Belgian conductors in China

Peter Ritzen

Belgian conductors in China are lately in the news. I have mentioned several times my friend Peter Ritzen. You can search for him in this website, see this post among others.
Peter also performed in Suzhou on 22 November 2023, see the announcement and the introduction in Chinese. In November he had one more TV interview, on CCTV4.
He has concluded his contract in Chongqing and is now relocating to Beijing but he will perform in Chongqing and Chengdu in January 2024.
He also plans to perform at the Belgian embassy during the visit of the Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, in January 2024.
I am also happy to congratulate Peter for his nomination as Foreign member of the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts.

Kris Stroobants

Other conductor is Kris Stroobants who is also well-known. He headed the Royal Belgian Philharmonic Orchestra during a tour in China in December 2023, a large group of 60 who performed in Shanghai, Hangzhou, Tianjin, Yantai, Zibo, Suzhou, Zhengzhou, Jiaxing and other cities. The tour was successful until most caught a cold and performance in Shijiazhuang (I think) had to be canceled… Details of the tour remained a bit confusing. The Belgian embassy had no idea about it all.

Royal Belgian Philharmonic Orchestra

The Royal Belgian Philharmonic Orchestra was founded in 1740. Its predecessor was the Cracow Royal Vatican Music Ceremony Choir in Rome. After Belgium became independent, the orchestra became the only European-level national court philharmonic orchestra in the Kingdom of Belgium with a history of more than 400 years in Europe. At the same time, it is also the only large-scale symphony orchestra designated by the Pope to professionally perform the music of the Royal Holy See, and the only symphony orchestra in the Kingdom of Belgium selected as the EU-level royal orchestra!
As a representative of the Belgian royal music, the Royal Belgian Philharmonic Orchestra serves the Belgian royal family in national projects such as visits, receptions, and banquets, and participates in various artistic diplomacy of European royal families.

Old China Hands lunch 1 December

Nice crowd
Our Old China Hands lunch 1 December saw a nice turnout of 34 despite the last minute cancellation of some busy members.
Nothing special to report except that all were having a great time to chat and enjoy the food of Morel’s Restaurant. Renaat always prepares a special menu for our group.

It is the last lunch of 2023 and the next one is planned for 5 January 2024.
We wish all of our members great and happy Holiday season, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year!
Looking forward to see all of you in the next year.

UGent and Sinterklaas events


In two days our Belgian embassy hosted UGent and Sinterklaas events.
On 1 December 2023 we had the reception of CPAF 2023, the Closing Ceremony to celebrate the 3rd China Partners Academic Forum by Ghent University in the Residence of Belgian Ambassador.
Moderator was Chi Zhang, Representative of Ghent University.

H.E. Mr. Bruno Angelet, Ambassador of Belgium gave the Opening Speech.
Other speeches by Mr. Baoyi Yu, Representative of Beijing Alumni Chapter and by executive members of Beijing Alumni Chapter,  Mr. Gilbert Van Kerckhove (that’s me),  Prof. Jun Zhang (Tsinghua University) and Prof. Mingmei Yu (University of Chinese Academy of Social sciences).
After the group picture there was networking with walking dinner and Belgian beer. Catering was by a specialized Chinese company, nicely done.
I had to leave a bit early as I was expected at the German Christmas Charity Bazaar…


On the afternoon of 2 December Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) and his helpers visited the residence of the Belgian ambassador to meet with many Belgian children. Sinterklaas called one by one the children to comment on their recent behavior and give a present. None of the children was hurt. For privacy reasons no closeups of the children.

Snacks provided by Morel’s Restaurant, drinks by the embassy and Morel’s, sweets by the embassy.
I was on duty to serve the drinks (as usual).
See here the official article by the embassy: A Joyful Weekend with Saint-Nicholas.

Cuberdons – neuzekes

One of the sweets provide by the embassy were the famous cuberdons from Ghent.
A cuberdon is a cone-shaped Belgian candy and a popular local delicacy in Ghent. In Dutch it is also known as a neus (“nose”), Gentse neus (“Ghent nose”), or neuzeke (“little nose”) for its likeness to a human nose. In French, cuberdons are also called chapeau-de-curé and chapeau-de-prêtre (priest’s hat).

