Science sweetened with chocolate

16:40, May 21, 2010      

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A toddler collects a free piece of chocolate at the Belgium-EU Pavilion. Provided to China Daily

The Belgium-EU Pavilion exhibits all that is great about the country, including chocolates and diamonds

Queuing up for the free treats of delicious chocolate and a glance at sparkling diamonds has turned out to be the most anticipated activity at the Belgium-EU Pavilion.

The pavilion's inspiring overall concept of the "Brain Cell", or neuron, admirably demonstrates the importance of science to the intellectual and cultural development of society, but it's the chocolate and diamonds that are getting the most attention.

The "Brain Cell" also calls forth associations with the wealth of art in Belgium and Europe. The change of light and color of the "Brain Cell" naturally melds into Shanghai's night scenes.

The exhibition inside the pavilion features five themes that demonstrate how regional authorities and communities in Belgium are interpreting and experiencing the Expo theme of a "Better City, Better Life".

"I've asked for a week off for my daughter, who's a grade 2 student. I think that visiting Expo is a more interesting and interactive experience for her to learn the culture and history from all countries," said Shen Dongmei, who came to Shanghai from Ji'nan in Shandong province with her 8-year-old daughter and husband.

But the stars of the pavilion are Chocolate Corner and Diamond Corner.

The Belgium-EU Pavilion has created a chocolate factory where visitors can view the chocolate-making process and taste the country's famous dark chocolate for free. Some chocolates are even be made into figures of Shanghai's landmark buildings, as well as Belgium icons.

Thousands of pieces of black chocolate are given out free three times a day.

Top chocolate brands Godiva, Guylian, Neuhaus and Callebaut have invited 72 Belgian chocolate-makers to the pavilion over the six months of the Expo, where they will display how they create their treats. Belgian artists also contributed with special designs, which combine Chinese cultural elements.

"I love chocolate. When I was a child, every time my mum asked me to buy milk at the shop, I always bought a small piece of chocolate," said Filip Jeurissen, one of the chocolate-makers at the pavilion. "I had to eat it before I went home then nobody would know.

"Making chocolate was always a dream of mine and that's why I started studying the process when I was 14 years old.

"Normally, one chocolate-maker will be in the pavilion for one to two weeks at a time. We will combine some Shanghai elements into our work, like the Oriental Pearl Tower and places around Shanghai," said Jeurissen.

"I queued for nearly an hour to get into the Belgium-EU Pavilion just to buy chocolates and I hardly have time to see the rest of the exhibition, said Fan Ruizhao, 25, a consultant from Beijing, who bought two boxes of chocolate as gifts for his mother and girlfriend.

Next to Chocolate Corner, another exhibit is attracting just as many visitors - a diamond exhibition, known as Diamond Corner. Jewelry designers from around the world, including more than 10 from China, are having their designs exhibited.

The exhibition is worth hundreds of millions of yuan. Models from Belgium and China will be wearing the jewelry during fashion parades.

"We're waiting for new consignments to arrive from Belgium. We believe we have the largest turnover of all retail outlets at the Expo," said Mickey Weinstock, diamond coordinator of Belgium-EU Pavilion.

He said so many people are buying diamonds that they have already sold out of some categories.

"I'm very proud that this is the first diamond exhibition at an Expo," Weinstock said. "Shanghai is holding the largest-ever Expo and China is a new market for the diamond industry, with 1.3 billion new potential customers."

However, for most visitors to the pavilion, the diamonds are for admiring, not buying.

"For me, diamonds are too expensive, although diamond jewelry from Antwerp is well-known all over the world," said one visitor. "Seeing this jewelry made with the best diamonds is a good enough experience for me."

Mobile-phone users have a chance to win diamond jewelry by texting a number given at the pavilion. Callers will be contacted and invited pack to the pavilion to pick up a diamond as a prize.

Also, after two weeks, if you spend 100 yuan on dinning in the restaurant at the pavilion and answer three basic questions on the back of the ticket, you have a chance to win a diamond in a weekly lucky draw.

Source: China Daily(By Yu Ran)
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