Nostalgia 2 – Donation to “Dear Milu” August – December 1985

In my previous posts, I mentioned that the reintroduction of the Milu generated a lot of enthusiasm and stimulated much needed interest in the topic of wildlife conservation in general among Chinese people.

Among the most touching happenings were the many children’s letters we started receiving at Nan Haizi following the arrival of the first herd (even before they were released from their compulsory quarantine). Children had heard the news on TV or from their parents or teachers and they started sending letters addressed to “Dear Milu”. Many also included their photos.

In her letter dated September 10, 1985, 6-year old Zhang Xiao Hong said that before the Milu returned back home she would have wished she had wings to fly to visit them in England. She shared her thoughts about the deer being so happy to return home after an absence of nearly one hundred years and was asking “Dear Milu” whether they knew why she was writing them this letter: “because today is Teacher Day, and I want to become a biology teacher when I grow up. I will tell my students to love all natural resources in China. Dear Milu, you don’t know but last year, because the bamboo failed to blossom, poor Panda did not have enough food. I felt so sad. But we will not let you leave China again. September 26 is my birthday and I am sending you 2 RMB. I hope the auntie who looks after you can get you some snacks that you like. I am going to visit you one day very soon“.

Another letter came from little Gao Hai Sha, who also said that she loved nature and mentioned that she had never seen a Milu. She was asking if “Dear Milu” looked like the Mei Hua Lu (Sika deer) and wished them a happy stay at the Milu Park.

After the release had taken place, we received many more letters asking the deer to be careful. Lv Bing, calling herself “Milu’s little sister” wrote on October 4: “Now the weather is getting colder, please be careful, don’t get cold. I started collecting pocket money when I was four years old. Now I have RMB 2.6 that I am sending you together with this letter. I hope uncles and aunties who work at the Milu Park will be able to buy you some toys and snacks. Later when I have more money, I will send it to you again.”

1985 Letter Lv Bing

Lv Bing’s letter dated Oct 4th 1985

Nowadays, these amounts may look minuscule (In Beijing, a one-way underground ticket costs 2 RMB) but at that time the selling price of a nice ice cream bar was 5 cents. Therefore the sum of 2 RMB was the equivalent to 40 ice creams. Quite a feast for children!

I do not know what became of these little girls and the many other children who wrote to “Dear Milu” over the years, whether they indeed became biology teachers or eventually worked in connection with nature and animal conservation and protection. But I must say that, each time, it was very heart warming for all of us working on the reintroduction when we received their lovely letters.



Nostalgia November-December 1985

During the stay of the Marquess of Tavistock in Beijing for the release of the Milu at Nan Haizi, several events took place in accordance with Chinese protocol.

The Chinese government hosted an official banquet at the Great Hall of the People the day after he arrived. The host was Vice Premier Li Peng and the Chinese guest list included the Mayor of Beijing (who has the rank of Minister), several ministers and vice ministers as well as other high-ranking officials and experts involved in the reintroduction. Normally, the number of guests is equal (from the host and the guest of honour) and there were approximately 70 people in attendance.

Following the tradition in China, the head table was reserved for VIPs and was larger than the other tables. In this particular case, the circular table (which had a superb floral centrepiece) held 18 guests. I have no recollection of the menu but I remember that there were many toasts in anticipation of the upcoming release of the Milu and that the mood was very joyful.

1-11.10.85 Draft Chinese guest listHandwritten Chinese guest list

2. Marquess of Tavistock welcomed by Li Peng at the Great Hall of the PeopleVice Premier Li Peng welcoming the Marquess of Tavistock 

1.China Environmental News front page article about the meeting between Vice Premier Li Pang and the Marquess of Tavistock Nov. 16, 1985

China Environmental News front page article about the meeting between Vice Premier Li Pang and the Marquess of Tavistock Nov 16, 1985

The following day, the Milu were released at Nan Haizi marking the completion of the reintroduction of the species to China (Please refer to my previous post – Milu reintroduction 3).

