Tag Archives: China

Interview with Chinese Master Sculptor Xu Xiaoyong the Celestial Blessings collection with Royal Selangor

I sit down with sculptor Xu Xiaoyong at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, to discuss the launch of his Celestial Blessings collection for Royal Selangor. Originating from Jiangxi, China, Xu is renowned in China and his sculptures of Chinese deities are extremely popular works of art for the home. His latest collection consists of the Guan Yin Figurine, Guan Gong Figurine and Fu Lu Shou Figurine.

What arrtacted you to collaborate with Royal Selangor?

It is a corporation with 130 years of heritage in traditional craft; there is “pewter” in the blood of every member of the Royal Selangor family.

How did Chinese mythology and legend become such a crucial aspect in your work?

In ancient China, our forefathers liked to use metaphor or stories to express their opinions; I like it this way, too!

Where does your passion for celestial deities originate from?

From“truthfulness, kindness and beauty”. In other words, only by truly understanding what is meant by “truthfulness, kindness and beauty” can we rise above mortals and live with genuine freedom, the way the deities do.

How is working with Pewter different from materials that you’ve worked with in the past?

Raw materials are usually a key concern when it comes to the expression of traditional arts. Having said that, as a contemporary artist, I am looking at materials for their ability to express. Throughout my career, I have worked with different materials for different subject matters, the most being wood.

However, when I first came across pewter, I became fond of it because of the shade of its hues and the approachable tactile feel. Subdued? Peaceful? Understated elegance? It is rather hard to put into words. I would describe it as having “a shade of Zen”. If you lead a worry-free life, it will be reflected in your bearing. It is kind of expression of a person’s “shade” or “tone”, like “gold”; or, it is likened to someone with profound knowledge but stay “low profile”, like “silver”; or, it can be compared to someone “positive but never arrogant”, making him such a pleasure to be with, like “tin”. That’s what I meant by “a shade of Zen”.

Guan Yin (Goddess of Mercy) by Xu Xiaoyong

What makes this collection different from the traditional figures venerated and worshipped by the Chinese?

Deities are intrinsically the same; the differences lie in the image and artistic expression. Statues made by different artists will naturally be different. As a maker of statues of celestial beings and deities, I must first and foremost, work with a serious mindset and refer to literature and classics to understand the development of this tradition through the ages. This, coupled with other external influences and contemporary features, will enable us to create a work of art that is infused with life.

Did you have a particular type of customer demographic in mind when designing this collection based on Chinese mythology?

There is an old saying in China, “Gold will shine through” (if something is authentic, it will stand the test of time). Traditional Chinese culture is built upon the wisdom of sages from bygone eras, based on an understanding of peaceful and harmonious coexistence between Man and Nature. This wisdom is increasingly proved by scientists and advocated by the well-informed. This range is inspired by the written works; and yet, they are a form of expression different from that of words. They are created with joy and are a blessing for those who appreciate them.

Where do you find the inspiration for your art pieces?

The artist Rodin once said, “Artists should not depend on inspiration. Inspiration simply doesn’t exist! Art is feeling. If you know nothing about volume, proportion and colours, and if you don’t have a pair of agile hands, then the strongest feeling will be paralysed. What makes a great artist is nothing more than wisdom, concentration, sincerity and will power, and work in much the same way an honest worker does”. I fully agree with Master Rodin. Put in a lot more effort than others normally do, and the so-called “inspiration” will be there by your side, whichever way you turn to.

Fu Lu Shou (Three Star Deities) by Xu Xiaoyong

What did you enjoy the most from this collaboration?

Mutual respect. As an artist, I need a lot of room for creativity throughout the entire process. Meanwhile, as an established corporation with over a hundred years of history, Royal Selangor would normally have a lot of things they insist on and won’t give in to in order to achieve sustained development. In reality however, the room for creativity the company has allowed me not only speaks of their youthfulness, but also freedom.

Can we expect more pieces in the future from your collaboration with Royal Selangor?

Who knows, in a world of constant change, nothing is certain. However, I treasure the present, every moment of it. Perhaps, you too will one day discover that each present moment holds many interesting stories.

What do you like to do in your free time?

All sorts of things. Come what may, this would be the best of arrangements; each encounter will be a kind of revelation. Instead of differentiating the “likes” from the “dislikes”, accept the things that come your way with joy, and learn without personal preference or resentment.

For more information, visit Royal Selangor.

This interview was first published under the Design in Palace 18.

Emperor Qianlong’s Chinese imperial seal from the 18th century sells for 21 million euros at auction

The auction house of Drouot recently announced the sale of an 18th century Chinese imperial seal that made the headlines for more than just its historical value. Fetching 21 million euros, the rare stamp in red and beige nephrite jade had a final price tag that was over 20 times its estimate.

Believed to have been from the Qianlong period between 1736 to 1795, the stamp was owned by Emperor Qianlong, the longest serving emperor in chinese history. Nine dragons on the sides of the seal symbolise the emperor’s masculine power and imperial authority. The new owner happens to be an unnamed Chinese collector who won a furious bidding war.

The seal was acquired in the late 19th century by a young French naval doctor in China and had remained in the family since. The doctor built an impressive collection during his many visits to China. Other items that went under the hammer from the same collection, included two paintings from Japanese master Katsushika Hokusai. The paintings, “36 views of Mount Fiji” and “Big wave at Kanagawa” were expected to fetch 30,000 euros.

China Imposes New 10% Luxury Car Tax

China Imposes New 10% Luxury Car Tax

China has imposed an extra 10 percent tax on ultra high-end cars costing over 1.3 million yuan ($190,000) such as Lamborghinis and Ferraris, the government said, the latest step in a wide crackdown on conspicuous luxury consumption.

Under President Xi Jinping the Communist Party has overseen a sprawling campaign against graft and encouraged thrift among the country’s political and economic elites, targeting showy displays of wealth.

The new tax took effect Thursday and was intended to “guide rational consumption” and promote energy-efficient vehicles, the finance ministry said in a statement late Wednesday.

“The tax increase is a display of the government’s attitude of advocating frugality,” said Cui Dongshu, secretary-general of the Passenger Car Association, according to Bloomberg News.

China already taxes imported vehicles at a high rate, slapping a 25 percent tax on all foreign cars shipped to China.

The duties – and increased competition from cheaper domestic marques – have driven overall car imports down two years in a row, with 850,000 vehicles imported in the first 10 months of the year, down 6.4 percent from 2015, according to customs statistics.

But ultra high-end brands such as Ferrari have done well, with the Italian sports-car maker seeing a 26 percent surge in its second-quarter sales this year, with 160 units delivered.

The extra charge will likely hit Ferrari and brands such as Aston-Martin, Rolls-Royce, and Lamborghini, as well as top-end models of Mercedes and BMW.

Luxury carmakers have seen massive growth in China, the world’s largest auto market, despite the anti-corruption campaign.

They have also become potent symbols of the lavish lifestyles of the nouveaux riches during a time of surging wealth inequality.

Elite families often hire fleets of pricey cars for wedding processions, and wealthy second-generation heirs film themselves racing ultra-luxury sports cars in cities at night.

A notorious 2012 Ferrari crash that killed the son of a high-level official disrupted a once-in-a-decade party leadership change and precipitated his father’s downfall.

Reports said the son was accompanied in the car by two female passengers, one of them naked.

Some luxury dealers said they planned to stay open all night Wednesday to take orders before the tax came into force.

Passenger vehicle sales in China surged by an average of more than 12 percent annually from 2010 to 2015, but an economic slowdown has reduced the speed, with expansion dropping to 4.7 percent last year with total sales of 24.6 million.

The Sanya Edition: First Ian Schrager Hotel In China

Hainan Island in China, will soon welcome guests to The Sanya Edition come December. The hotel offers a ‘private ocean’ view of the South China Sea and will be the first of Ian Schrager Edition hotels to open in China.

The resort’s concept is a hotel that blends traditional values and contemporary luxury, all while catering various age groups and guest needs. It has 512 guest rooms, each designed to make guests feel like they’re inside their own holiday home.

Thought of as a lifestyle resort for every guest, The Sanya Edition will offer the finest cosmopolitan facilities, from curated art shops to a rooftop bar. Young children will also enjoy their stay at the hotel, with dedicated play areas and toddlers’ swimming facilities.

“The Sanya Edition was conceived for the China of today and the China of tomorrow,” said Schrager. “The resort is a unique sophisticated vision and embodiment of a cosmopolitan China for all the world to see.”

