AS the first Asian city to win a UNESCO City of Gastronomy accolade, Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province, will have another opportunity to raise its global profile this month, but not only on food.
From September 26-29, the Eighth UNESCO Creative Cities Network Annual General Meeting will take place in Chengdu, the first time for it to be held in a Chinese western city.
The meeting is expected to become a gala occasion for participants from 58 cities of 26 countries, which are all pioneers in the promotion of cultural diversity and sustainable urban development.
“The meeting is of great importance to accelerate the growth of Chengdu’s creative industries and the construction of a global metropolis,” according to a statement released by the local government. “Chengdu will take the chance to make its cuisine more popular in the world, its creative industries more integrated with the world and its economic environment more attractive for global creative professionals.”
The creative industries, as defined by UNESCO, include publishing, music, cinema, crafts and design.
Aiming to build “creative hubs” around the world, UNESCO started to select cities based on their credentials in 2004. The listings were categorized into seven thematic networks ­— literature, film, music, crafts and folk art, design, media arts and gastronomy.
So far, 41 cities have been awarded the accolade, while others joining the coming meeting are candidates.
Member cities ­— including such disparate places as Edinburgh, Kobe, Dublin, Sapporo, Norwich (England), Sydney, Ghent, Icheon (South Korea), Lyon and Berlin ­— all identify creativity as a strategic factor for sustainable development. They seek international cooperation in the framework of partnerships including the public and private sectors, professional organizations, communities, civil society and cultural institutions. Four other Chinese cities are on the list: Shanghai, Shenzhen and Beijing for design, and Hangzhou for craft and folk arts.
Chengdu was named for gastronomy in 2010, becoming just the second city in the world so honored, after Popayan, Columbia, in 2005. Three others have since joined the list.
“Chengdu is acknowledged for its reputation as a historical city of gastronomy and birthplace of many culinary traditions,” UNESCO said. “The unique culinary culture manifests local culture and demonstrates the preservation and cultivation of gastronomic creativity.
“Based on wealthy natural resources, centuries-old heritage and persistent creativity, with thousands of years of development, a gastronomy industry of rich intention and great range has formed in Chengdu, which drives the development of other creative industries and pushes forward the harmonious and advancement of the city.”
People will find Chengdu cuisine impressively spicy. But it is more than just spicy. Long renowned for its distinctiveness, the most outstanding feature of Chengdu cuisine is the great variety of flavors, based on five elements: sweet, sour, bitter, spicy and salty. Popular foods around the world, such as spicy hotpot, mapo tofu, twice-cooked pork and kungpao chicken, mainly originated in Chengdu.
“Food, as part of our cultural assets, represents a country’s soft power,” said local organizers. “We expect the September gathering will help the world’s creative professionals know more about Chengdu, about China’s western areas, and about the modern China.”
It is also expected that more domestic cities will get to know the UNESCO Creative Cities Network through the meeting.
According to the schedule, more than 120 professionals from creative industries will come to Chengdu for the upcoming meeting. A multitude of lectures, summits and activities are expected during the four days.
The Chengdu government will also invite participants to visit Chengdu’s well-known scenic spots like the home of giant pandas, Kuan-Zhai lanes, Jinli lanes and the Temple of Marquis, while they will also have a taste of Chengdu cuisine, tea, opera and other folk arts.