Afterwards, a tree planting ceremony was performed by key VIPs including the Marquess of Tavistock, Beijing Vice Mayor Zhang Jian Min and officials from the National Environmental Protection Agency. This ritual was dedicated to the long-term success of the reintroduction and also part of the rehabilitation of the landscape of the Milu Reserve. It was also a way to highlight the importance of what trees would bring to the Reserve throughout their lifetime providing shelter for birds and small animals and participating in the overall Milu Park ecosystem.

3. Planting of trees to celebrate the release of the MiluTree planting ceremony 

Before returning to the UK, the Marquess of Tavistock was ‘expected’ to host a return banquet. He selected the Great Hall of the People as it was the most prestigious venue. In addition to thanking his Chinese hosts for their hospitality and for making the reintroduction a reality, it was THE opportunity for him to thank all the people who made the reintroduction a success story. In total, about 60 guests attended the event.

Among them, I remember with great fondness several great supporters of the project who have now passed away including:

– General Lu Zhen Cao

He made a name for himself during the war against the Japanese army from 1937 to 1945 and became the first Chinese Minister of Railways of the PRC. He helped found and chair the China Milu Foundation in 1985 to support the return of the Milu to China.

He was quite an impressive man, bold, with a fierce look. Once, I said jokingly to Professor Wang Zongyi that, if I did not know him and met him in a dark alley at night, I would be scared and would run away. Eventually, my comments reached him and he laughed. The following time we met, he teased me with a big smile on his face saying that he was so surprised to hear I would run away from him and that, should it ever happen, he would catch me!

I remember the last time I met him, 12 years after the reintroduction. I invited him together with people from Nan Hai Zi who were involved with the initial reintroduction project. He was over 90 at that time but still had a good appetite and he was in high spirits the entire evening. He met Dominic on this occasion and was teasing us about our business partnership hoping that it would not create similar havoc as the ransacking of the old Summer Palace in 1860 by Anglo-French forces (a small explanation: for him, I came from the UK to handle the project and Dominic, being a French national, we were a new Anglo-French force).

At the time of his death in 2009, he was 106 years of age and the last survivor of the original generals of the People’s Liberation Army. It was a great loss for everyone who had the privilege to work with him on this project.

4. Lord Tavistock and General LuExchange of gifts between the Marquess of Tavistock and former Ministry of Railways, General Lu Zhen Cao during the dinner he hosted at the Great Hall of the People]

 – Cui Yue Li

He served as the Beijing Municipal Health Sports Minister and Vice Mayor of Beijing before being appointed to the position of China Health Minister in 1982. I first met him in 1983 at Woburn Abbey and through him I got the letters of invitation that allowed me to come to China in 1984 at the invitation of the Ministry of Health and another one from the Ministry of Forestry. He also organized my research trip to Shanghai in 1984 and was one of the key members of the Milu Foundation.

I remember that on the day I came to China, he organized a welcome banquet to celebrate my arrival and made me promise that I would NEVER ride a bike as it was too dangerous. He was very serious about it and I promised. I believe that in his mind it applied to China as a whole but my promise only concerned Beijing where I have kept my word to this day. However, as some of you who have read other posts on this blog know, I used to ride a bike in Shanghai (see “my first trip to Pudong”) but I never told him.

6. 10.18.83 Letter from China EmbassyLetter from Chinese Embassy

– Bao Er Han, former Vice Chairman of the CPPCC National Committee

He supported the re-introduction from the initial stage and brought invaluable political guanxi to push it over governmental hurdles on many occasions.

Over the years I had the opportunity to meet him and his lovely wife and daughter several times at their home. We spoke Russian together and quite often we talked about Xinjiang (where he came from) and the many places I was dreaming to visit one day.

– Qian Chang Zhao

An Oxford Graduate who had served as secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 1928 to 1929, and senior Vice-Minister of Education from 1930 to 32, he was appointed Vice Chairman of the CPPCC National Committee from 1980 to 1988. He strongly supported the reintroduction and later the translocation of Milu during his tenure as CPPCC Vice Chairman.

In addition to the Milu, we had another strong bond: Oxford. He always wore his college tie during official events and we often talked about the Cherwell, the beautiful Bodleian library and the lifelong camaraderie shared by all students.

