After days of hearing of all the accomplishments and accolades accorded to the esteemed Professor Wu, seeing his studio and examples of his work at Nanjing University, and anticipating the moment, we were invited to a luncheon on Friday with the man himself. He had just returned from Hong Kong, where he received an honorary degree from Hong Kong University. Professor Wu is officially Don's host at Nanjing University, but his assistants, Mr. Chen and Mr. Qian (pronounced "chon") have being taking on the day-to-day tasks of working with Don on his course. In fact, Mr. Chen is sitting in on the course, and Mr. Qian provides Don's translations. Both Mr. Chen and Mr. Qian hold Professor Wu in the highest regard and tell us often of his awards and honors.
We were escorted through the studio and upstairs to Prof. Wu's private office, a lavish space filled with books, historical works of Chinese art, and photos and paintings of Prof. Wu. We greeted Professor Wu, and met several other guests, including Deputy Director Dai Zhehua, who directs the Office of International Cooperation and Exchanges at Nanjing University, a visiting artist friend of Prof Wu's named Yishing, and Cong Cong, there to greet us but unable to stay for lunch. We were served tea and exchanged gifts with Professor Wu. There was a round of picture taking then we were off to lunch.
We surmise that Professor Wu is in his late 40s. He was dressed all in an elegant black suit with a black shirt. His hair is long and swept back and he carries himself with confidence, very much an artist at the peak of his profession and a consummate careerist. He understands English but speaks it very little. Mr. Dai and Mr. Qian did most of the translating at lunch. Mr. Chen made sure the meal ran smoothly. Professor Wu is now primarily based out of Beijing where he has been elevated from a professor to the director of the Institute for Arts and also to the head of the national sculpture academy. He still serves Nanjing University but, as Mr. Dai noted, he's paid by Beijing! In his national roles, he has a great deal of power to determine which artists and which sculptures are placed in cities all over China.
This was our second banquet luncheon. Held in a private dining room, the guests sit around an elegantly set round table. The courses--at least 10--are served individually one after another. A plate of beautifully arranged hors d'oeuvres begins the meal (sliced beef, duck, mango, a tiny hard-boiled egg, shredded radish), followed by: a soup of greens and rice noodles, another plate of sliced meat, a salad course, another soup, a dumpling, a fish dish in a yellow creamy sauce, a cabbage roll in a spicy chili sauce with a small stick of chocolate, a steak, another soup, and a dessert of watermelon, tomato and cucumber slices. All the portions are small, but we have learned not to eat everything. It's bad manners and we wouldn't make it to the end!
Aside from conversation, the other main activity at the luncheon is rounds of toasting. We had a frothy orange drink plus small glasses of a tasty but potent white liquor made from 5 grains. There are both general toasts and periodic individual toasts. I've made sure to offer at least one general toast each lunch. Don thinks the individual toasts are offered whenever anyone wants to take another sip--no sipping without toasting!
Professor Wu had to rush off at the end to give a speech to the local military academy. We headed home in the rain, in need of a rest after lunch with Wu!