Monday, May 19, 2008

The Corporate Trough (continued)

Last week I was in Beijing for our annual corporate conference. These can be dire or wild affairs, sometimes both at the same time. This one rather fell into the later category. Because my former boss had been let go just a few days prior, it was bound to be weird. So it was.

Lots of corporate back patting, as we’d had a storming year in 2007. There was also my new boss out there making sure everyone thought he had a good vision for taking the company forward. Which will be rather like the old vision, but with a new face. Such is corporate politics.

There was also lots of networking, usually lubricated with large amounts of alcohol. That’s perhaps the best bit of these events. They really are just big drink fests. But that’s OK. A company that knows each other and enjoys each other, is a good place to work. That lubrication is a necessary component.

There was one quite sparkling moment though. The last evening is always the “gala” dinner. Rumours abounded about this one, and none of them did justice. It was really a once in a life time event.

I, being a timely sort of bloke, got on the first bus. We manoeuvred slowly through the city, it really has appalling traffic (at the moment 3,000 cars are registered every day in China). However, we finally pulled up at the outskirts of the Forbidden City (the ancient imperial palace). We transferred to smaller busses and dodged back and forth into the palace complex, pulling up in front of large ornate gates. They opened as we approached into the outer courtyard of one of the main temples. We walked over small bridges, and up to another gate. This had two blokes garbed in ancient warrior armour. As we walked up, they saluted, and the gates began to open.

What a sight. There was a long red carpet leading up to the main temple. Standing on either side had to be 50 warriors. Behind these was about 20 women in full imperial court costume banging away in a complicated rhythm on drums. At the top of the steps leading to the temple where two “Imperial Lions”, each made up of 2 men in Lion costumes. They began a complicated dance down the steps to welcome us. Utterly awe struck we walked up the red carpet and up the steps to find an array of people in black tie serving drinks and canapés.

It was stunning, just stunning. But that wasn’t the end. Once all of the delegates got up to the terrace the last of the drumming went quiet and the doors to the temple opened. Inside ten women played the temple bells, a set of over 100 ancient brass bells, offset with two huge drums. This was the queue to find out tables.

In we went, to this ancient temple, to have dinner. Very nice it was too, and over the course of the evening we were entertained with acrobats, Chinese opera, traditional ballet dancers as well as traditional Chinese dancers, and a martial arts troupe.

Talk about a night to remember. I’ve been to many “gala” dinners over the years, some in stunning locations, some with fantastic entertainment. This one, without a doubt, topped them all.


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