5. Lord Tavistock and Mr. QianThe Marquess of Tavistock and Mr. Qian during pre-dinner drinks at the Great Hall of the People

Another person instrumental in the successful reintroduction of the Milu (and the work done since then) who also attended this dinner is Professor Wang Sung from the Institute of Zoology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. I had never contacted him prior to coming to China but I knew that he was representing China at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and I thought that he would be a great asset for the reintroduction project.

Our first contact, a few days after I arrived in Beijing, was very good and he showed great interest in the Milu reintroduction. Over the following months and years, Professor Wang Sung kindly introduced me to many people in various fields and positions who were able to assist us in various ways with the reintroduction.

Over the years, Professor Wang and I became good friends. He invited me to his home where I met his brilliant daughter who eventually went to study in the USA, his son and his wife, who was a fantastic cook. I still remember some of the dishes she used to make such as succulent marrow pancakes. She is a very lovely person, very generous, and as hospitable as her husband. Each time we met it was an absolute feast.

To this day, I still contact and meet Professor Wang at regular intervals to get advice on various issues relating to the Milu and other conservation topics in China and abroad. He was involved with the successful translocation of Milu to Shishou in the 1990s and with the recent master plan (2012-2026) that was compiled by a team of experts to make the Hubei Shishou Milu National Nature Reserve a center of excellence for conservation. Well into his 70s, he is still very active and continues travelling all over China to provide sound advice and support to many environmental and conservation projects.

The people invited by the Marquess of Tavistock on this particular day and many others made the re-introduction of Milu possible despite the fact that, unlike the Panda project, which benefitted from international funding through WWF and overseas conservation organizations, the Milu reintroduction had very limited funding. At that time, China was slowly recovering from the Cultural Revolution that had ended in 1976. Its financial standing was not what it has become 30 years later. The Bedford Family provided critical financial support to cover the cost of transportation of the first herd of Milu from Woburn to Beijing and the staff to ensure that the quarantine would be handled without difficulties.

7. List of deer originally placed in quarantine in WoburnOriginal list of deer placed in quarantine at Woburn Abbey 

Although we worked on a shoestring budget (so to speak), we achieved great success. In December 1985, China Daily reported the two most important achievements of the year. The first was the Sino-British Joint Declaration (for the return of Hong Kong sovereignty to China) that entered into force with the exchange of instruments of ratification on 27 May 1985 and was registered by the People’s Republic of China and United Kingdom governments at the United Nations. And the second was the Milu re-introduction. That was indeed a major accolade.

Milu reintroduction – Continued 4 August – October 1985

The story of the Milu continues from Part 3 (please click here to read):

In the course of preparations for the reintroduction of the Milu, our Team worked at the Beijing Museum of Natural History in Dongcheng District. The architecture of the building does not compare to the distinctive colonial style of the Shanghai Museum of Natural History, but it was the first large scale natural history museum created in China.

Its collections include paleontology, ornithology, mammals and invertebrates and the number of complete large ancient mammal fossils ranks second in the world. The Stegodon zdanskyi (an ancient elephant) is the most famous and precious in the collection. I still remember the all-pervasive smell redolent of moth-balls and cleaning liquid.

The afternoon was the best time to visit the museum as there were fewer visitors and one could truly enjoy oneself. I often wondered whether at night, after all staff had left, the animals were somehow coming back to life and going around the museum. I could visualize the sea shells clicking together while dancing to sea waves …. A bit like in the movie “Night at the Museum”. Quite an eerie feeling.

1. Beijing Museum of Natural HistoryBeijing Museum of Natural History

A team of experts in zoology, paleontology, botany, ecology and animal behaviour and other fields was allocated to the reintroduction project. Professor Wang Zongyi, who is a top calibre zoologist, acted as my counterpart on the Chinese side. There were also people from the farm to which the land of the Milu Park used to belong and I was the only foreign expert. A translator was always with me to ensure that I would know exactly what was done (or not done for that matter).

2. Maria Boyd and Professor Wang ZongyiMaria Boyd and Prof. Wang Zong Yi

My key role was to coordinate all activities and ensure that, despite any potential breakdown in communication and lack of mutual understanding due to cultural differences, we would be able to work together as a Team to create the perfect and safe environment for the Milu upon arrival and once released at Nan Haizi.

