On 13th October 2016, the exhibition co-organized by China Cultural Centre in Malta and the Centre of International Cultural Exchange Dialogue Across Time and Space – Homage on the 400th Anniversary of the Death of Tang Xianzu and William Shakespeare, was Inaugurated at Malta`s most prestigious academic institution, The University of Malta. H.E. Jiang Jiang, the Ambassador of the People`s Republic of China to Malta; Prof. Dominic Fenech, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, University of Malta (UOM); Dr James Corby Head of the Department of English at UOM; Prof. Anthony Frendo, Co-Director of the Confucius Institute at UOM; Mr Salvatore Giuffre`, Assistant Lecturer of Oriental Studies in the Faculty of Arts at UOM and Mr Tony Cassar Darien, Artistic Director of Mediterranean Conference Centre in Malta, were present at the event. Mr Wang Yanjun, Director of China Cultural Centre in Malta, Dr James Corby and Prof Anthony Frendo each delivered speeches at the Inauguration Ceremony.
During his speech, Mr Wang Yanjun mentioned that this was the first time that China Cultural Centre in Malta and the University of Malta co-organize a cultural exchange activity, extending his sincere gratitude to various UOM Departments and staff who contributed to the project. He added that Tang Xianzu is a one of the great literary scholars and philosophers of China, and a landmark in the development of Chinese literature. Moreover, Tang Xianzu is regarded as the Eastern counterpart of Shakespeare in the Western World, and these two colossal literary figures were contemporaries. Mr Wang described Tang Xianzu`s works as being vibrant with the essence of Humanism, conveying the ethical pursuit that defined Chinese people for hundreds of years, thus crossing time and space – across the world and over the centuries – and endowing his masterpieces with timeless and boundless beauty, as with Shakespeare. He went on to say that all are gathered to recall these great masters, discuss their works, explore their thoughts and express high respect to their magnificent masterpieces. In doing so, dialogue and mutual growth through cultural exchange, as that which thrives between China and Malta, also reach higher ground. Mr Wang concluded by expressing his wish that the exhibition and lecture on this occasion would act as a springboard for further collaboration with The University of Malta.
Dr James Corby, Head of the Department of English at UOM, presented a speech showcasing the value of Tang Xianzu`s and Shakespeare`s contribution to Eastern and Western literature, as well as World Literature. He pointed out that although they emerged from disparate cultural backgrounds, their works communicate universal qualities and pursuits of mankind, and thus transcend temporal and spatial differences. Dr Corby also highlighted the importance of cross-cultural comparative analysis from a literary perspective, as it enhances understanding of ourselves and the world which we share, as well as encourages us to question previous notions, interpretations and experiences, from a new perspective. Dr Corby concluded with appreciation for the fact that this exhibition creates such opportunities, allowing us to encounter the confluence of cultures.
Prof. Anthony Frendo, Co-Director of the Confucius Institute at UOM, and Professor in Near Eastern Archaeology and the Hebrew Bible, Department of Oriental Studies at UOM, shared his views on comparison of Eastern and Western Literature in a socio-historic context, by supporting his narrative with examples of representative figures of both literary domains, revealing influential elements in their cultural formation and course of development. Prof Frendo stated that as literary Masters of the same epoch, Tang Xianzu and William Shakespeare are coincidences of history, as well as products of a common era; they are the ingenious creators of theatrical dramas which were influenced by similarities in the societies from which they were conceived. He continued to explain that the works of these two playwrights do not set out to represent a personalized vision and artistic conception, but rather reflect aspects of two concurrent civilizations across their stratified societies. Prof Frendo brought his speech to a close with the analogy that Tang Xianzu and Shakespeare connect the East and West of the world of Arts across time and space, just as the Silk Road linked trade routes of the Eastern and Western hemispheres.
Following the Inauguration Ceremony, Prof Lu Jiande Director of Institute of Literature at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), delivered a specialty lecture titled “Tang Xianzu and His World & the Story of a Contemporary Shakespeare ”. Prof Lu Jiande presented an analysis of Tang Xianzu`s Peony Pavillion from the perspective of World Literature, explicating how it fosters fact and reason despite the elements of Fantasy it entertains. He also drew attention to features which indicate new approaches to representation of romantic love, which depart from Chinese social and literary conventions at the time, indicating the earliest signs of “globalization” in Chinese literature. Professor Lu Jiande stated that this epitomizes the unique contribution of Tang Xianzu`s works to the Canon of Classical Chinese Literature. After the seminar, Prof Lu Jiande answered questions put forward by the participants and interacted with academic staff and scholars.
The Exhibition Dialogue Across Time and Space features a variety of audio-visual media, including video, 3D Reality simulation, textual narrative and sound effects which synergize to transpose visitors to a time and place where the world portrayed once existed, some 400 years ago. In this way it gives a comprehensive and authentic experience by which to appreciate the two timeless literary Masters and their works. The Exhibition is divided into three categories which relate the story of Tang Xianzu, serve as a synopsis of his works and a window in to the ultimate gem of Chinese dramatic theatre – Kunqu Opera. These are: “Age and Legend”, “Dream and Reality” and “From Me to Tang Xianzu”.
The seminar at University of Malta was a new cultural exchange initiative as well as an innovative addition to China Cultural Centre`s “Chinese Culture on Campus” branded series of activities, marking the first time CCC has fulfilled aspirations to collaborate with Malta`s most prestigious academic institution. The combination of two charismatic historical figures, colourful display and vivid interaction with modern technology forged an appealing and literal rendition of “crossing and space”, offering local youth and public visitors a window into Chinese culture, and the prospects that it offers.
Translated by Aida Daoud Bushra