Newsletter No. 396

No. 396, 19.4.2012 3 It All Starts from an e-mail Chow Po-chung ( 2nd left ), convener of the Committee on the University Lecture on Civility, says that the CUHK campus is most beautiful in March when azaleas and bauhinia are in full bloom. Last year he mentioned the idea of organizing a floral festival on campus to Prof. Joseph J.Y. Sung , the Vice-Chancellor, without really expecting that his whim would materialize. After the completion of four sessions of the University Lecture on Civility in 2011, the idea popped up again. One night, he sent out an e-mail to the members of the committee. Ma Kit-wai Eric ( 3rd left ) says, ‘Po-chung’s e-mail caused tremendous excitement among us right away. Enjoying music by the lake. It just sounds great.’ Ng Wai-yin Will ( 1st left ), who claims not to be a romantic, says, ‘Upon reading the e-mail, I immediately worried about the difficulties in organizing such a big outdoor activity. But after imagining what it would be like, I thought it’s worth a try.’ Caring for Students, Caring for Society Professor Sung joked with Po-chung, ‘A floral festival on our campus? You’re quite a romantic teacher.’ The I • CARE Programme is aimed at enhancing our students’ social awareness, in what way can it be romantic? Leung Kai-chi ( 2nd right ) says, ‘You must first have a romantic view of life before you can commit yourself to social reform. University graduates are more likely to contribute to society in some unconventional ways if they’ve been encouraged by the ethos of their universities to break the mould.’ Eric adds, ‘Social concerns stem from aesthetic beliefs, which should not be seen merely as meant for personal enjoyment.’ Every year Chan Kin-man ( 1st right ) asks his graduating students what they dream of doing and what their ideals are. They often fail to give an answer. He laments, ‘I was deeply impressed by Pai Hsien-yung ’s talk when he showed the audience a black-and-white photo which captured a group of university juniors who published Modern Literature and blazed a trail for Taiwan’s literary circle. In the lecture theatre sat Prof. Lee Ou-fan and Pai Hsien-yung, who, as young men, dared to dream and make a difference to the world and made something of themselves. This is what I consider romantic.’ Po-chung says, ‘I guess it’s the ability to imagine something else in university life other than academic results, exams and part-time jobs, and having the courage to turn these possibilities into reality.’ Moved to Act Chu Shun-chi Donna ( 3rd right ), director of the floral festival, says, ‘Many people are emotionally numbed by everyday life. It’s important to touch them deeply inside. Many young people become disoriented after they have achieved the goal of entering university. The festival was structured to address this issue. It began with Lee Ou- fan’s talk on the nobility of failure, which was followed by Ann Hui ’s one on the humility of success, and Pai Hsien-yung’s talk on the resilience of youth concluded the lecture series. Persistence is the main emphasis. The whole event was crowned by the cultural gala “Blossoms of Life Floral Festival”, which gave students an opportunity to live in the moment with their feet, their eyes and their hearts.’ A Mosaic of Art Forms and of People The conceptual framework of the festival was drawn up by the collective effort of the organizing committee members. Performing students were given free rein in the design of the programmes they were responsible for. Thirty-nine students, including those from the Department of Music, the Tolo Poet Association, and the Chinese Music Society of New Asia College, took part in the performances and some 30 volunteers from various departments helped with the event. Ms. Rebecca Pan was the music director of the festival. When she first heard about the idea, her eyes ‘were alight with excitement’. The renowned veteran singer repeatedly taught the students at rehearsals, demonstrating by example her insistence on aesthetics and beauty, and her open-mindedness about art. She encouraged students to spread the cultural and artistic qualities they had shown to society. Chet Lam , folk singer and song-writer popular among the young, was invited by Ms. Pan as guest of honour. Rallying to the Cause Donna says that everything fell in place smoothly. The master of ceremonies Amber Au brought a large bag of clothes, and the makeup artists hauled a case of cosmetics to the campus to do hair and makeup for the students. The background music for the event was edited by a friend who used to run a café on CUHK campus. The graphic designer of the event brochure said that producing it was the ‘coolest’ job. The lighting designer loved the environment of the CUHK campus. The set designer said that the idea of the floral festival gave him goose bumps. This production team agreed on one thing: ‘This is something that no other universities in Hong Kong can do.’ The activity was as nerve- racking as it was poetic. Donna worried about crowd control. Eric feared that the performances would be ruined if any of the electricity cables sprawling on the ground was detached, resulting in an interruption to power supply. Thanks to the help of various units of the University, everything went well. The Pulse of Students Will says that the lectures were intended for addressing the needs of students. Kin-man adds: ‘We’ve made it clear to the speakers. For example, we asked Lin Hwai- min to talk about his psychological struggles, in addition to dancing. We asked Pai Hsien-yung to talk about his “dreams”, besides literature and kunqu .’ To target the young student population, they used Facebook and Weibo to promote the event. After the Curtain Falls The floral festival was held with great success. Po-chung says that it was really exhausting to organize three lectures, to coordinate promotion, liaison, shooting of the promo video, and publication of the brochure, given that no teaching load was exempted. But this was a precious experience because everyone worked hard to turn a great idea into reality. He was heartened by the feedback of students. The most enthusiastic ones were mainland students who come here to study the one-year master’s programmes. Many of them said that the year at CUHK left its mark on them. Now most of the azalea and bauhinia blossoms may have withered and gone. But there’s no need to lament the end of their flowering season because the floral festival is really a state of mind. O n 29 March 2012, the month-long I • CARE Floral Festival culminated with the cultural gala ‘Blossoms of Life Floral Festival’. On the morning of 2 April, six teachers who organized the festival gathered at the petal-covered stage to pose for photos ( see p. 2, the photo under the headline ) and talk about their experience in organizing the event.