After the agreement was signed on July 17, 1985, the final arrangements were made. Two weeks before the deer were supposed to land in Beijing, I flew to London to meet The Marquess of Tavistock to get the final brief. The deer were going to be trucked across the English Channel and then loaded onto an Air France Combi 747 in large crates. At the time, Air France was the only carrier flying 747 Combi to Beijing and it was therefore the best option available. In China, they would make their final journey to Nan Haizi by truck from the Beijing airport.

One week before the deer left the UK, I flew back to Beijing from Paris on a similar flight as the deer would take. At each stop we made (Karachi, Delhi), I had made arrangements to meet the people responsible for providing fresh and clean water for the deer to make sure all would be in order. It worked well.

The Marquess of Tavistock personally oversaw the transfer of the deer to Paris and the loading on to the plane. His eldest son, Lord Howland, travelled with the deer and he was accompanied by the head deer keeper and the person who had been in charge of the quarantine of the deer in the UK.

All arrived safely at the Beijing International Airport on August 24th. After a brief moment of panic when two large crates went “temporarily missing”, and when I had a horrible vision of Milu running on the tarmac with people trying unsuccessfully to catch them, the deer crates were loaded on trucks for the slow two-hour trip to Nan Haizi.

3. 08.24,1985 Arrival of Milu at Beijing airportMilu arrival at Beijing airport 

Chinese regulations required a two-month quarantine before the animals could be released. A special section fenced with bamboo had been set up accordingly and all worked according to plan.

4. Milu Quarantine quarterMilu quarantine quarters at Nan Haizi 

On November 11, 1985, as the cold wind from the North China plains was blowing, the long awaited release took place in the presence of the Marquess of Tavistock, Vice Mayor Zhang Jiangmin, Mr. Qu Geping, Director of the National Environmental Protection Agency, numerous scientists and environmental experts, their families and the media.

Mr. Qu and the Marquess of Tavistock opened the bamboo doors of the quarantine area. At first the deer did not want to leave their warm quarters but some keepers entered and gently nudged them to leave their cozy surroundings.

5. 11.11.1985 Release of Milu at Nan HaiziFinally released! 

Thus after 85 years of absence the Milu had returned back to its homeland. As the Marquess of Tavisotck mentioned rather emotionally: “Returning a herd of these deer to China is something I wanted to do since I was a child – when my grandfather showed them to me and told me their story. It must be a unique exercise in conservation to return a species to virtually the precise spot where it last lived. It is also satisfying to be able to complete the conservation efforts my great grandfather began at the turn of the 19th century”.

Within the next couple of years, the project produced many significant benefits. The reintroduction aroused popular enthusiasm and brought much needed attention to wildlife conservation in general. Birds that had not been seen for many decades started to return to the park such as spoonbills, storks, white egrets and others. And the deer adjusted well to their new environment.

The ultimate hoped-for aim of the reintroduction in Beijing (which was to build up the population of Milu so that eventually sufficient animals would be available for translocation in other parts of the country where they used to live freely in the past) was getting closer to reality. This would eventually take place eight years later in Hubei province, along the Yangtze River. But that is another story.



The Milu: Part 3 – The Reintroduction To China December 1984 – July 1985

The story of The Milu continues from Part 2 (please click here to read).

On December 10th, 1984, I was asked by professor Wang Zongyi to accompany a small group of scientists to the Great Hall of the People to meet Vice Premier Li Peng who was overlooking the reintroduction project for the Central Government. It was my first visit to the Great Hall of the People that had been built 25 years earlier to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of “new” China in 1959. I was very excited (I was incidentally the only foreigner in attendance) as we had been waiting for several months and were expecting to get final approval from the re-introduction during this official meeting.

Cover page of Zhongguo Huanjing Bao dated December 11, 1984 covering the meeting held the day before at the Great Hall of the People.

Cover page of Zhongguo Huanjing Bao dated December 11, 1984 covering the meeting held the day before at the Great Hall of the People.

