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Chinese culture needs worldwide influence to maintain vitality

By Zhao Qizheng (People's Daily Overseas Edition)

16:38, September 05, 2011

Edited and translated by People's Daily Online

History and reality have proven that the prosperity of a country starts from the vitality of its culture. Only when the culture of a country accounts for a certain proportion of world culture can the country be a big cultural country, and only big cultural countries can become great world powers.

In Western history, three supreme powers of the Roman Empire, British Empire and United States once appeared. The common thread among the three powers is that they not only took hard power, such as the mighty economic and military strength, as their material foundations but also utilized soft power, such as prosperous culture, as their spirit foundations.

China is one of the original sources of human civilization. China's ancient cultures, such as the Four Great Inventions, once made great contributions to the world. However, in the past hundreds of years, China gradually fell behind, and China's cultural exchanges with the outside world were severely imbalanced.

After the New China was founded, especially after the reform and opening-up, China's situation of cultural exchanges and transmission improved gradually, but the imbalance of cultural exchanges has still not fundamentally shifted. Meanwhile, the export of foreign cultures to China has continued to strengthen. Without question, if China wants to be a powerful socialist country, its politics, economy and culture must develop simultaneously.

Culture is a living entity. Only if it develops, can it have a sustainable vigor, and only if it spreads, can it be influential, and it can also develop in the process of spreading. People often say that the more the culture and art are national, the more they are international. Actually, this kind of opinion is not quite right and easily leads to laziness. Without active and effective cross-border cultural transmission, a culture will not be shared by the world no matter how outstanding it is.

Foreigners used to learn about China mainly through books written by Marco Polo, Matteo Ricci and other non-Chinese authors. These authors played an important role in introducing China to the world, but some of their views were one-sided and even pure prejudice against Chinese culture. As only a few internationally influential books about China were written by Chinese authors, contemporary Chinese people have a natural duty to make up lost time and increase efforts to introduce Chinese culture to the world.

Rich cultural diversity is a basic feature of today's world, and it is the differences that make cultures more beautiful. Every culture is a wonderful flower in the "world garden of cultures," and exchanges among different cultures can promote mutual understanding and prosperity. China should enhance the vitality of its culture by increasing overseas publicity efforts.

A carrier of culture will not be popular worldwide if it is unpopular in its own country. For example, Chinese Kung Fu has been extremely popular in China and thus fascinated the world, while the Peking Opera does not enjoy much popularity among contemporary Chinese youth. China should make practical efforts to foster the people's interest in the Peking Opera, both at home and abroad, in hopes that someday this art form will be as popular in the West as the Western opera is in China.

We have to remind ourselves that we cannot rely on our ancestors' achievements or share their glory forever. Culture is not a fossil that is priceless for its long history. Culture is also not a historical relic that can be evaluated only for its high archaeological value. Culture needs to maintain its vitality in development and dissemination.

During the cross-cultural communication, we should respect the cultures of other countries, especially the advanced parts and then we can learn from each other and improve ourselves. For instance, China has passed several periods of absorbing foreign cultures in history, which had good social effects, such as the introduction of Buddhism and the trend of Western learning in China that started in the Ming dynasty.

A typical example is the introduction of Marxism, which laid a theoretical foundation for the Communist Party of China. If we ignore the cultural differences, we may encounter many obstacles in communication, and if we discriminate against other cultures, we cannot avoid conflicts, or even wars. These are nothing new.

Thus, to shape a tolerant attitude towards culture is to form the most advanced culture that can achieve the world peace and harmony. The long harmonious coexistence of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoist in China can be regarded as a good example.


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