SHANGHAI: Backed by an orchestra of traditional instruments playing the famous Chinese tune Jasmine, the annual Christmas celebrations for foreign prisoners got under way at Shanghai Qingpu Prison yesterday morning.
"This is my first Christmas here," said a Russian prisoner named Dimitray, one of the musicians in the orchestra.
"I've enjoyed preparing and participating in the event and, even though I'm away from home, I still can feel the Christmas spirit here."
Almost 30 prisoners from 22 countries made up the orchestra, which also performed an original composition entitled Happiness of Rebirth.
Rehearsals had run for six months, with instruments including the erhu fiddle, dulcimer, cymbal and drums.
The celebration also included a quiz on guoxue, or Chinese classics, as well as an exhibition of Celtic Cross stitch embroidery, and programs related to Peking opera and tai chi. About 60 prisoners have attended classes in guoxue.
"I've learnt benevolence, justice, manner, wisdom and trust from Analects of Confucius and the Art of War this year. Those traditional theories taught me how to be calm and become a better man when I leave prison in the future," said Roger, a Nigerian prisoner.
Qingpu prison has 110 foreign prisoners from 37 countries.
"Most of our foreign prisoners mainly violated international drug laws and need to serve at least 12 years in prison. We try our best to support them mentally so that they can spend meaningful time in the prison in a Chinese atmosphere," said Lu Zheng, a senior prison officer.
"The Christmas celebration is specially designed for them."