Our small party was quickly whisked to a traditional VIP room with a U-shape set up of large armchairs. These rooms were (and are still) used for formal meetings between two delegations. The heads of both delegations sit next to each other and their respective delegations are seated according to their ranking, facing each other. The meeting was very brief and confirmed that part of the land where the Imperial Hunting Park in Nan Haizi used to be located (which had become part of the Red Star Sino-North Korea Friendship Peoples’ Commune after 1949) was going to be allocated to the re-introduction project. The approval of the Central Government was the last hurdle to pass in order for the project to materialize.

Soon after, farm workers started working on the demolition of a pig farm and a couple of tree nurseries. Simultaneously, grass was planted, nine fresh water wells were dug and a small lake cleaned up. The exact boundary of the new Milu Park was also finalized and a 2.5-meter high wall had to be built.

Nan Haizi Milu Park location.

Nan Haizi Milu Park location.

Confirmed boundary of the Milu Park at Nan Haizi.

Confirmed boundary of the Milu Park at Nan Haizi.

One day, I was very surprised to ‘discover’ around 400 People’s Liberation Army soldiers starting the construction of the wall! It took them 100 days to finish the 2.2-mile long wall. The scene was finally set for the homecoming of the Milu. In the meantime, following the green light given by Vice Premier Li Peng, Lord Tavistock directed the head deer keeper at the Woburn Deer Park to catch about 40 Milu to place them in quarantine. They would be the first batch of animals to return to China in late August 1985.

Construction of the wall at Nai HaiziConstruction of the wall at Nanhaizi Milu Park

A draft agreement specifying the terms of partnership between the Marquess of Tavistock and the Milu Reintroduction Group of the People’s Republic of China was established and signed on February 27th, 1985 leading the way for the final arrangements to take place. On the Chinese side, several agencies at State and Beijing Municipal levels were involved in the reintroduction including the National Environmental Protection Agency, the Chinese Society of Environmental Science, the Beijing Municipal Science and Technology Commission, the Chinese Society of Zoology, and the Beijing Museum of Natural History.

It would take four more months to have the final agreement finalized. It was signed on July 17th, 1985 both in the UK and in China simultaneously.

Lord Tavistock and the Chinese Ambassador to the UK signing the Reintroduction Agreement on July 17th, 1985 at the China Embassy in London.

Lord Tavistock and the Chinese Ambassador to the UK signing the Reintroduction Agreement on July 17th, 1985 at the China Embassy in London.

Cover of the original signed agreement between “The Milu Reintroduction Group of the People’s Republic of China” and the “Marquess of Tavistock”.

Cover of the original signed agreement between “The Milu Reintroduction Group of the People’s Republic of China” and the “Marquess of Tavistock”.

The pledge to return the Milu to China made by Lord Tavistock when he was 13 years old had become a reality!




The Milu: Part 2 – Summer 1984

Further to my first post on The Milu (please click here to read), here is the continuing story….. 

In the early 1980s, The Chinese government put two animals on their list of top endangered species to save: the Panda and the Milu deer. From that time, and without any doubt, the most loved and the most money-spinning animal in China was, and remains today, the Panda.

In 1984, I befriended an animal activist whom I nicknamed “Miss Panda”. One day, she took me to meet a famous Chinese painter, Mr. Wu Zouren who just finished a series of Panda paintings. He had created one collection of 1,000 paintings – each numbered and autographed, as it was believed that there were only 1000 Pandas left in the wild.

Despite all my efforts, and no matter how hard many scientists, researchers and I tried, the lovable Milu remained a distant second. No artist ever created a collection of Milu paintings.

And for the 2008 Olympics, the Milu was not used as a mascot despite the fact that it was successfully reintroduced in Beijing after a hiatus of some 85 years in China.

In the West, we know the Milu as Pere David’s deer, named after the famous French Lazarist missionary, Pere Armand David, who discovered it while looking over the high walls surrounding the Imperial Hunting Park at Nan Haizi. Pere David was born in a small town in French Pyrenees called Espelette (the famous Espelette peppers come from there).

