Global Times: First World Conference of Sinologists held in Beijing, takes aim at cultural connections

BEIJING, July 5, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a congratulatory letter on Monday to the third Dialogue on Exchanges and Mutual Learning among Civilizations, which also marks the first World Conference of Sinologists.

The event, which gathered 77 sinologists from 61 countries, set its sights on research into the origins of Chinese culture and history, while jointly implementing the Global Civilization Initiative.

Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, said that in the long course of human history, various nations have created civilizations with their own characteristics and symbols, and equal exchanges and mutual learning among different civilizations will provide strong spiritual guidance for mankind to solve the problems of the times and achieve common development.

He stressed that China is willing to work with all parties to advocate the universal values of peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy and freedom, and implement the Global Civilization Initiative.

Xi said cultural exchanges will transcend estrangement, mutual learning will transcend clashes, and coexistence will transcend feelings of superiority so that human civilizations can make progress.

He called on sinologists from all over the world, as a bridge that links China and other civilizations, to make more efforts to enhance understanding, friendship and cooperation between China and the world.

With the theme “Implement the Global Civilization Initiative and jointly promote modernization,” the opening ceremony of the conference was held at the new China National Archives of Publications and Culture in Beijing. A newly built “seed bank” for Chinese culture, the archives will play a huge role in the inheritance and preservation of Chinese civilization.

Over the past several years, China has placed increasing importance on sinology. In March 2022, worldwide sinologists gathered to hold the first General Assembly of the World Council of Sinologists. Over 200 experts joined the council.

Xu Baofeng, convener of the World Council of Sinologists and a professor with the School of Humanities at Beijing Language and Culture University, told the Global Times that sinologists are proficient in languages, have a deep understanding of Chinese culture and play a special role in connecting Chinese civilization with its foreign counterparts.

“First, sinologists help bridge the cognitive gap between Chinese and foreigners. Second, sinologists are the link between languages, like a ferryman of communication. They are spreaders of Chinese culture. They interpret difficult notions, dispel prejudices and make it easier for foreigners to assimilate Chinese culture,” said Xu.

“The profound interaction between civilizations is beyond language. It’s academic exchange and ideological clashes. No one can compare with sinologists, because the latter group has the ability to turn superficial interaction into profound communication,” he said.

Eliminating prejudice

For years, experts have said that sinologists play an indispensable role as a bridge connecting China and the rest of the world through cultural communication and eliminating prejudice.

For Zhang Xiping, a professor at Beijing Foreign Language University, this can be achieved through literature translation, especially with the efforts of sinologists.

“Whether it is ancient Chinese classics or contemporary literary works, sinologists have always been the main force in translation,” Zhang noted.

German sinologist Martin Woesler, who translated Cao ­Xueqin’s Dream of the Red Chamber and other profoundly influential classic Chinese literary works, said he also believes that the best way to understand a country is to read literature.

“One should understand China through the eyes of Chinese people,” he told the Global Times in an interview.

“Literature is an important point in the exchange of lives. When you dive deep into a piece of Chinese literature, you even switch lives with a Chinese protagonist. What else is a better way to overcome prejudices than to be a part of another society and culture?”

The history of sinology can be traced back to hundreds of years ago.

From Matteo Ricci, the Italian missionary who made important contributions to exchanges between China and Italy, to US Chinese historian John King Fairbank, experts in sinology delve into all aspects of Chinese culture. They try to present every part of China through their own eyes in journals and books for overseas audiences.

For Italian sinologist Gabriella Bonino, giving Italy a full picture of China through intangible cultural heritage is of the utmost importance.

Since 2020, Bonino has visited hundreds of intangible inheritors who are experts on subjects such as Song Dynasty (960-1279) lacquer products to wooden movable-type printing. She released her findings in the 100,000-word book 64 Rui’an Intangible Cultural Heritages.

“My objective is to provide Italians with a comprehensive grasp of China. Italy, like China, is an old civilization. However, as far as I can tell, Italy’s comprehension of China is still on the surface of the ocean, where a deep, thorough and full understanding is quite unusual,” Bonino told the Global Times.

Peruvian sinologist Patricia Castro Obando focuses her study on the ­Hakka people (many of whom migrated to Peru 100 years ago) and their lives in both China and Peru.

As a PhD in Anthropology, Obando told the Global Times that by researching this special group of people, she hopes to build a bridge between China and Peru as well.

Other sinologists, including Mexican professor Liljana Arsovska and Egyptian professor Abdel Aziz Hamdi, also gave keynote speeches at the opening ceremony.

“The aim of gathering sinologists from around the world is to break the isolation created due to language barriers,” Xu added.

SOURCE Global Times

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