A foreign guest (second from left) inspects Shanxi produce at the Haitang Cultural Festival. [Photo by Guo Ning for China Daily]
When crab apple flowers were in full bloom in early April in the former residence of Soong Ching Ling (1893-1981) in Beijing, more than 100 foreign diplomats were invited there and treated to poetry, cultural performances and food from Shanxi province.
They were there to attend the Haitang Cultural Festival hosted by the China Soong Ching Ling Foundation and other organizations.
Haitang is the Chinese name of crab apple. The tree blossoms constitute one of the most spectacular sights in Beijing every spring.
The CSCLF is a charity organization founded to memorialize the former honorary chairwoman of China who was also the wife of China's democratic forerunner, Sun Yat-sen.
In addition to recitations of poems about China and the world, and a variety of cultural performances, a banquet featuring food from Shanxi impressed the foreign guests.
The food included yogurt from the Great Wall pass of Yanmen, sea-buckthorn fruit juice from Youyu county, pears from central Shanxi and steamed cake from Wenxi county.
The food was presented by Sanjin Mingyou, a Shanxi government-funded company responsible for the promotion of Shanxi's specialty products in Beijing.
"The Haitang Cultural Festival is an excellent platform to promote Shanxi's specialty products to the world as it attracts the participation of many foreign diplomats," said Chen Yu, board chairman of Sanjin Mingyou.
Nguyen Truong Son, first secretary at the Vietnamese embassy in Beijing, said it was his first time to taste sea-buckthorn juice from Shanxi. He promised to introduce the product to Vietnam's food dealers, hoping it will enter the Vietnamese market someday.
Feng Xiaochen, deputy general manager of Sanjin Mingyou, said when the company was authorized to be the food-supplying partner of the event, it spent weeks preparing the food, aiming to present the best, most authentic Shanxi produce.
"Our first-phase plan is to promote genuine Shanxi specialty produce to the country," Feng said. "And now we are in the second phase – to make them known to customers around the world."
Guo Ning contributed to this story.