Pere Armand David

Pere Armand David

The story began in China in 1864 when, on one of Pere David’s frequent trips out of Beijing, he saw, as he described it in his diary, an animal resembling a deer but with strange features. It is interesting to note that Pere David’s interest in zoology and botany was such that he enriched the flora and fauna with some 58 species of birds, some 100 species of insects and several species of mammals including the Panda, the Golden Monkey and the deer that now bears his name.

He mentioned the discovery of this “strange” looking animal to the Director of the Natural History Museum in Paris. When his official request to collect samples failed, he resorted to a stratagem.

In his diary he penned: “Luckily, I know some Tartar soldiers who are going to do guard duty in this park and I am sure that I shall get hold of a few skins”. Sure enough, he got soon thereafter, some skins and bones of a male and a female.

As soon as he was able to, he sent these findings to Paris where the Director of the Natural History Museum, Mr. Alphonse Milne-Edwards, named the deer in honour of the French missionary, Pere David’s deer.

In China, one of the names given to this deer is “si bu xiang” (or the “four un-alikes”) as it has the antlers of a deer, neck of a camel, hooves of a cow and tail of a donkey. Another name is Milu, meaning deer that lives in swampy areas. It is almost certain that at the time of discovery of the Milu for western science, the deer had been extinct for some 1500 years in the wild. The last herd of approximately 120 animals lived only in the Imperial Hunting Park at Nan Haizi.

According to ancient legends, great things are foretold when a white Milu is in a herd. But it is said that when a pregnant lady sees the Milu the child may be born with four eyes.

There are many such legends ……… As a child, Emperor Qian Long of the Qing Dynasty was so impressed by a spectacular set of Milu antlers he saw at the Palace Armoury (shot apparently by his grandfather), that he later demanded to know where these antlers came from. He was amazed to hear that they came from his own Hunting Park at Nan Haizi and he was so moved that he inscribed on one of the antlers the deer’s antler cycle.

In 1894, the river that ran through the Park flooded. The walls around the park were damaged and the deer escaped to the surrounding countryside. It is believed that, by the turn of the century, none had survived.

However, there were a few specimens left in zoological gardens in Europe. Herbrand, the 11th Duke of Bedford, heard about the fate of the Milu in China from his animal purveyor, Mr. Hagenbaeck. He instructed him to buy all the deer spread around Europe and bring them to his estate at Woburn Abbey. Thus the remaining 18 Milu were released on some 3000 acres of wooded grassland with scattered lakes at Woburn Abbey Park.

Herbrand, 11th Duke of Bedford

Herbrand, 11th Duke of Bedford

Herbrand and his family later managed a successful captive breeding program for the species over several decades saving the Milu from extinction. Under the watchful eyes of the 11th, 12th and 13th Dukes of Bedford, and then the Marquess of Tavistock (who later became the 14th Duke of Bedford), a large herd of Milu was roaming freely at the Woburn Deer Park, 45 miles north of London.

Milu at Woburn Abbey

Milu at Woburn Abbey

In 1981-82, Lord Tavistock responded positively to preliminary enquiries from the Chinese government about the possible reintroduction of the Milu back to its homeland. This is how I came into the picture.  At that time, I was studying animal behaviour and ecology at Oxford University focusing on the Pere David Deer at the Woburn Abbey Deer Park.

I first became interested in deer while living with my family in Slovakia in the wild Carpatian Mountains where my father was Director of a Research Center. The station was in the middle of “nowhere” and I used to watch wild deer coming out of the forest to feed on alfalfa that was grown for rabbits. Every evening in the late spring, summer and early autumn, I used to go with the night watchman, whom we called ‘dedko Vidovic’ (grandfather Vidovic) to graze the goats and, during these evenings, he told me countless stories about deer and other wild animals.

I remember one evening he told me that the deer come out of the forest early morning, around four o’clock and graze in the field. I immediately asked him to wake me up at 4 am the following morning but “forget” to mention this to my parents when I returned home. True to his promise, dedko climbed to the first floor of the building where we lived banging on empty metallic drums to wake me up. My father jumped out of bed not knowing what happened asking dedko whether anything bad had happened. Dedko simply said that he just came to wake me up to see the deer grazing.

