had lunch in the Lord Mayor’s Parlour, City Hall, Belfast with Representative Siao-Yeu (Katherine) Chang of the Taipei Representative Office of the United Kingdom.

Ms Chang had been Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Taiwan (2006-2007) and had served in the Netherlands (2003-2006), Department of Information and Cultural Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Taiwan (2001-2003). She was previously Ambassador, Embassy of the Republic of China in St. Kitts and Nevis (1997-2001) and Director, Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Seattle (1995-1997). She was an MA in International Relations, Long Island University, New York, USA, and BA, Department of Diplomacy, National Chengchi University, Taiwan.

I was most interested to meet this remarkable woman. I asked her about Confucius and the fact that he was now being studied again in mainland China. Yes, she said ,and that was good. He had been thankfully always revered in the Republic of China. Taiwan was trading more than ever with the People’s Republic and, as long as Taiwan did not declare independence, good relations would be maintained, and cultural relations improved. She felt that Taipei and Belfast should become Sister Cities because of our large Chinese community here. I agreed.

I told her of my own journeys in the East along the Silk Road to China and my love of Chinese history, legend and mythology, particularly the story of Monkey by Wu Ch’êng-ên, so beautifully translated by Arthur Waley. Tripitaka, whose Pilgrimage to India is the subject of the story, was a real person, the monk Hsüan Tsang. My friend Maria comes from Macau and keeps me informed by email of Chinese affairs. She sent me recently a wonderful display of classical Chinese dancing, performed at the Fourth Confucius Institute Conference held in Beijing, China on December 11th, 2009.The conference was chaired by Yan Guiren, the Chinese Minister of Education. The Confucius Institute was co-founded by the Open University of China and Michigan State University, USA.

The greatest ethical figures of the East, Confucius and Buddha, were contemporaries in the last half of the sixth century BC and the first quarter of the fifth.This was also the time of the flowering of Greek thought, overlapping the age of Aeschylus and Socrates, and in the Middle East the great Zechariah was urging his people to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem and prepare for the advent of the Messiah. I love Socrates because he had similar problems to my own with the Academic Establishment, particularly in the promotion of Justice, Goodness and Truth. They try to burn your books. And, of course, they tried to push Jesus over a cliff, and eventually crucified Him.

Confucius was born in 551 B.C. to a poor but illustrious family from that part of north-eastern China now called Shantung. He was named K’ung Ch’iu but later became K’ung Fu-tzu or K’ung the Master. Much later this was Latinised to Confucius. He was a most down-to-earth character and his Analects have still much to teach us.He regarded statecraft as applied ethics in a broader field. And believed those in positions of power should base their decisions on what was right and right alone. He taught political science in a context of history, poetry, music and psychology. He died in 478B.C. and is buried in his native state. We miss him in our own world.

The Ambassador had just visited the Giant’s Causeway and Old Bushmills Whiskey Distillery. I spoke to her about the ancient Kingdom of Dalriada between Ireland and Britain, which had given the name Scotland to North Britain. I also explained that Whiskey was derived from the Gaelic Uisce beatha, which means Water of Life. Whiskey was indeed known as Aqua vita to the Romans.The Chief Executive thought I was joking, but then he always thinks I am. As she left for another engagement, I thanked Katherine in Mandarin and wished her a pleasant journey back home.


Representative Chang visits Northern Ireland Capital Belfast Taiwan Representative Office in the UK News Release 2011/3/22

Ed: Ian has asked for this dancing link to be included. It certainly is spectacular.

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