A collaboration between Schrager and Marriott Hotels, the Edition portfolio of hotels is designed to reflect the latest trends in next-generation premium travel before they become trends.

Club Med Woos China with Tai Chi, Mahjong

Club Med Woos China with Tai Chi, Mahjong

Tai chi, mahjong and karaoke are on the menu alongside more traditional offerings such as sailing at Club Med’s new resort on the Chinese island of Hainan, as the French holiday group – now Chinese-owned – adapts its European formula for the market.

The all-inclusive village near the resort town of Sanya is the company’s fourth in China, and it is in talks to open around 15 more in the next four years.

It is something of a reversal of how firms usually target Chinese travellers, with Club Med seeking to bring its model to tourists within the Middle Kingdom, rather than draw them to other countries.

On a 12-hectare (30-acre) beachside estate complete with multiple pools, the emblematic “Gentils Organisateurs” or “GOs” – “Gentle Organisers” – recreate the tried and true Club Med recipe of sports activities, supervised childcare, and unlimited food and drink.

On a stretch of sand dotted with huts and palm trees, Shu Qi, a polo-shirted Beijinger in his fifties, admired the ocean with his elderly parents, wife and three-year-old son.

“It’s a change from crowded beaches! It’s ideal for families,” he said, noting how those near downtown Sanya were notoriously swarmed and often plagued by noisy construction.

Shu discovered Club Med while visiting the Maldives. “It’s very practical, as the price is all-inclusive with meals, and the international atmosphere is good for the children,” he said.

The cheapest of the 384 rooms available at the new Hainan site go for 2,300 yuan ($340) a night.

Club Med CEO Henri Giscard d’Estaing, son of the former French president Valery, told AFP: “We’re aiming at a high-end clientele, a portion of whom have already experienced Club Med while abroad.”

Exile Vacation

Once a place of exile, Hainan island, China’s southernmost province, has become a popular tourist destination, particularly in winter.

In a country where family remains important but workers’ annual holiday quotas are often limited, “the French concept of vacation villages meets the needs of the Chinese very well”, said Qian Jiannong, vice president of Chinese conglomerate Fosun, which bought Club Med last year.

After establishing its first winter sports village in China in 2010, Club Med set up shop amid the stunning karst scenery of Guilin, before opening a beach vacation village on an island in the Pearl River delta between Hong Kong and Macau.

Now the country is Club Med’s biggest market outside France, with some 200,000 clients expected this year and forecasting annual growth of 20 percent.

After criss-crossing the globe to collect trophy selfies at major sites, some well-off Chinese travellers are now turning towards more relaxed staycations.

How Club Med is Wooing China

In this picture taken on October 11, 2016 tourists enjoy the pool side at the Club Med resort in Sanya. Almost two years after being bought out by Chinese investment fund Fosun, the holiday resort French group Club Med tries to import its recipes on a promising Chinese market, where a growing upper middle-class now discovers the concept – still very new in Chinese society – of holiday resorts. © NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP

A Chinese hotel industry overcrowded with establishments that all look alike and designed for business clientele has left Club Med an opportunity, said Giscard d’Estaing. But it faces rivalry from competitors, both foreign – such as France’s Pierre & Vacances, owner of Center Parcs – and domestic.

Sanya tourism was “a very particular seasonal and regional market” Xiao Yimin, research director at Shanghai Fosea Capital, told AFP, adding that Club Med’s success there “doesn’t reflect the maturity of the whole Chinese market, but only a huge concentration of family travelling in one place at seasonal times”.

With outbound tourism growth slowing, competition between providers within China for middle class tourists will increase, he added, and the future might not be as rosy.

Karaoke Rooms

Club Med has sought to adapt to local tastes. In Sanya, there are seven karaoke rooms – always fully booked – and three mah-jong parlors, as well as a 24-hour noodle bar, and tai chi lessons have been developed to appeal to people in their 30s who rarely practice the discipline.

Clients are around two-thirds mainland Chinese, and the rest primarily South Korean or Taiwanese. Under the coconut trees, multi-generational family clans gather as well as couples spoiling their only child without dropping their smartphones.

Families are initially “reluctant to let their kids go off alone to activities, and when they see a GO sit down at their their table, they find it inappropriate”, but soon adapt, said Rachel Mondre, head of customer services.

Tanning, too, is out of the question for the Chinese, who have a traditional preference for pale skin. The group faces other cultural challenges, acknowledged Jason Wen, a tai chi teacher who works at the village.

“People in China are not used to the concept of holiday resorts,” he said. “Club Med might bring progressively a change, but it will be a slow, very slow process.”

World’s First Louis XIII Boutique Opens In Beijing

World’s First Louis XIII Cognac Store Opens Beijing

In what must be welcome news for lovers of only the finest of fine cognac, Louis XIII cognac has just opened the world’s first and only Louis XIII store in Beijing. Located at the luxury shopping destination called Beijing SKP, the new boutique will offer guests a unique experience, which is of course you would expect because this is Louis XIII and there is only one such store in the world.World’s First Louis XIII Boutique Opens In Beijing

Officially opened September 20, the boutique offers clients a bespoke service and exclusive Louis XIII experiences to help foster close personal bonds with the brand. A salon that is devoted to the universe of Louis XIII accompanies the boutique and represents yet another first for the Rémy Cointreau owned label, which is the highest expression of the cognac Rémy Martin. “Louis XIII cognac is an icon of French art de vivre and excellence. With this world-premire, Louis XIII is changing the rules of the game in spirits, posing the founding stone of a new chapter in its history,” said Eric Vallat, CEO of the House of Rémy Martin.World’s First Louis XIII Boutique Opens In Beijing

Louis XIII cognac enlisted the help of interior design firm RDAI, the team behind the Hermès flagships, Elie Saab Paris and Yves Saint Laurent to create a luxurious 132 square meter space. Using limestone for the chalky interior, copper to create the eaux-de-vie stills, oak that represents the casks used to age the cognac, the interior boasts luxury and elegance at every turn. In the heart of the boutique is the private Eternity Room that is used solely to unveil limited edition cognacs and host visiting luminaries. The centerpiece of the room is The Century Wheel, which is a circle of light that ‘travels through the 10 decades the comprise Louis XIII’.World’s First Louis XIII Boutique Opens In Beijing

Guests will be treated to tasting opportunities and food pairings alongside special editions and unique Louis XIII products that will be sold exclusively at the boutique.

Chinese Wine-Tasters Make History in Blind Test

Chinese Wine-Tasters Make History in Blind Test

Not since Japanese whisky eclipsed Scotch has the world of spirits seen Asia ascendant but that’s what happened when Chinese wine tasters won an important blind tasting test in France.

The competition saw teams from 21 countries put their palates to the test at Chateau du Galoupet wine estate, identifying six bottles of red wine and six bottles of white wine by taste and nose alone. The organizers said the win was like a “thunderbolt in the world of wine.”

Belgium, the runner-up last year, came fourth while former champion Spain placed a distant tenth.

The teams from around the world had to identify the wines’ countries of origin, the grape varieties used in them, their appellations and their vintages.

“Remaining humble even in victory, the astounding Chinese team conceded that in blind tasting 50 percent is knowledge and 50 percent is luck,” the organizers said.

The BBC reports that the team said competition to get on their team was intense. The news organization also pointed out that China’s wine industry is on the rise, with a Chinese winery beating many French rivals to a prestigious gold medal for one of its wines. We think many more such “thunderbolts” are going to come from Asia. Go back and check out the Japanese whisky story for more context

Next year’s championships will be held in Burgundy in the famed Cote d’Or wine-growing region.

Zeng Fanzhi Returns to Roots

Zeng Fanzhi Returns to Roots at Beijing Retrospective

Blue-chip Chinese artist Zeng Fanzhi built up a lucrative career by looking to the West for inspiration and buyers, but a new retrospective in Beijing reveals an unlikely turn back towards China’s own aesthetics and traditions.

It is a story increasingly common in the world’s second largest economy, where an growing disillusionment with material wealth has sent a generation in search of a heritage lost.

Zeng is China’s second best-selling living artist, according to wealth publisher the Hurun Report.

“In the beginning, you feel happy that you’ve attained a certain kind of recognition, and are sold for a very high price, but as time goes on, it vexes you,” he said. “People badmouth you, and the success influences your emotional state and creative process,” he added.