Before anyone could say no, I was dressed and out we went. We slowly and quietly walked to be closer to the deer. Dedko had a thermos bottle of warm tea, and thus we sat down behind a bush watching these magnificent deer as they grazed. Dedko was supposed to beat the metallic drum to scare them so they would not eat all the alfalfa but they were so spectacular that I begged him to let them feed.

Back to 1983-84: After successful initial contacts between the Chinese Government and the Bedford family, unforeseen difficulties from the British side had to be ironed out for things to proceed. Indeed, the British Government and a large international conservation organisation were keen to handle the reintroduction themselves.

Marquess of Tavistock, later the 14th Duke of Bedford.

Marquess of Tavistock, later the 14th Duke of Bedford.

The Marquess of Tavistock remained firm and said that he would work on this project to fulfil the wish he made several decades earlier when he heard the Milu story for the first time from his grandfather: to bring the Pere David’s Deer to China.

The reintroduction was moving forward.

Me, with the Milu sign given during the signing ceremony of letter of intent,

Me, with the Milu sign given during the signing ceremony of letter of intent.



RED Revolution At Gevrey …. And In China

New Contributor

Please allow me to introduce my business associate and friend, Dominic Bauquis, who will start contributing to this blog.  Dominic came to China in 1994 and he “fell in love” with the country as I did 10 years earlier. He will share his thoughts, interests and experience and you will find his posts under Today’s China and Culinary Journeys & Wine Roads. I hope that you will find his first post (placed below) of interest.

Maria Boyd

RED Revolution At Gevrey …. And In China

Gevrey-Chambertin wines are among the most famous produced in Burgundy, one of the few regions in the world where the diversity of red wines is not based on growing a plethora of grape varieties, but only pinot noir (and gamay in specific areas), and where subtle differences in soils, hillside exposures and weather translate into very different wines.

In contrast to Bordeaux where international investors have established a strong presence for decades, the Burgundy region is made of relatively small estates run by winemakers whose properties are mostly passed down from generation to generation.


Foreign ownership is relatively rare but it is changing fast with Chinese buyers leading the way. Last year (2013), Louis Ng, the long-serving chief operating officer of Macau gambling tycoon’s Stanley Ho’s SJM Holdings, snapped a deal for an unprecedented 8 million Euros making headlines in the region. His target was a 900-year old estate in the hand of the Masson family since the mid 19th century.

It was the first high-profile estate to be sold to a Chinese billionaire in the region, which made this deal controversial among local winemakers. Similar deals are most likely to happen again in the future keeping in mind that more than 40 wine-growing properties in Bordeaux were sold to Chinese personalities and investors over the past several years including Château du Grand Mouëys to tycoon Jin Shan Zhang and Château Monlot to Chinese film star Zhao Wei.

Gevrey Vineyard

Gevrey Vineyard

It must be noted that wine consumption in China is increasing considerably and has doubled twice in the last five years.  Drinking (mostly red) wine is now trendy and upscale restaurants (regardless of the food they serve) now offer extensive wine lists covering old and new worlds and Chinese wines.

Indeed, domestic production has increased four times over the past 10 years and international wine groups are increasingly present in this market. Initially, joint ventures were created to start vineyards from scratch. Bordeaux’s “Taillan Group” was one of the first to start red wine production in the mid-1990s in the vicinity of the Great Wall, north of Beijing. Last year, “Moet Hennessy”, announced a plan to start producing sparkling wine on a new 60-hectare vineyard in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. They are also planning to produce red wine in Yunnan Province. Another heavyweight, “Les Domaines Barons de Rothschild”, is developing production in Shandong Province.

Vineyard in Ningxia, China.

Vineyard in Ningxia.

Changyu is the oldest and largest Chinese wine maker. It was founded in Yantai (Shandong Province) in 1892 by Zhang Bishi, a high-ranking Chinese diplomat. Today, In Yantai alone, the company has more than 5,000 hectares of vineyards spread along the city’s coastal areas, which lie on a latitude similar to that of Bordeaux’s wine-producing region.

Chateau Changyu-Castel in Yantai.

