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Foreigner founds 'Hutong School' to teach Chinese culture

By Li Yanhong and Du Yunzhu (China Education Daily)

08:12, May 23, 2012

Edited and translated by People's Daily Online

"Walk out from Exit C of the Beixinqiao Station of Subway Line 5, go on walking about 70 meters along the lane, and then turn right at the small shop. You will find the 'Hutong' beside the public toilet," Mark said with fluent Chinese on the phone, occasionally using several English words. Mark, 36, is from Australia and has lived in Beijing for nearly 10 years. Between 2007 and 2008, he founded the "Hutong" culture exchange center to teach foreign visitors how to cook Chinese meals, sip Chinese tea and understand Chinese culture. People affectionately called the exchange center the "Hutong School".

In the eyes of Mark, his identity as a foreigner is the greatest advantage for him to open the "Hutong School" because he knows what most foreigners are interested in and he believes that his unique perspective can attract the eyes of foreigners. He said that he can open a window for the foreigners and help them to learn about colorful Chinese culture, and they can go along this direction in the future.

Teachers in the "Hutong School" are not professional cooks because professional cooks always have a lot of rules and requirements, which makes people nervous. In fact, they may not be good teachers, Mark said with a smile. He hopes that guests can learn things while having fun.

Many foreign guests want to learn how to cook Chinese meals. Therefore, Mark made an innovation on the contents and forms in accordance with different characteristics. For example, in order to become more interesting, the fillings of dumplings can be anything including chocolates, bananas and cheeses. Moreover, different vegetable juices such as spinach juice and carrot juice are added into the flour, making into colorful dumplings.

How to sip Chinese tea is also the distinctive lesson in the "Hutong School." Considering that foreigners may not be adapted to the taste of Chinese tea, Mark uses the chocolates as a supplement. Foreigners generally like to eat chocolates. Mark said it must be very interesting if they eat different flavors of chocolates when they drink different teas. Mark believed that this style of drinking tea seems not harmonious but it really can stimulate foreigners' interests of knowing about Chinese tea culture.

Read the Chinese version: 老外办“胡同学校”探中国文化

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