In 2013, his painting “The Last Supper” sold for $23.3 million at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong, at the time the most expensive contemporary Asian work ever sold at auction.

It was one of his “Mask” series, paintings whose empty-eyed, white-masked figures spoke of the psychological tensions lurking in China as the political idealism of the 1980s gave way to the 1990s’ single-minded focus on rapid economic growth.

The media attention paid to just one period of his nearly three decade-long career left him feeling pigeon-holed, Zeng told AFP, following the opening of a retrospective of his work this month at Beijing’s Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art (UCCA).

The masks became a brand, he said, an easily commodified image that reinforced Western preconceptions of China and were used by auction houses and art publications to boost their own sales.

Zeng rode the wave of China’s development, rising to fame from humble beginnings at a time when the country had no significant art market of its own.

Now that its art scene is well-established, he has lost the need to seek validation and inspiration from the West, choosing to look instead to his own roots, he said.

“In the ’80s, we were so starved for outside information; we wanted so much to understand the world and know about Western art,” he said, explaining his early obsession with artists like Paul Cezanne, Willem de Kooning and Lucian Freud.

He said: “But nowadays, there’s such an overwhelming amount of information – it’s cognitive overload. I have to close myself off and look inward to maintain my sense of self.”

Zeng Fanzhi Returns to Roots

This picture taken on September 22, 2016 shows staff members at the “Parcours: Zeng Fanzhi” exhibition at Beijing’s Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art (UCCA). Blue-chip Chinese artist Zeng built up a lucrative career by looking to the West for inspiration and buyers, but a new retrospective in Beijing reveals an unlikely turn back towards China’s own aesthetics and traditions. © WANG ZHAO / AFP

Stark contrast

Zeng’s new show “Parcours: Zeng Fanzhi” exhibits more than 60 works from each of his wildly different major artistic stages, many for the first time on the mainland. He hopes it will provide a more complete picture of his continuous process of reinvention.

Monumental oil paintings of abstract landscapes overgrown with dark snarls of branches dominate the gallery’s central nave, flanked by detailed portraits of his Western muses.

The canvases are a stark contrast to his latest series: understated, black-and-white works on paper inspired by Song dynasty paintings.

They arise out of Zeng’s 2008 shift towards an exploration of paper itself, finding inspiration for his brushwork in the subtle variations of its grain – a technique inspired by Chinese artistic philosophies.

“As you grow older, your whole aesthetic sense and preferences change,” said Zeng, who has started collecting traditional Chinese art and designing literati gardens like the one outside his studio, which features jagged scholar’s rocks, stone lions and a koi pond.

Art for art’s sake

Despite Zeng’s philosophical shift, UCCA director Philip Tinari admitted that it was impossible for the show to escape the shadow of his sales records: “He has probably created more financial value than all but a very few artists alive today.”

Nevertheless, “there’s an honesty about this work that’s not immediately apparent,” Tinari said. Zeng’s output is testament to a key moment in China’s artistic engagement with the outside world, when his generation found real inspiration and meaning in the Western idea of art as a tool of fomenting social change, he explained.

In the recent paper series, Tinari said he saw Zeng “pulling further and further back from the day-to-day of reality” as he grew older and wealthier, a change that echoes China’s growing global status.

The return to a Chinese artistic vocabulary reflects not just a change in the way Zeng sees himself, but in the way the world sees Chinese artists.

As China becomes richer and more powerful, Tinari said, its artists do “not necessarily need to make work that narrates the Chinese situation, or that explains the social and political problems and questions of the nation”. The change, he said, is a sign that China, along with its art market, is maturing.

“The world is only ready to hear about art for art’s sake from people who come from a certain place on the geopolitical continuum.”

Shanghai Diner Closes After Getting Michelin Star

Shanghai Diner Closes After Getting Michelin Star

A Shanghai restaurant has closed down just a day after being awarded a coveted star in the Michelin guide’s first mainland Chinese edition.

Taian Table – one of 26 restaurants in the city to receive Michelin stars – “suspended” business on Thursday “due to internal reorganization”, a notice on its front door said.

The starred establishment, on the ground floor of a five-story residential building in downtown Shanghai, serves Western dishes ranging from grilled endives to smoked beets by chef Stefan Stiller, according to the restaurant’s web site.

The “graceful restaurant” has a menu that “changes monthly and makes good use of excellent ingredients and clever recipes,” according to the Michelin description. It opened for business in April.

The diner was previously ordered to shut down by local officials due to lack of proper licenses, the Xinmin Evening News reported Friday, adding authorities stepped in after neighbors complained.

Residents who live above the restaurant told AFP the kitchen smoke and noise interrupted their normal life, and they petitioned local regulators to have the diner shut down.

“The noise is always there, with the stereo subwoofer vibrating. It’s so hot where we live, but we can’t open our windows,” said Zhang Fuzhen, who lives on the second floor of the building. Michelin launched its inaugural China guide Wednesday to great fanfare.

The guides, first published in France more than a century ago to promote automobile travel, now cover 28 countries and spotlight diverse cuisines including Brazilian, Burmese, Cajun, Peruvian, and Tibetan.

Restaurants recognized by the culinary bible have used the prestigious award to build big businesses, with Hong Kong’s Tim Ho Wan and Taiwan’s Din Tai Fung turning into international franchises.

The original idea for the restaurant was “to build a small place to entertain our friends and to have some foodies and chef friends around to create new and creative dishes,” Taian Table said in a statement, adding “we certainly never intentionally planned to violate any rules.”

The company, it said, plans to reopen the after relocating to a new address, adding “I apologize to all the guests who have booked seats already for the coming weeks.”

Michelin in China did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

9 Asian Sailing Hotspots 2016

Sailing is not something new on the Asian sporting events calendar, and nor is recreational boating. The Republic of Singapore Yacht Club traces its history back to 1826, and the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club was founded in 1849. Today, sailing and yacht racing are well-developed sports in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong. Indonesia, the Philippines, China, South Korea and Taiwan can fairly be called ‘emerging’ when it comes to sailing.

In the 19th century, sailing was the exclusive preserve of the colonial expatriate communities of the big trading cities – principally Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore. Today’s sporting landscape is a great deal more cosmopolitan, with nationals as well as ‘foreigners’ filling the membership lists of the clubs, and government initiatives helping to drive the grass-roots development of sailing as a sport, starting with youth programs and going on right up to Olympic participation.

NEP13_0732At the bigger end of the scale – the ocean-capable racing boats – Asia boasts a plethora of regattas that together constitute an informal ‘circuit’ stretching from the west coast of Thailand all the way across to the Philippines, and attracting international competitors from all over the world – hardly surprising when ‘dressed for sailing’ in this part of the world usually means shorts and t-shirts rather than heavy duty foul weather clothing!

Most recently, Asia has played host to a number of the world’s most highly visible professional sailing events. The Volvo Ocean Race has visited Singapore and China, and will stop over in Hong Kong during its next iteration. Malaysia and South Korea have hosted World Match Racing Tour events, and the Clipper Around the World Race has been to Hong Kong, China, Singapore and Indonesia. And don’t forget the Olympic Regatta at Qingdao in 2008.

Among the Asian nations, China has made the biggest impact on the Olympic scene, with two gold medals in consecutive Games. Hong Kong boasts just one, and the rest of the roll call have none although Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia are regular qualifiers. Predictably enough, different countries and places display different strengths when it comes to sailing.

HONG KONGCCR15_2206

Historically speaking, Hong Kong has long been the epicenter of sailing and yacht racing in Asia. The China Sea Race, Asia’s ‘blue water classic’ from Hong Kong to the Philippines, has been a fixture on the calendar for over 50 years, and the number of races organized by Hong Kong’s principal yacht clubs in the course of a year is counted in the thousands. ‘Class’ boats such as Flying Fifteens, Etchells and Dragons make up big numbers for racing in Victoria Harbour, along with many top-end racing yachts and a huge number of cruisers and cruiser-racers. Boats from all the yacht clubs are welcome at each other’s regattas, and the sailing season is practically year-round. Many racing boats head south and west each year to participate in major regattas and races in Thailand and Malaysia.

Hong Kong’s biggest operational problem is lack of moorings – all the existing marinas are fully occupied and have been for many years, and there are no viable plans for new marinas under consideration.

