Beacon in Asia. Waldorf teachers’ conference in Emeishan/China

By Petra Eimermacher, October 2017

The Asian Waldorf Teachers Conference (AWTC), being held for the seventh time, met in Emeishan/China from 28 April to 5 May 2017, one-and-a-half hours by car from the Chengdu with its millions of inhabitants, surrounded by luscious vegetation and bounded in the west by the mountains of Tibet.

I took part in the conference for the first time as an English tutor in middle school and am still overwhelmed by this beacon of Waldorf education.

Almost 900 people – above all from the Asian countries – had come together in the early summer weather to work together on the subject of “Cultural Identity and Individualisation in Educational Practice”. Nana Goebel from the Friends of Waldorf Education and Li Zhang from the Chengdu Waldorf School had prepared the meeting in meticulously for more than a year. Thus we experienced perfect organisation – in all the educational fields of work, the administration and the management of the state hotel situated in nature on the banks of a river.

After the morning’s tai chi and the joint singing with Philipp Reubke from the International Kindergarten Association, the stage was given over to Christof Wiechert, former head of the Pedagogical Section at the Goetheanum. His lectures always started with a greeting in Chinese – notwithstanding his Dutch accent – to the great amusement of our Chinese hosts.

His remarks about child development were full of descriptions of touching and funny experiences from his time as a teacher. Wiechert showed the way in which high quality Waldorf education can be realised: he appealed to joint responsibility on the one hand and the clear task of the individual on the other and encouraged everyone to build bridges with the surroundings and other teaching methods; also to remain true to our convictions in the mirror of the spiritual world. With his lecture cycle he rounded off his fourteen-year development work for the Asian Waldorf movement.

Fifty-five workshops offered fundamentals and subject-specific material from kindergarten and school. Each tutor was accompanied by a translator or assistant so that the seminar work went smoothly.

Everyone worked in a voluntary capacity yet a priceless treasure was bestowed on us: everyone worked together with great openness, interest, pleasure and gratitude! Innumerable wonderful encounters and conversations enriched our stay! There could not be more activity in a beehive!

The forums in the late afternoon and the following diverse cultural presentations from the various Asian cultural spheres gave us an insight into the bigger picture: the agility with which the Thais jumped over the undulating bamboo poles, the suppleness of the movements of the Malaysians to their drum beats!

In the discussion groups, Nana Goebel demonstrated the number of English “dialects” she understood! The microphone was passed backwards and forwards at great speed. Was that English just now? Or Indian? Or Thai? She understood, clarified and summarised what was said with much understanding for our hosts and humour. Here indefatigable energy and clarity, her pleasure in the happy and productive work together were impressive.

A particular thank you is due to the organisers of the welcome and evening programme. We enjoyed singing and eurythmy, a wonderful flute concert, the magnificent theatre performances of Beijing opera and Berthold Brecht’s The Good Woman of Setzuan by the pupils from Chengdu – Chinese perfectionism!

Also outstanding was the work of the music teacher from Zhuhai, a Taiwanese conductor who decided to join the Chuntong school because there, as he said, the children were not deprived of their innocence.

The sensitivity and love with which this conductor worked with the 10 to 14-year-old pupils in the string orchestra was impressive. Extracts from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons und Bizet’s Carmen formed the highlight and conclusion of that evening. AWTC in Chengdu 2017 – an unforgettable experience!

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