It sometimes seems that the divide between east and west is a yawning one, hard to bridge for lack of commonality. With the international stage figuring into the Whistler Forum for Dialogue and Leadership’s mandate, points of universality are often pondered, especially when it comes to China.
The Harmony Project, which has Forum delegates departing for Beijing this weekend, was born from exactly this type of effort, and within the name itself lies a concept shared between civilizations in either hemisphere.
“It means quite a lot in Chinese and Chinese culture,” said Helene Huang of Tourism Whistler, an advisor in the project’s early days and translator assisting in its execution. “It basically means the most ideal stage of life. You have a balanced relationship with people you are dealing with and a balanced relationship with nature.
“It’s like the concept of harmony in music. I think those two ideas are quite similar, the Chinese and western perspective for harmony.”
Originally called the Sea to Sky Gateway to B.C./Canada Pavilion in Beijing, the Harmony Project is the child of Lisa Ames, Bruce Stewart, Dave Thomson and Bill Brown. A breakaway team from one of the Forum’s Sea to Sky Leadership cohorts, the four picked up on work done earlier by Pique ’s Alison Taylor and Brad Kasselman from Coast Mountain Photography.
“They started this last year, and we picked up on their program,” said Brown. “They did the groundwork and we’re implementing it. We worked for the past year with the provincial government and the 2010 Commerce Centre to the B.C./Canada Pavilion.”
The pavilion, with its 13 wood arcs representing all Canadian provinces and territories, is located near the Forbidden City in Tiananmen Square. The first floor is something of a showcase for Canadian and British Columbian natural resources, while the second floor provides a forum an ideas exchange between Canadians and Chinese.
While delegates leave for Beijing on Saturday and stay for a week, the project’s two key days are on Sept. 8 and 9. The first day is called Taking Community Leadership on Universal Access for Tourism, Sport and Recreation. The second day is called Community Leadership for Building Healthy Communities Through Tourism Development.
“We set our sites on trying to develop exchanges and discussions on a variety of topics and themes and issues, with the view that the rise of China is something we all need to pay attention to, particularly the tourism community,” said Forum President William Roberts. “The two days in the pavilion, as well as the 26 people going on the tour is for us a huge breakthrough in terms of the Harmony Project itself to engage with China, not just on general human rights questions but on questions of people with disabilities. We have a lot to share with respect to how we are, as a community, trying to be more inclusive and how tourism is raising the bar on accessibility.”