The principal sailing clubs are the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, Hebe Haven Yacht Club, Aberdeen Boat Club, Tai Po Boat Club, Lantau Boat Club, Discovery Bay Boat Club and the HK Hobie Fleet. Sail training and learn-to-sail courses are offered by almost all the clubs, and also at Government-run sailing centers. The governing body for sailing is the Hong Kong Sailing Federation, the Member National Authority where the big ticket items such as the Olympics are concerned, and the national body for training sailing athletes is the Hong Kong Sports Institute which currently designates sailing as an ‘elite’ sport, meaning that national funding is available for the development of Olympic and World Championship campaigns.CCR14_1343

Club-organized regattas and racing series include the China Coast Regatta, Spring and Autumn Regattas and the Top Dog Trophy series of pursuit races, and the Hong Kong to Hainan Race, all run by the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club (RHYC). Hebe Haven Yacht Club’s principal event is the Typhoon Series run on alternate weekends throughout each summer, the Port Shelter Regatta and a number of Saturday-afternoon series’ all through the year. It also includes in its annual program a 24hr Charity Dinghy Race, and offers sail training courses throughout the year. The Aberdeen Boat Club (ABC) organizes racing on the south side of Hong Kong, including the Waglan Series, and both the ABC and RHKYC have substantial dinghy and sail training operations from their alternate clubhouses at Middle Island (Tong Po Chau). All the Clubs’ courses range from Beginner to Racing Clinics levels.

The Leisure and Cultural Services Department of the Hong Kong Government operates five public watersports centres, offering a multitude of certification courses in dinghy sailing, windsurfing, dinghy racing and more.

Hong Kong is a fabulous place for sailing: it has an extensive and beautiful coastline, with sheltered waters as well as areas of feistier breeze. It’s hot in the summer, but never cold enough in the winter to stop the enthusiasts from getting out on the water. In fact, the only time that sailing gets shut down is when a T3 (or higher) typhoon signal keeps everyone ashore for reasons of safety and insurance.

In 2018 Hong Kong will welcome the Volvo Ocean Race to Victoria Harbour. With government backing, a visit from one of most important events in the sailing world will undoubtedly provide encouragement across the board for all sailors in Hong Kong, big and large alike.

Clubs, Marinas and Sailing Associations

• Hong Kong Sailing Federation www.sailing.org.hk

• Government Watersports Centres www.lcsd.gov.hk/watersport

• Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club www.rhkyc.org.hk

• Hebe Haven Yacht Club www.hhyc.org.hk

• Aberdeen Boat Club www.abclubhk.com

• Aberdeen Marina Club www.aberdeenmarinaclub.com

• Clearwater Bay Golf & Country Club Marina www.cwbgolf.org

• Gold Coast Yacht & Country Club www.gcycc.com.hk

• Club Marina Cove www.clubmarinacove.com

• Discovery Bay Marina www.dbmarinaclub.com

THAILANDPKC14_2110

The area around Phuket and Phang Nga Bay on the west coast of Thailand is one of the premier cruising areas of Asia, and is making concerted efforts to attract international superyacht traffic from Europe and beyond, with the intention of becoming both the hub of the charter industry in, and the gateway to, Asia.

Thais have long been enthusiastic sailors, mostly because the King of Thailand, His Majesty King Bhumiphol Adulyadej, was once a sailor. As a young man he built his own dinghies, sailed across the Gulf of Thailand, and won a sailing gold medal in the South East Asia Peninsula Games in 1967. His daughter came second.

On the west coast of Thailand, from Phuket to Langkawi (Malaysia), and a sprinkling of islands provides delightful cruising grounds, and Phang Nga Bay is world-famous for its spectacular karst islands and ‘hong’ formations. Think James Bond Island, in The Man with the Golden Gun. Further afield, Phuket constitutes a convenient jumping-off point for cruisers wishing to visit the Mergiu Archipelago (Burma), the Andaman Island and Nicobar Islands (India), the Similan Islands (Thailand) or the west coast of Sumatra (Indonesia) for some of the best and most secluded surfing on the planet.

On the other side of the Kra Peninsular, high spots in the Gulf of Thailand are Koh Samui and Koh Phangan and their surrounding marine sanctuary, the Royal Varuna Yacht Club and Ocean Marina Yacht Club at Pattaya and Jomtien Beach, respectively, and the tropical idylls of Koh Chang and Koh Kut down towards the border with Cambodia.PKC14_1094

Thailand presents five major international regattas each year:

• Phuket King’s Cup, held in December in celebration of His Majesty’s birthday

• Phuket Raceweek, a ‘green season’ regatta in July each year and intended to take advantage of the summer southwest monsoon winds

• Bay Regatta – “a party on the move” – in Phang Nga Bay

• Top of the Gulf Regatta at Na Jomtien, which includes the Thailand Optimist National Championships and the Coronation Cup (another Royal occasion)

• Koh Samui Regatta – complete with coconut trophies, Brazilian dancing girls, plenty of breeze, and the splashiest closing dinner of them all.

The majority of the big boats in Thailand are owned and raced by expatriates, but at the smaller end of the scale there is a hotbed of talent in the Optimist and dinghy classes just waiting to shine. Noppakorn Poonpat (THA) won the Optimist World Championships at 20, and there are plenty of successors waiting to step into her shoes. The Thai Optimist Nationals is one of the hardest-fought of the regional championships, with (this year) 140 entries.TOG14_0068

The national authority, the Yacht Racing Association of Thailand (YRAT), is largely the preserve of retired Admirals from the Royal Thai Navy (and the RTN turns out every year to take the salute at the Phuket King’s Cup Sail-Past). Phuket, Koh Samui, Ocean Marina and the naval base at Sattahip are the principal centers for teaching young sailors.

Little-known fact: the Platu 25, designed by Bruce Farr in the early 1990s, was created for the waters and weather conditions of the Gulf of Thailand. A syndicate of local sailors commissioned the ‘pla-tu’ which means ‘mackerel’ in Thai.

Clubs, Marinas and Sailing Associations

• Yacht Racing Association of Thailand www.yrat.or.th

• Royal Varuna Yacht Club, Chonburi, Pattaya www.varuna.org

• Ocean Marina Yacht Club, Chonburi, Pattaya www.oceanmarina.asia

• Yacht Haven Phuket www.yacht-haven-phuket.com

• Boat Lagoon Phuket www.phuketboatlagoon.com

• Phuket Cruising Yacht Club www.phuketcruisingyachtclub.org

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Singapore is home to the oldest yacht club in Asia – the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club (RSYC), formerly the Royal Singapore Yacht Club, and founded in 1826. Situated at the southern end of Malaysia, Singapore is said to preside over the busiest commercial waterway in the world, and this has become a matter of import in recent years.

RSYC has its own facilities and marina, and so does Raffles Marina and the Singapore Armed Forces Yacht Club (SAFYC). The last sailing center in Singapore is the Changi Sailing Club, seemingly always under some sort of threat of redevelopment, but still alive and kicking today.

In 1923 RSYC became the guardian of the Lipton Challenge Cup, awarded to the Club by Sir Thomas Lipton. In recent years this was awarded to the aggregate winner of the Phuket King’s Cup Regatta, the Raja Muda Selangor International Regatta and the Singapore Straits Regatta. The latter event has fallen by the wayside as the Marine & Ports Authority of Singapore has imposed ever-more draconian restrictions on the operations of pleasure vessels, and particularly sailing yachts. Sadly, the Lipton Cup is now housed in the Singapore Sports Museum.Photo-By-Donovan-Ho-22

The top event in Singapore is now a mixed fleet regatta, the Western Circuit, organized by the Singapore Management University – a very active collection of students and alumni – and hosted by Raffles Marina. The Neptune Regatta is a small fleet that sails and races from Nongsa Point Marina in Batam to Pulau Sikeling in the Riau Archipelago. Technically this all takes place within Indonesia, but in reality it is a ‘Singapore’ event.

If big boats and club racing has waned in recent years, the activities of the government-supported Singapore Sailing Association goes from strength to strength. Sailing is a sport now on the school curriculum, and every year thousands of young people are introduced to the sport, sailing Optimist and Topper dinghies and maybe moving on to the 420 and Olympic 470 and Laser classes. Singapore has been a multiple medal winner at many sailing youth championships, and hosted the inaugural Youth Olympics in 2010. Eight Singaporeans have qualified for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Unfortunately, the young sailors don’t seem to graduate to bigger boats. Governmental initiatives are geared towards producing junior champions and hopefully Olympic medals, and the grown-up version of racing sailing is not on the agenda.

