太湖世界文化论坛

《Paris Summit》

Keynote Speech of Chairman Yan Zhaozhu of Taihu World Cultural Forum in General Meeting

The Eternal Channel for Cultural Communications Between China and Western Countries

-Written on the Occasion of Convening 2014 Paris Summit of Taihu World Cultrual Forum

Yan Zhaozhu

More than 2000 years ago, Zhang Qian in Han Dynasty travelled to the west and opened up a new era of communications between China and the rest of the world, after going through many hardships. Since then, envoys from different countries exchanged with each other, creating the bustling scenes of visits. So did the monks and priests, scholars, businessmen and craftsmen. They, across deserts and oasis, snow mountains and grasslands from Chang’an, the ancient capital city of the east, to Venicethe famous city in Europe , jointly made the Land Silk Road connecting the west and the east, Europe and Asia and extending more than 7000 kilometers in straight-line distance.

 

The history of Maritime Silk Road could also be dated back to the same period. The First Emperor of Qin Dynasty and Emperor Wu of Han Dynasty both had sent envoys to travel across the sea. Jianzhen, the eminent monk in Tang Dynasty, crossed the ocean to Japan, which has become a famous story through the ages for cultural communications between China and other countries. Zheng He’s seven trips on the sea to the West in Ming Dynasty wrote a piece of epic, demonstrating no fear of hardships and peaceful communications across long distance on the sea. Large-scale fleets of ships led by Zheng He, with the help of advanced navigational instruments and star-observation positioning technology, crossed the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean, visited Arab-Persian regions and arrived at east coast of Africa to their most western trip, after travelling day and night .

“Distance cannot separate true friends who feel so close even though they are miles apart.” Countless ancestors and pioneers broke open a way through brambles and thorns, took up the positions of the fallen and rose to fight one after another, and opened up and explored the Silk Road, which is heroic and moving,benefiting all future generations. It is a great practice of Chinese concept “SincerityBenevolence,Kindness and Harmony to Neighbours” and permanently witnesses the love for peace of people in the world and eternal friendly exchanges among them. The history of the Silk Road fully demonstrates that contries with different races, belief and cultural backgrounds could share peace and common development as long as they stick to the principles of solidarity and mutual turst, equality and mutual benefits, inclusiveness and mutual understandings and win-win cooperation. Although the natural and social environment of the Silk Road has changed dramatically for more than 2000 years, its historical contributions are always indelible and its spiritual value co-exists with mountains and rivers, shining forever like the sun and the moon.

The Silk Road is the path for communications and spread of material civilization. Along the Silk Road, leaders of different countries sent gifts to each other and businessmen exchanged mutually, making many material civilization into common wealth of the whole human beings. Through the Silk Road, Chinese silk, porcelain and tea were introduced into European, Asian and African countries while Arabian spice and glass, Mediterranean coriander and pea, Indian sucrose and lentils came to China, integrating and enriching the material life of people in different countries.

The spread of scientific and technological achievements generated even more profound influence. Medical technologies and drugs from India, Arab and Europe were brought into China, launching the new connected and complementary development of medical drugs and public health between China and other countries. Excellent traditional Chinese culture focusing on agriculture and the spread of agricultural tools and instruments to the west critically promoted the rise of French school emphasizing agriculture and actively affected European agricultural development. The spread of Chinese four inventions to the west more profoundly influenced the progress of European civilization--gunpowder destroyed European fortress; compass helped European people take voyage around the world and find geographical discoveries; and paper-making and printing technologies promoted the spread of scientific and technological achievements and cultural development of Europe.

   

The Silk Road is the path for communications and integration of spiritual civilization. The Silk Road not only extends to a long distance, but also connects different civilizations. Through the Silk Road, many religions were introduced into China successively, like Christianity, Zoroastrianism and Manichaeism in Sui and Tang Dynasty and Islam in mid-Tang Dynasty,peacefully co-existing with each other, both integrated and connected. As early as in early years of Eastern Han DynastyBuddhism has come to China. Then in Tang Dynasty, Xuan Zang, the eminent monk who was appointed to go to the west and to learn Buddhist scriptures in India, took back 657 Buddihist scriptures written in Sanskrit and led a team in person for translation in Chang’an. Finally, they finished the translation of 75 Buddihist scriptures including 1335 volumes of Buddihist texts, which indeed has been an unprecedented event in world translation history. Buddhism, after being integrated with Confucianism and Taoism, was gradually localized and spread quickly in China, becoming an important cultural gene affecting the thinking patterns of Chinese people for a long time.

Dunhuang in Gansu Province of China is one of the important sites of the Silk Road. Large quantity of beautiful Buddhist sculptures and murals in famous Mo Kao Grotto at Dunhuang shows the flying Apsaras soaring in the air in long sleeves without wings, some of which display unique skills like playing Pipa behind posture, making everyone stunned and amazed. These artistic images not only have super-high aesthetic values but also integrate many elements of different civilizations, including Chinese culture, Indian culture, Persian-Arabian culture and ancient Greek and Roman culture, vividly reflecting the historical features of the Silk Road to integrate and connect different civilizations and obviously demonstrating Chinese cultural mindset of gathering everyone together and seeking for innovation through integration.

During Ming and Qing Dynasty, European missionaries came to China successively, creating another wave of communications between Chinese and Western cultures. France played a very important role in this wave. Since France paid more attention to the spread of scientific achievements of Europe, it sent mathematicians and astronomers as some missionaries to China. Under the support of Chinese emperors at that time, they brought large quantity of Chinese classics and ancient books back to their home country. The translation and research about these precious documents and materials made Voltaire so surprised that he said “philosophers have found a new spiritual and material world in the East”, which not only laid a solid foundation for the prosperity of French research on Sinology, but also created Sinomania popular around the whole Europe and brought the Enlightenment Movement to Europe quickly.

The Silk Road is the path for peaceful exchanges among people. People are always pioneers and masters of the Silk Road. Before it became the official channel for international communications, there had already been people-to-people exchanges in various forms among the public. According to archaeological reports,in the Pazyryk Cemetery located in the north hillside of the Altai Mountains, Chinese silk made in 7th Century B.C. and even earlier was found, which was in large quantity and beautiful patterns. It was recorded in the Historical Records that when Zhang Qian went to the west, he saw the cloth made in Sichuan and a bamboo-made crutch from China in the market of Da Xia (the north of Afghanistan at present) and thus asked the people where they got these products. Then he knew there was a road across mountains connecting southwestern China and India, as well as countries in South Asia, which was called as “The Road of Tonggu” or “The Ancient Tea Horse Road”, the so-called the Southern Silk Road. Many documents showed that there had already been many ship routes connecting the ports in Guangzhou or Quanzhou in the southern China and Persian Gulf, as well as its western area, before Zhenghe’s voyage. In Tang Dynasty, the government had appointed specific officials to Guangzhou to be responsible for foreign trade, where there were many foreigner gatherings. In Song Dynasty, official system responsible for foreign trade has been further improved to encourage the trade among the public.

People from different countries peacefully exchanged with each other through the Silk Road for the purpose of business, travel or migration, creating many emerging cities along the Road including four garrison commands of Anxi, while the already existed metropolis turned out to be increasingly prosperous. Historical documents have shown that in the glorious days of Tang Dynasty, the population in ancient capital, Chang’an, was more than a million among which more than 20,000 were foreigners, being businessmen, monks and artists, while there were more than 120,000 foreigners living in Guangzhou. Many foreigners gathered together in China, creating bustling and prosperous scenes over there. At the same time,many Chinese people lived overseas, becoming peaceful envoys for cultural communications between China and other countries.

 

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