BEIJING, April 26, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, held every year on the 21st of May, is meant to promote cultural diversity and cohesion worldwide. Since the first moment in time that man started to record his own history, intangible cultural heritage has served as a priceless aspect of human culture that has guided the course of civilization and, to this day, continues to bring forth new vitality.
Food culture is very much a part of everyone’s life, and is well represented by the many cuisines that originated in Asia’s palaces. The ingredients are rich and diverse, the process meticulous and the result exquisite. The manner of dining remains faithful to the Eastern concept of “harmony between man and nature”. As a result of the blending of global cultures, Chinese traditional palace cuisine is also being constantly revitalized and gradually entering the family of world culture.
Among China’s intangible cultural assets, a unique honey refining process, preserved by the Chinese royal palace afternoon tea ceremony’s sole inheritor Wen Zhenyu, represents one of the most innovative aspects of Eastern culture. As an important and unique skill developed by the imperial court, the time-honored technique has proven difficult to popularize due to its understated and complicated production process. As the inheritor, Wen has spent decades perfecting the traditional skill by expanding the number of scenarios at which the tea could be enjoyed by adapting it to today’s lifestyles while remaining faithful to the original recipe, transforming the tradition into an intangible cultural heritage representative of the blending of the world’s cultures.
The honey refining technique has evolved over the centuries, reaching its apex during the Qing Dynasty as the ideal complement to a royal court afternoon tea. As the new-generation inheritor, Wen started becoming versed in oriental health philosophy and, more specifically, in the technique during his youth. In contrast to the conservative views of his predecessors, Wen believes that as society changes, so does the meaning of food. Food is not there simply to satisfy the desire for taste, but to also maintain one’s health in the fast-paced world we live in. Wen explained that the technique provides an excellent bridge through which he can share with the world what he has learned about intangible cultural heritage.
Inspired by the royal court afternoon tea, he has spent decades traveling the globe in search of intersections between intangible cultural techniques and world cultures. In 2008, he made his first attempt to incorporate afternoon tea using the honey refining process into French cuisine. As the first person to blend any aspect of Eastern cooking techniques into French cuisine, his efforts soon attracted the attention of the food world’s leading practitioners. Oriental cuisine culture soon thereafter emerged as a new example of cultural fusion. Since then, he has been working closely with several institutions to popularize the Chinese cultural delicacy that has been handed down through the generations for more than a century. With his deep understanding of traditional cultures and his innovative spirit, Wen is credited with taking the first step in bringing this wonderful piece of Eastern traditional culture onto the world stage.
Wen worked on enhancing the artistic design of the royal palace afternoon tea while enhancing the adaptability of the honey refining technology. He used cutting-edge technologies and measuring tools to remove any obstacles that had previously prevented the production process from being standardized. He also improved the packaging of honey refining products for the mass market by creating portable bags and capsules, which can be used with coffee machines and have been well received by both the world’s consumers and food purveyors.
In addition, Wen’s contribution to the creativity of intangible cultural assets has also received well-deserved recognition by all sectors of society. He has been invited as a special guest to many international events including the GIC Global Innovators Conference, Beijing International Design Week, and Beijing International Fashion Week. Attendees from all over the world have sampled this cultural delicacy. Wen also participated in a series of video documentaries on food culture produced by national culture think tanks, where he talked about the intangible cultural legacy. In 2013, China’s nationwide TV channel CCTV-4 aired a special report on the rising popularity worldwide of Eastern afternoon tea culture. Multiple media outlets, among them, Fashion TV, Great Chef, Shandong Qilu TV and Tencent News, quickly followed suit. In 2019, Wen served as curator of the Summer Palace’s “Summer Palace Wuwei” event. The project garnered the official Award of Excellence by the Park Management Office, standing out among more than 500 artistic and cultural works that sought the coveted honor.
Anyone who has had a chance to observe his preparing of a royal court afternoon tea and partake of the result has remarked that he performs the task with all the soul and inspiration of a true artist. Wen’s mission is for the world to become aware of the special cuisine culture of the East. He summed up his experience and his mission when he said, “The afternoon tea represents the creativity and culture that have been passed down through the ages. All I can do in this new era is to bring new vitality to it, make the lifestyle of ‘harmony between man and nature’ known to as many people as possible, and hand down this precious treasure that benefits humanity.”