Singapore, which hosted an event in the Extreme Sailing Series for five years, also entertained the Clipper Around the World Race and the Volvo Ocean Race. There are world-class facilities in the shape of ONE˚15 Marina at Sentosa Cove (home to Asia’s number one boat show, the Singapore Yacht Show) and Marina at Keppel Bay. Singapore has the facilities, but not the space in which to sail. A country that once fielded teams for the Admiral’s Cup, can do so no longer.

Clubs, Marinas and Sailing Associations

• Singapore Sailing Federation www.sailing.org.sg

• Changi Sailing Club www.csc.org.sg

• Raffles Marina www.rafflesmarina.com.sg

• Republic of Singapore Yacht Club www.rsyc.org.sg

• ONE˚15 Marina Club www.one15marina.com

• Marina at Keppel Bay www.marinakeppelbay.com

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Malaysia boasts long coastlines on the west and the east of the country, peppered with historic towns and beautiful beaches, and sprinkled with jewel-like islands that make it a playground for the cruising sailor.

The west coast of Malaysia is 400nm from north to south, and includes the fabulous archipelago of Langkawi, historic Penang (“The Pearl of the Orient”), picturesque Pangkor and the beautiful old city of Malacca – which, along with Penang, is a UNESCO Heritage Site. Throw in a plethora of beautiful beaches, the blessing of equable tropical weather, and just ‘go sailing’. Pulau Tioman is the star of Malaysia’s east coast, and then the Anambas Islands if you are prepared to sail 130nm or so offshore.

Across the South China Sea there is the north coast of Borneo – the provinces of Sabah and Sarawak are Malaysia, too. This is known as ‘The Land Below the Wind’ on account of the lack of typhoons this far south, and here the attraction for sailors is not so much sandy beaches but history (Kuching), mountaineering (Mt Kinabalu) and the culture of the littoral Dayak tribes.

The national authority for sailing is the Malaysian Sailing Association (MSA), based in Kuala Lumpur, and operating a major dinghy training centre in Langkawi, which is popular with international visitors for training camps. The MSA also organizes the Liga Layar, a national match racing series.

Langkawi is very much the de facto center of sailing in Malaysia. It has three major marinas (Royal Langkawi Yacht Club, Rebak Marina Resort and Telaga Harbour) and is close to the border with Thailand, making the island’s Duty Free status very attractive to passers-by heading north, and also to boats voyaging south from Phuket in order to stock up on everything from gin to fuel. The Youth World Sailing Championships were held in Langkawi in early 2016, based out of the MSA facility.RMR15_3338

The principal private clubs in Malaysia are the Royal Selangor Yacht Club at Port Klang, which organizes the annual Raja Muda Selangor International Regatta, and the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club, home of the Royal Langkawi International Regatta (RLIR). Both events attract entries of around 30 big boats. The ‘Raja Muda’ is a peripatetic affair featuring both coastal passage and in-port racing, travelling from Port Klang to Langkawi. It is a difficult and exhausting event over the space of a week – the sailing can be tough, but you need additional stamina for the social side of the event! The RLIR is an in-port event conducted amongst the fairy tale islands of Langkawi, but it is a one-off yearly event – the only other time in a year that racing takes place is when the Raja Muda fleet arrives. There are yacht clubs at Kinabalu (Sabah) and Piasau (Sarawak), as well as Tawau and Sandakan on the east coast of Borneo, but these are places to visit rather than establishments that organise regattas and racing.

In common with other SE Asian countries, the governmental initiative in Malaysia is geared towards youth development, dinghy sailing, and the eternal search for an Olympic medal. The Optimist class is strong all round the country, and sends young competitors to international events, but in common with other Asian countries, that’s as far as it goes – most governments, with the possible exception of Thailand – have not yet woken up to the huge economic potential offered by the promotion of sailing, boating, marine tourism and the full development of a leisure marine industry. Sailing in Malaysia does however benefit from the active participation of the Royal Malaysian Navy which owns and runs two 47’ racing boats, and the cooperation of the Royal Malaysian Police who provides exceptional backup services and materiel for major international big boat events.

The big boats and the clubs and events that they visit are pretty much self-sufficient. Training programmes to IYT certification are offered by Sail Training Malaysia (Pulau Indah Marina, Port Klang), and Asian Yachting Ventures at Port Dickson signs off on Asian Coastal and Yachtmaster courses.

Clubs, Marinas and Sailing Associations

• Malaysian Sailing Association sailmalaysia.org

• Royal Selangor Yacht Club www.rsyc.com.my

• Sebana Cove Resort & Marina, Johor Bahru www.sebanacoveresort.com

• Royal Langkawi Yacht Club www.langkawiyachtclub.com

• Telaga Harbour Park & Marina, Langkawi www.telagaharbour.com

• Rebak Marina Resort, Langkawi www.rebakmarina.com

• Sutera Harbour Marina, Sabah www.suteraharbour.com

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When China decides to get involved in something, they don’t do it by halves. In the case of sailing, that has meant an America’s Cup entry, a Volvo Ocean Race team, and any number of lavish-looking marinas constructed on the principle of “build it and they will come,” but more likely to be a marketing ‘hook’ for a surrounding property development. The encouragement of sailing often appears to be a ‘top down’ rather than a ‘bottom-up’ endeavour.

The most visible regatta in China is the China Cup International Regatta. This four-day event has a number of one-design divisions that includes a fleet of 30 Beneteau 40.7 yachts that can be chartered, as well as IRC racing divisions, but the top level Grand Prix boats are still missing. There are a number of other regattas, some on lakes and some on rivers, as well as a growing interest in match racing that is engaging sailors at the grass roots level. The China Club Challenge Cup is probably the most ‘genuine’ of the China regattas.

China still lacks a coherent, federal-scale, policy concerning leisure and pleasure boats. Until the day comes that you can confidently write “Private Yacht” on the registration application, and until you can sail out of Xiamen and back into Fujian knowing that the regulations are the same in both places, any development of a marine leisure culture will remain stalled, despite the excellent sporting example of two gold medals in successive Olympics.

The most visible yacht clubs in China do not necessarily have much to do with sailing.

Clubs and Sailing Associations

• China Yachting Association sailboarding.sport.org.cn

• Shanghai Boat and Yacht Club www.shanghaibyc.org

• Iron Rock Sailing Club, Xiamen www.ironrocksailing.com

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Indonesia is practically the definition of ‘archipelago’, and is making itself felt in the luxury charter market as an exotic destination. Komodo dragons and the Spice Islands beckon. For divers there is the Coral Triangle and the Raja Ampat, the most biodiverse marine ecosystems on the planet, and the Wallace Line, separating the ecology of the old world from Australasia,cuts through the middle of the country.

Indonesia hosts the Sail Indonesia Rally each year, with boats coming up from Australia, passing through the archipelago east to west by a different route every time, and then moving on towards Malaysia.

The Neptune Regatta departs Nongsa Point (directly opposite Singapore) and does a sort of ‘racing adventure cruise’ to the Equator and back every year – on the chart it’s an Indonesian event, but it is all Singapore-organized. There’s very little local recreational sailing going on, with the exception of the famous Sandeq Race for the local fishing boats along the west coast of Sulawesi. The Indonesia Sailing Federation regularly manages to get a qualifier into the Olympics.

Clubs and Sailing Associations

• Indonesian Sailing Federation

• Jakarta Offshore Sailing Club

• Nongsa Point Marina, Batam www.nongsapointmarina.com

• Sail Indonesia www.sailindonesia.net

THE PHILIPPINESPCC12_0936

In the 1990s there was a flourishing sailing scene based around the Manila Yacht Club (MYC), Flying 15s, Dragons, and a fair collection of big boats. In 1994 the Philippine Easter Regatta attracted a 60-strong fleet that raced from Manila to Corregidor, and then on to Subic Bay. The MYC used to be the finish line for the China Sea Race, and many a salty tale was expanded over the bar on Roxas Boulevard. Glory days indeed.

Then the MYC stopped organizing races, the few remaining sailing members decamped to Subic Bay, and everything fizzled out by degrees. The biggest active club in the Philippines is now the Puerto Galera Yacht Club, which very deliberately does not take itself too seriously.