Cuberdons are traditionally made with gum arabic candy crust with a soft, raspberry-flavored filling. Their color is mostly purple.
The outside is relatively hard, whereas the inside is gelatinous.
There are two hypotheses about its origins:

  1. A clergy member living in the city of Bruges created it — which might explain other names in use for the cuberdon such as “cleric’s cap” (bonnet de curé) and “young nun’s belly-button”
  2. In 1873, pharmacist De Vynck in the city of Ghent discovered the recipe of the cuberdon by chance. In order to increase the shelf life of drugs at the time, many were packaged in the form of syrup. When the pharmacist examined a failed preparation after a few days, he found that it had formed a crust, while the core was still liquid. From this discovery came the idea to use such a technique to manufacture candy.

Source: Wikipedia

Other post about the Cuberdon of Gentse neus, see here.
While the origin 2 above seems to be the overall winner, TEMMERMAN, a household name since 1904 has a different view of the shape.
Temmerman has a rich tradition spanning over a century. The first store in Ghent opened in 1904 and since then, has become known as the grandmother of sweet shops. Today, the fifth Temmerman generation continues the legacy with a passion for confectionery, gingerbread, chocolate, and tea.
Their cuberdons have a different shape, with a face. They claim it is the “original cuberdon shape”. But generally the shape is said to be cone-shaped.
Other sweet shop I had the chance to taste is Geldhof. They simply claim “De énige échte neuzekes –  Sinds 1954 – Onbetwiste marktleider – Vlaams streekproduct”.
Never mind the sweet polemic, let’s simply enjoy!

Belgium King’s Day in Beijing

A full house

Belgium King’s Day in Beijing was celebrated on 17 November 2023. the official date is actually 15 November.
It was full house with over 400 guests. For the first time part of the new embassy was used. See further.
Always a great opportunity to meet Belgian and other friends. In my case, meeting Peter Ritzen, Jim Nobles, the team of (Belgian) Dewit Lawyers Office and many more.
Our host, the Belgian ambassador, was joined by the EU ambassador in China and Chinese VIP. The embassy did a great job.
Also the opportunity to showcase some of our Belgian products, of course beers, waffles, Belgian fries.

Food was done by chef Renaat Morel of Morel’s Restaurant. Corinne and Hongjie serving drinks. Yes I enjoyed my plate of the delicious food!
We were lucky with the weather, it was chilly outside but still pretty nice.
See here the report by the embassy.

The new embassy

Belgium King’s Day in Beijing also gave us a glimpse of the new embassy. I had mentioned the project in an earlier post.
See again the link to the architect and to the embassy project. Do not use VPN…

The Embassy and Consulate General will be closed and the consular services will be temporarily suspended from 11 until 15 December included, due to the move into the new premises. We are advised to apply for documents one might need (e.g. passports, eID, …) on time and preferably before 8 December to avoid problems during the Christmas holidays.
I hope (not really) the new embassy will be more “visitor friendly”. I miss the old embassy of the time when we had direct contact with the staff. Now, forget it. I have NEVER been invited into the temporary embassy, just into the lobby. Sadly times have changed, everywhere. Also in Belgium public services, banks and other have become very remote from the public.

Old China Hands 3 November

Our members are busy!

Our Old China Hands 3 November lunch had a moderate attendance of 26 people, we had many last-minute cancellations with many stuck in meetings, trips or simply too busy. Or with the flu…
With COVID restrictions gone our members are more back on the road and catching up with business.

Anyway, all had a good time as always, chatting and enjoying the food. The tongue in madeira sauce reminds me of my Mum’s great cooking.
Next lunch: Friday 1 December.

Bonne Maman

Our friend Quentin had a surprise for all, giving away the home-made jam he makes from fruit he collects from his garden near the Great Wall. See some of his samples. Very professional and really good – I have been the lucky guy enjoying his jam since quite some time. Thank you, and now I can continue to call you “Monsieur Confiture”!

As you can see, his jam reminds us all of the famous Confiture Bonne Maman, see here the background and more pictures.