Cultural Exchange

Culture speaks for itself

A nation’s cultural character, traits of its people and style of handling things are always embedded in its history, development course, and daily details.

Recently, At the Feet of Tian Shan, a documentary about Xinjiang people’s daily life, was played at Hobby Center for the Performing Arts in Huston, the USA. The film was so popular that all hundreds of seats in that room were taken. “I never knew that Xinjiang is so beautiful and diverse!” exclaimed some American audience. Obviously, culture is powerful enough to bridge different nations.

The week-long “Experiencing China” event was held in Huston and Miami. From films to photos, costumes, musical instruments, the exhibitions invited the local to experience western China’s profound culture and charm. In this process, China’s image became more vivid and diverse.

In Miami, a pair of elderly American couple looked closely at every piece of the displayed Chinese musical instruments, bending occasionally towards them to study their inside structure. This was the first time they had ever seen with their eyes eastern instruments that differed completely from western ones--pianos, violins, etc. A teacher of local high school came with 10 of his students, “It’s important for American students to have a comprehensive view on China because China is now a major country in the world.” The local may have the chance to visit China one day, but through these images they can experience China’s magnificent scenery and colorful customs in advance. Due to this event, China’s presence is improved, and a solid foundation for mutual understanding and trust is laid.

To walk the walk is better than to talk the talk. A country needs actions rather than grandiose words to export its culture. Last year, some traditional art performances from different parts of China were brought on a cruise ship. The Ansai waist drum show from Shanxi embodies the simplicity and honesty of people in west China. Yue opera The Butterfly Lovers presents the gentleness of south China. Sichuan Opera exhibits the enthusiasm and openness of Sichuan people. After the cruise, many foreign passengers felt the urge to visit China with their eyes. No doubt that if we plant a seed of interest at the right time and in proper ways, with time, it will naturally bud, bloom and bear fruit. The ‘fruit’, in this case, is cultural exchange.

As China plays an increasingly vital role in the world, more and more foreigners want to have in-depth knowledge of this eastern country. Culture exchange is universally regarded as the optimal vehicle to bridge the distance, physically and mentally, between two sides. I once showed several foreign reporters around China -- the ancient wisdom lying under the Forbidden City and the Great Wall; the modernness carried by Fuxing Bullet Train; the taste of life in Shanghai’s lanes... Within one week, they overturned their old impressions of China, which had been distorted by western media, “Chinese people are diligent, friendly and gentle, and Chinese culture is inclusive.” A nation’s cultural character, traits of its people and style of handling things are always embedded in its history, development course, and daily details. You will not be deceived by one-sided descriptions only when you have a profound understanding of a country and the world.

However far we are, we share same sources of water. Culture is the sensitive description of a nation’s nature. Culture is invisible, tender as water, yet touching and facilitates everything. Culture speaks for itself. If fine cultures are given more access for exchange, all peoples will enjoy a more profound spiritual life and a future with more options. (Original article from People’s Daily, translated by Xiang Yueyi with the Cultural Exchange Organization of Presenting China to the World)