The Commodores’ Cup at Subic attracts 6-8 boats only, even when the China Sea fleet has just arrived – and departed. The Boracay Cup (preceded by the Subic-Boracay Race) should be the jewel in the glittering tropical crown, but rarely attracts more than a handful of entries

Clubs and Sailing Associations

• Philippines Sailing Association www.philsailing.com

• Puerto Galera Yacht Club www.pgyc.org

• Subic Sailing subicsailing.org

TAIWAN

It is only recently that people in Taiwan have been allowed to set foot on a beach. Fishermen went fishing, but the coastline was off-limits to all non-military personnel. There has been an entirely successful sailing and motor yacht building industry in the Kaohsiung area for three decades, producing boats that were strictly for export. Only.

With the easing of coastal regulations, a couple of small regattas have sprung up, organized by the Taiwan Sailing Association. The Penghu Regatta takes place in the delightful Penghu Islands in the Taiwan Strait, a place with plenty of wind that has long been popular with windsurfers from all over the world. The inaugural Taiwan Boat Show was a sell-out, and the second one (in March) followed suit. Brokers report good business. Watch this space.

Clubs and Sailing Associations

• Taiwan Sailing Association www.taiwansail.org

• Chinese Taipei Sailing Association www.sail-clubs.com

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The west coast provides challenging conditions for sailing – coastal mudflats for hundreds of miles when the 10m tide goes out. The east coast consists mostly of small squid-fishing villages. The south coast, from Mokpo to Busan via Jeju Island, is beautiful but with the exception of the Olympic Marina (1988) at Busan, ‘undeveloped’ in sailing terms.

Provincial authorities kick started the Korea International Boat Show in 2008, and inaugurated the WMRT Korea Match Cup in the same year. The Wangsan Marina near Incheon, was built for the 2014 Asian Games regatta, and was intended to become a public marina with amenities and services catering to domestic as well as international boaters.

A small number of races venture offshore: there’s one to Ulleung-do and Dok-do to the east of Korea, and one from Mokpo to Jeju if the weather permits. There’s an Admiral’s Cup regatta in Busan, and the Women’s International Match Racing Association has also been there.

‘Boating culture’ has been slow to develop in Korea, in spite of government initiatives to stimulate interest. Leisure time is a relatively new commodity in this hard-working country and, rather like China, Korea might do well to start at the bottom and work upwards, rather than the other way round.

Sailing Association

• Korea Sailing Federation www.ksaf.org

Majestic Princess Woos Chinese Guests with luxury living

Cruise Liner Woos China Guests with Luxury Living

This is Princess Cruises first ship built specifically for Chinese guests. It is the latest development, just this month, as cruise services make a China pivot; MSC Cruises and Aida Cruises are both looking to capitalize from as early as next year in what is poised to become the largest cruise market in the world.

After a short European tour, the brand new Majestic Princess will drop anchor in its home port of Shanghai beginning next summer. The Princess Cruises ship will sail to destinations in Japan and Korea.

This is parent company Carnival Corporation’s latest foray into the Chinese cruise market, which has experienced skyrocketing growth over the last few years.

A recent report from the Cruise Lines International Association showed that between 2012 and 2015, passenger volume in Asia grew from 775,000 to nearly 2.1 million passengers.

This year has seen more than 1,560 ships and voyages scheduled, up from 1,095 in 2015. Recent reports suggest that prices have taken a hit, thanks a bit of oversupply but operators remain bullish. Perhaps that is because the Chinese Ministry of Tourism forecasts 4.5 million passengers by 2020.

With a guest capacity of 3,560, the Majestic Princess is hoping to steer Chinese holidaymakers away from the competition by capitalizing on its gastronomic reputation: Food and Wine magazine named the brand the best cruise line for food lovers.

At the Harmony space, for example, chef Richard Chen who helped the Wynn Las Vegas restaurant Wing Lei land a Michelin star – a first for a Chinese restaurant in North America – has reinvented classic Cantonese dishes.

At Le Bistrot, guests will be transported to Paris with a menu that serves traditional French fare like escargots, baguettes, tartines, tourtes and French pastries. Other dining options include a steakhouse, Italian eatery and all-day buffet.

The Majestic Princess is designed with the affluent Chinese cruiser in mind, with an expanded shopping and retail space anchored by luxury brands such as Cartier, Bulgari, Chopard, Burberry and Gucci, and a private karaoke space.

Princess sister brand Costa Cruises also expanded its presence in China this year, giving Carnival Corporation a leading edge over its competition with six ships based in the country as of this year. Royal Caribbean is in second place with five ships based in China this year.

Meanwhile, when the Majestic Princess, which also goes by her Chinese name “Grand World” or “Grand Spirit,” sails into Shanghai next summer, it will face off with Norwegian Joy, Norwegian Cruise Line’s first cruise ship which is also tailor-made for Chinese customers and set to debut in July 2017. You can see for yourself what the Majestic Princess brings to the table from the video below.

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Guo Pei: Empress of Chinese Couture

Childhood dreams have led the diminutive Guo Pei down the unlikely path of becoming a couturier whose stunningly realised works have found home on the backs of Rihanna and the social elite in China, and in museums worldwide. We speak to the Chinese designer on her inspiration, her unique perspective on oriental design and the difficulties she’s faced as an Asian designer.

How did you get started in fashion?

I always dreamt of making beautiful dresses as a little girl. At an early age, I felt I had a particular way of creating – that’s why I learnt to sew. I’ve also always been influenced by China’s traditional culture and by elements from the imperial and royal past, especially elements that represent royalty of the highest level.

What excites you about designing clothes?

The ability to offer someone something new and fresh, and to give them a sense of satisfaction.

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Why did you decide on making clothing that’s so intricate?

Simply because I love making beautiful, elegant clothes. My clothing involves complicated processes that reflect a culture of quality, and I hope wearers can feel my emotion and spirit, and see that the clothes embody the spirit of quality and heritage, and depict the essence of human wisdom, civilisation, and culture.

What are the challenges you’ve faced in your work?

To me, each day and each step I take and make in Chinese fashion is unprecedented. When I was on the verge of failure, I walked my own path. Survival, sticking to what I believe in – that’s the real challenge. But I don’t see this as a difficulty. There’s no pressure, really. I love what I do.

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Do you face any difficulties being a female and Chinese designer?

I don’t see any specific difficulties. Even though the industry is mostly led by men, there are many talented and renowned female designers, Chinese or not. But women can bring a unique charm and beauty in their perspective and interpretation of things. The old master [Karl Lagerfeld] is the one maintaining the fashion empire of Chanel, but we can’t ignore the fact that the brand was created by a woman who is an excellent example of female representation. As an Asian woman, I hope I can use my perspectives to bring a unique aspect of beauty into the spotlight.

Do you think there is a difference between French haute couture and the work you’re doing?

I’ve been doing custom work at Rose Studio from day one and I’ve developed a very rigorous production process. But it took more than a decade after starting my studio before I had the chance to get close to and understand haute couture. At the time, some friends of mine in the Paris fashion circles said to me, “Guo Pei, all you’re doing… is couture”. I think it has always been somewhere in my soul. So what I am showing on the catwalks these days in Paris is essentially no different from what I show and present to my clients. The only difference is the tension, performance and strength of the catwalk.

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It’s interesting to me because you seem very focused on making Chinese fashion, rather than designing something global or European-based. Why is that so?

I grew up in Beijing where there was the integration of a multi-ethnic Chinese culture and a historic city. The essence of traditional Chinese culture is, to me, the greatest treasure. I want these influences from deep in my heart to transform something in the design. Every old building, royal costume and piece of fine jewelry… these superb technological feats are worth learning about. In my January 2016 haute couture show in Paris, we showed exquisite traditional Chinese embroidery, but integrated it with Western silhouette and cut – a good combination of the beauty of East and West.

Do you think oriental design has the potential of global appeal?

I feel, in terms of beauty, that the East and West are the same. The only difference is that the West is more outgoing whereas the East is more introverted. But if there is mutual exchange and understanding, both sides can attract each other. I think Western designers want to understand Eastern fashion and beauty through the works of Chinese designers.

Which designers most inspire you?

The one who influenced me the most would be Mr Christian Dior. And, of course, early designers like Balenciaga and Yves Saint Laurent for their exquisite tailoring, cutting and design. However, the process of finding ideas and inspiration often begins in museums, where there is an inexhaustible collection of creative design and a fine collection of human wisdom.

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You’re known for dressing the social and political elite in China, who order couture from you. Do you have any plans to design ready-to-wear?