Chateau Changyu-Castle in Yantai.

China is now the fifth largest producer of wine in the world. The way the country will be able to produce high quality wines in the future will be a fascinating process to observe. For sure, the market has a huge potential for growth (domestic production and import). It is expected to increase by 40% within the next three to four years to reach over 400 million unit cases. It would make China the largest global wine consumer in the world!

Dominic Bauquis     


Celeriac Recipes From Slovakia

Celeriac is one of my favourite root vegetables and, in last month’s issue of New Western Cuisine, I was pleasantly surprised to discover Chef Xu Long’s article presenting this healthy vegetable.

Although poorly considered by many people, Celeriac has considerable health benefits as a source of iron, anti-oxidants, vitamin C and polyacetylene, therefore helping the body improve immunity, blood production and resistance against diseases.

I come from Slovakia where we use celeriac mostly in autumn and winter. Here are two family recipes, one from my niece Beatka and one from my mother who was a great cook. It was always a feast for the family to meet at her home and I still regret that we did not sit with her and asked her to write the “Jolanka Maarova cookbook”.


(Serves 3 to 4 persons)

Beatka's Breaded Fried Celeriac

Beatka’s Breaded Fried Celeriac


  • 6 small to medium sized celeriac bulbs
  • 10 tbsp. flour
  • 1.5 tsp. pepper
  • 3/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp of sweet paprika
  • 1 cup fine breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp. dried parsley or 2 tbsp of fresh chopped parsley
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil, or as needed
  • 2 slices of lemon 


– Peel and slice celeriac into ½ inch rounds. Immediately rub with slice of lemon to avoid discoloration.

– Steam rounds until just tender (must remain slightly crunchy), cool by immersing into ice water, then drain.

– Prepare your mise-en-place consisting of:

– Flour, pepper and salt

– Breadcrumbs, paprika and parsley

– Eggs well beaten (I normally add some milk or cream)

– Heat oil in skillet (there should be about half a centimeter on the bottom of the frying pan).

– Dip each celeriac round (both sides) first into flour mixture, then beaten egg, then breadcrumbs. Fry until golden brown, then flip and fry on the other side. Put on kitchen paper towel to absorb extra oil.

– Serve immediately with lemon wedges, parsley pesto and potato salad.


(Serves 4 persons) 

Fillet Of Beef With Heavy Cream “A la Mami Maarova”

Fillet Of Beef With Heavy Cream “A la Mami Maarova”


  • 2lb of beef (sirloin or filet)
  • 2 or 3 strips of bacon
  • 4 carrots
  • 1 celeriac (can be replaced by parsnip or root of parsley)
  • 2 cups of red wine (medium dry)
  • 1 onion
  • 1 stalk of celery
  • lemon
  • cumin seeds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 peppercorns
  • 2 cups of heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp of Dijon mustard

Method (over 3 days)

Day 1

– Peel and cut the celeriac, carrots and the celery in small chunks (1/2 cm each)

– Cook, along with black pepper, cumin, bay leaf and a slice of lemon, in 2 cups of water for about 2 minutes after the water comes to a boil.

– While the vegetables are cooling down, prepare the meat. Rinse it and dry it off with paper towels and then, using a sharp knife, cut slits all around. Insert bacon bits into the openings and season the meat (salt and pepper).

– Place the meat in a container together with the cold vegetables, the onion (cut in half), the peppercorns and add the red wine. Add more water if needed so that at least half of the meat is covered.

– Cover and place in the refrigerator for 48 hours. Turn the meat periodically to get it marinated on both sides.

Day 3

– Take the marinated meat out of the container.

– Heat up oil in a large pot, then lightly brown the meat on all sides.

– Chop up the onion and fry in the oil until it becomes glassy. Then add the rest of the vegetables and about a cup of the marinade.

– Cover and let it simmer for about one hour and a half. Add more marinade as needed to ensure that the meat remains wet.

– Check that the meat feels soft. Take it out and slice it.

– Prepare the sauce by blending the vegetables in the marinade and add heavy cream and Dijon mustard. Adjust the seasoning and let it warm up for 3 minutes.

– Serve with cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes on the side.