Right now, I’m putting all my focus on doing couture. I think in order for me to do ready-to-wear or other fashion products well, I would need a really big team – I’d have to build a fashion empire! Unless I have more people joining the team, I would prefer to do my best at what I’m good at.

Rihanna gave you a lot of international exposure. What’s changed since that night at the Met?

The partnership with Rihanna was really a chance for her to be the focus of attention on the red carpet. But it was also a chance to give my work a new interpretation. It allowed me to get attention and coverage from the world’s major media. The foreign press was shocked that the dress, which was a very technically challenging piece, took nearly two years to realise. It showed people a different image of China: It’s no longer a backward economy, no longer just a source of cheap labour, no longer a rough workshop. Those images were replaced by 5,000 years of Chinese cultural heritage.

You’ve been in the fashion business for about 30 years now, what do you think has changed from when you first started?

I’ve stuck to my goal which has always been to be very confident, to want to make the most beautiful and the most valuable clothes, to represent this era of technology and humanity, and to showcase the height of the manual techniques of fashion. I’m going to continue moving forward as a Chinese brand on the haute couture stage.

This article on Guo Pei first appeared on L’Officiel Singapore’s August Issue.

Red Beach of Panjin

Red Beach of Panjin: Crimson Tides

Just in time for those longed-for summer breaks, we take a glimpse at several unique beaches around the world. Today we visit the Red Beach in Liaoning that contradicts China’s reputation as champion polluter and burnishes its eco-friendly credentials. We join AFPRelaxnews for a short tour of the area and learn more about the country’s conservation efforts one beach at a time.

Where to find it

Located in the Liaohe River Delta, the Red Beach of Panjin can be found in Liaoning, a northeastern province of China. While some may not think of China as a champion of environmental matters, this site reveals another side to the country and its approach to preservation. In fact, Red Beach has been a state-protected nature reserve since the end of the 1980s, with regulations restricting tourism in this area of natural beauty, home to several hundred animal species. Only part of the beach is open for visitors to explore.

Unusual feature

The Red Beach of Panjin is surprising in more than one way. Not only does this beach have no sand, but it’s also entirely covered in a special kind of seaweed, which gives rise to its unusual appearance. The seaweed, called sueda, grows from April, starting off green before turning crimson red in the autumn. Visit between mid-September and mid-October to take in this natural wonder in all its glory. Another draw for visitors is the beach’s wildlife. Several hundred bird species and almost 400 species of wild animals have taken up home on Red Beach, including endangered species like the red-crowned crane.

How to get there

Red Beach, which has been a nature reserve since 1988, can be accessed from Shenyang, the capital of Liaoning province, about a two-hour drive away. The closest town is Yingkou.

Best beach activity

A raised wooden walkway has been installed to take visitors on a trail through the reserve, walking above this area of marshland with relative ease and comfort. As you’ve guessed, this isn’t the kind of beach where you can stretch out a towel and go for a dip. It is, however, a spectacular sight to behold and a great destination for photographers.

4 Luxury Asian Hotels: Banyan Tree X SilkAir

Asia has a lot to offer, and if you’re planning a trip to this very diverse continent (which you shouldn’t even think of as a single place), count yourself lucky. In a partnership with SilkAir, Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts has rolled out a range of promotions to seven idyllic properties in four iconic Asian destinations. Think of it as less planning on your part: the package includes full-service SilkAir flights, exclusive discounts of up to 30%, complimentary upgrades, dining offers and experiences at spas and Laguna Golf Clubs.

Banyan Tree Lijiang at Lijiang, China

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Luxe meets tradition in Banyan Tree Lijiang, where once can bask in China’s history while taking a retreat located 2,400 meters above sea level and framed by the majestic Snow Jade Dragon Mountain. One can pick from a Garden Suite, Mountain View Suite, or Jet Pool Villas, and indulge in activities like yoga or play tennis on outdoor courts. In fact, one is reconnected with nature in this hotel – Lijiang isn’t a UNESCO heritage site for nothing.

Rates begin at $283 per night, inclusive of breakfast. Discounts of up to 30% are offered on best available rates, spa treatments, gallery products and complimentary upgrades when presenting the boarding pass on arrival. This offer is valid until 30 March 2017.

http://www.banyantree.com/en/cn-china-lijiang

Banyan Tree Phuket at Phuket, Thailand

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Phuket has increasingly a spot on many’s travel itineraries in recent years – and rightly so. Breath-taking coastal views, pristine waters and stretches of glisteneing sand can all be found at the charming Bang Tao Bay, a stone’s throw from Banyan Tree Phuket. Opt between a variety of Pool Villas, ranging from the Banyan Lagoon Pool Villa to the Grand Two Bedroom Villa. In between dipping into pools and long, leisurely walks down the shores, one can indulge in cooking classes, golf classes, and even a turtle club for children.

Rates begin from $627 per night, inclusive of breakfast. Discounts of up to 25% are offered on F&B, best available rates, spa treatments, gallery products and golf green fees at Laguna Golf Phuket when presenting the boarding pass on arrival. This offer is valid until 20 December 2016.

http://www.banyantree.com/en/ap-thailand-phuket-resort

Banyan Tree Lang Co at Lang Co, Vietnam

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Picture dramatic vistas spread across a rugged landscape of unspoiled nature. Nestled in the heart of UNESCO World Heritage sites, eco-diverse mountains and spectacular national parks, Banyan Tree Lang Co is an all-pool villa resort. Visitors can stay in a Lagoon Pool Villa, Sanctuary Pool Villa, Beach Pool Villa and Seaview Hill Pool Villas of up to three-bedrooms in size. It is not all just pools, however; this hotel also boasts meeting rooms, a Laguna Sea Sports Centre and Marine Lab, as well as a gym and yoga pavilion. Having stayed at this location ourselves, we recommend it heartily and whole-heartedly. Although, as with all Banyan Trees, the fact that the best restaurant is the signature Saffron (Thai cuisine) is a little jarring.

Rates begin from $258 per night, inclusive of breakfast. Discounts of up to 20% are offered on best available rates, spa treatments, gallery products and golf green fees at Laguna Golf Lang Co, when presenting the boarding pass on arrival. This offer is valid for bookings until 15 August 2016 and for stays until 22 December 2016.

http://www.banyantree.com/en/ap-vietnam-lang-co

Angsana Maison Souvannaphoum at Luang Prabang, Laos

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Steeped in old-world charm, one is surrounded by breath-taking natural landscapes as they seemingly take a trip back in time. More than just vintage charm, however, the hotel also has royal origins: it once belonged to Laos’ four-time Prime Minister Prince Souvanna Phouma. Live in classic French colonial interiors in the Garden Wing, Residence Twin to the Maison Room. Enjoy spas, al fresco dining at the Elephant Blanc restaurant and in-room dining while on stay.

Rates begin from $120 per night, inclusive of breakfast. Discounts of up to 30% are offered on best available rates, spa treatments and gallery products, plus a complimentary traditional Laos set menu dinner with a minimum stay of two nights). This offer is valid for bookings until 31 August 2016 and for stays until 23 December 2016.

http://www.angsana.com/en/ap-laos-maison-souvannaphoum

Terms and conditions apply.

San Shan Bridge Unveiled for Beijing Winter Olympics

Beijing’s ever-evolving landscape will soon see a futuristic, double-helix bridge named San Shan Bridge come 2022, when the city hosts the Winter Olympic Games.

Stretching out from across the city to the mountainous region of Zhangjiakou over the river Gui, the infrastructure – translated to “Three Mountains” – is part of the government’s efforts to provide more efficient transportation to the event location for athletes.

Beijing WInter Olympics_San Shan Bridge_

Referencing the union of the five continents, just like the interlaced rings of the Olympic logo, the 452-meter-long bridge sees three sets of cross-connected structures that reflects its name. Each of these structures have a maximum span of 95 meters and are supported by high-strength steel cables that crisscross the bridge in an elegantly woven design. To facilitate movement, the bridge will also be separated into transportation and pedestrian sections via two strips of trees and bushes.

Beijing WInter Olympics_San Shan Bridge_

Beijing and Vienna-based architecture firm Penda – whose portfolio includes the bamboo pavilion “One with the Birds” for Beijing Design Week 2015 – will work alongside global engineering consultants ARUP on the ambitious task. If ARUP sounds familiar, it is because the prolific firm has taken projects such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Headquarters in Seattle to completion and are currently working on Apple Campus 2.

Beijing WInter Olympics_San Shan Bridge_

However, the San Shan Bridge is but part of a larger city expansion scheme for the Chinese capital. Beijing Horticultural Expo 2019 (a future exhibition hub) and a more extensive transport system (11,700km of metro planned for 2050) will cater to the city’s aspiration of evolving into a supercity – the third largest in the world at that, with more than 21 million people.

BMW 1 Series Sedan Exclusively Sold in China

Unless you’re currently residing in China, you can forget about laying your hands on BMW’s latest 1 Series sedan. Well, by the German automaker’s estimation, only the Chinese market is ready for, and interested in, this extended wheelbase version of the 1 Series.

First revealed in Beijing, the baby four-door – built in conjuction with China’s BMW Brilliance Automotive Ltd – is, quite simply put, the love child of Europe’s five-door 1 Series hatchback and the 2 Series coupe. According to BMW, the new car will fuse the best stylistic elements of both, plus incorporate a longer wheelbase for more spacious seating.

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Otherwise, the entry-level Beemer is essentially a toned-down iteration of the Concept Compact Sedan and will be based on the front-wheel drive UKL platform, just like the current X1, 2 Series Gran Tourer and its MINI cousin. This means that the car will likely use BMW’s new modular four-cylinder engines. This 1 Series Sedan will also provide a stylistic platform of what you can expect from the 2 Series Gran Coupe, which BMW has been developing for a while now.

Luxuo David Beckham for Jaguar 2016

How British Car Brands Sell to China

Many British automotive marques are already forging reciprocal links with Chinese firms. Aston Martin is working with LeEco to develop an electric version of its Rapide super sedan and everyone from Jaguar to Bentley is also developing models with longer wheelbases and greater space for rear passengers, uniquely for the Chinese market.

But how do these storied British brands get the biggest and youngest car-buying market to fall in love with them within the next few years, when they’ve had over 60 years to become pin-up fixtures on children’s walls in Europe and the US?

Jaguar has already hired David Beckham as its sportscar ambassador to China, but, as football fans will tell you “There’s only one David Beckham” so it appears the long-term answer is to celebrate all that’s good about British motoring heritage by crafting a festival on a par with the Goodwood Festival of Speed and bringing it to the Chinese mainland.

The British Motorsport Festival (BMF), will open its doors to the public at the Goldenport track, Beijing, on October 1 and promises past, present and future cars from Jaguar, Land Rover, Lotus, McLaren, Morgan and Noble.

But more than simply trying to get car fans excited, the two-day event will be a proper family-inclusive lifestyle experience.

“The British Motorsport Festival is a unique blend of cars, fans and fun for the entire family. Our hope is that the British Motorsport Festival can help brands connect with fans to build lasting relationships,” said Jim James, BMF’s founder.

So the event promises racing, a ladies competition, go-karting and electric car racing for kids plus a vintage car show.

Alongside the festival the UK government is also assisting in setting up an annual motorsports conference, in partnership with Motorsport China, the first of which will be held in Shanghai on November 2. Because as with every country that starts to fall in love with cars, the urge to race tends to follow very quickly. But there are pitfalls that need to be avoided if it’s going to be done in a sustainable, profitable way.

“Motorsport in China is developing rapidly, and the goal of the Conference is to bring experts from the UK and China together to discuss best practices, build deeper relationships and ultimately to develop the industry to a world class level,” said Managing Director of Motorsport China, Steven Lu.

So the conference will bring together experts from every facet of racing from track development to team owners and specialist services companies under one roof.

Top Chinese Art Collector to Sell Works

One of the world’s leading collectors of Chinese art, Belgian billionaire Guy Ullens, is to give up his eponymous Beijing museum – among the capital’s top art centers – and sell his private collection, the organization said.

Ullens, a baron, is a foodstuffs magnate and longstanding Chinese art collector whose companies have included Weight Watchers.

His father and uncle were both diplomats at Belgium’s embassy in the country, and he is a friend of dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.

His non-profit Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA), a mainstay of Beijing’s trendy 798 art district, exhibits both Chinese and international artists and has had more than four million visitors since it was founded in 2007, according to its website.

In a joint statement by the museum and the Guy & Myriam Ullens Foundation, Ullens said he will hand over UCCA to a new benefactor and sell off his own vast collection through private sales and auctions later this year.

“I have been a patron of the arts in China for over 30 years and have found this a hugely interesting and fascinating experience,” he said in the statement.

“I’m now in my 80s and need to look at how to hand over the stewardship of the UCCA and my art collection to younger patrons of the arts.”

Rumors of Ullens’ departure have swirled for years, but his PR company confirmed to AFP that the latest announcement, released Thursday, was the first time he had made a definitive public statement on the matter.

The baron’s private collection, estimated to include more than 1,000 pieces, has broken numerous auction records, the latest in 2013, when Zeng Fanzhi’s painting “The Last Supper” sold for $23.3 million at Sotheby’s — a record price for an Asian contemporary artist.

Chinese art prices have rocketed in recent years, fuelled by the country’s economic boom and its growing numbers of super-rich.

At the same time Communist authorities have stepped up cultural controls under President Xi Jinping, and some captions at UCCA’s 2013 exhibition of American artist Taryn Simon’s “A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters” were blacked out.

Revamped Peninsula Beijing Boasts Larger Rooms

For those who love sprawling hotel rooms with ample space for everyone’s steamers and trunks, The Peninsula Beijing may be your new home away from home. The hotel now boasts the largest luxury hotel rooms in the Chinese capital since they revamped their 525 rooms to actually create fewer rooms and suites – there are now 230. A small sacrifice really, for luxury. However, ‘small’ is definitely not the name of the game here.Peninsula-Beijing-renovations-master-bedroom

The smallest rooms start at 60 square meters (645 square feet), going against trend in the industry. That is to say, most hotels maximize space to earn as much revenue as possible by creating as many rooms as possible.

With a little inspiration from luxury yachts and a few cultural elements, guests can trust that the rooms are both comfortable and sophisticated. The rooms feature hues of cream while artworks from Chinese artists adorn the walls. Like most luxury yachts, the rooms are fitted with furnishings from luxury Italian designers and a few hand-finished pieces from local designers. Peninsula-Beijing-renovations-dining-room

The experience doesn’t stop there. Guests have full control of the lighting, temperature and can even order room service via the tablets that are found on the bedside and on room desks. The most luxurious suite in the hotel is The Loft that commands the top floors of the hotel. Spanning two stories, the suite has floor-to-ceiling windows that provide breath-taking views of the city below.

The hotel has created another tier of suites by combining 17 room to create living spaces that measure up to 165 square meters (1,883 square feet). The suites also come with large living and dining spaces, dressing quarters and a master bedroom.

Shanghai Seven-Star Waterfront Hotel Opens

Shanghai remains a favorite for new luxury outposts, be they stores or hotels, the latest of which is The Wanda Reign on the Bund. The over-the-top luxury hotel has opened on Shanghai’s waterfront, billing itself as the city’s first “7-star” hotel.

The Wanda Reign on the Bund opened to much fanfare recently, not only for being one of the most luxurious and opulent landmarks in Shanghai, but for the reputation of its owner Wang Sicong, the 28-year-old scion of a Chinese real estate baron who makes headlines for his spendthrift ways on nights out.

In keeping with his lavish tastes, the property was built to raise the bar in luxury hotel experiences. Set along the Huangpu River, the hotel is a museum of art and antique pieces by contemporary Chinese artists.

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The hotel tapped designer Laurence Xu – the first Chinese designer to join Paris Haute Couture Week – to create staff uniforms. Artistic motifs include magnolias and traditional Suzhou embroidery.

All of the 193 guestrooms are controlled via iPads, and are styled in Art Deco-themed esthetics that are available in two different styles: modern glamour in a beige color scheme, and darker, mahogany burl wood with magnolia details. Guest rooms and suites are outfitted with amenities by L’Occitane and Hermès.

The luxury is also in the details, with bedtime amenities that include a sleep fragrance, music and bedtime reading material.

For guests for whom money is no object, there’s also the Chairman Suite which spans 288 sq m (3,100 sq ft) and features a living room, dining area, adjoining pantry, bar, study, master bedroom sauna and massage bathtub. Guests also have access to butler service.

Dining options include the rooftop restaurant Marc, by Michelin-starred French chef Marc Meneau, and restaurants The River Drunk for classic Southern Chinese cuisine and The Japanese Restaurant.

A promotion has guest room rates at CNY3,000 ($453) a night.

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