Chinese actress Zhao Wei urges 'understanding' over French chateau name changes

By Zhang Xingjian Source:Global Times Published: 2019/4/14 19:32:22

Chinese actress Zhao Wei speaks in her role as ambassador for French cultural festival Croisements 2019 on Thursday in Beijing. Photo: Zhao Wei's studio



Chinese actress Zhao Wei and owner of a vineyard in the Bordeaux region of western France has called for understanding over the renaming of chateaus by their new Chinese owners, saying it is an individual choice and not a cultural invasion. 

 "Some people may be fond of the chateau's past history and splendid culture, so they keep the original names; others want to integrate individual elements into their new chateau, so they change the name. It's not a big deal," the 43-year-old actress, also known as Vicky Zhao, told the Global Times in an exclusive interview on Thursday. Zhao was in Beijing as an ambassador for the Festival Croisements 2019, which showcases French culture in China. 

The comments come after media reports said that local people were unhappy about recent name changes to historic vineyards in Bordeaux. Zhao bought a chateau in Saint-Emilion in 2011, renaming it Chateau Monlot. 

French writer Philippe Sollers wrote an open letter to the mayor of Bordeaux, expressing his concerns about the historic significance of local vineyards being replaced by traditional Chinese folk traditions, The New York Times reported on April 6. 

The 300-year-old Chateau Larteau, one of the vineyards that came under fire, is now called Chateau Lapin Imperial  (Chateau Imperial Rabbit) after being purchased by the Hong Kong-based SGV Wines Group Limited. 

Meanwhile, the wine conglomerate has bought other French vineyards, and renamed them with typical Chinese animal names like Tibetan antelope and grand antelope. 

The imperial rabbit symbolizes wit and nobility while the Tibetan antelope is linked to auspiciousness in traditional Chinese culture. 

Shanghai-based cultural critic Li Qian also called for French people not to be too culturally sensitive. "It's common practice for Chinese businesspeople to change enterprises' names to reflect their hopes for good fortune in future operations. It does no harm to local culture," Li told the Global Times.  

"On the other hand, we have seen an increasing number of Western-style residential districts and towns in recent years in China, and most Chinese are pleased to embrace the trend and consider it as cultural exchanges between the East and the West," Li noted. 

French people's anxiety has also aroused heated discussions on domestic social media, with many believing it is too exaggerated to say the term "cultural invasion."

"Bordeaux has a tradition to sell vineyards to foreigners, not just to Chinese. And quite a few have been renamed, so why are the Chinese people to blame," said one netizen on China's twitter-like Sina Weibo.    

"Some French people are really two-faced. They have got lots of cash after they sold their vineyard, but afterwards they began to worry their traditional culture could be lost," another Weibo user said.

Not all local people were worried. Jean Pierre Amoreau, a winemaker at Chateau Le Puy said that Chinese buyers were helping preserve the chateaus by buying them from people who could not afford to keep them going, The New York Times report said. 

More than 150 - or 2 percent - of the chateaus in Bordeaux are now owned by Chinese, and China is the top export market for Bordeaux wine, China Business News reported, citing industry estimates. Most of the wine is exported to China. 

Aside from Zhao, Jack Ma Yun, chairman of Alibaba Group, also owns three chateaus in the area, according to media reports.  


Newspaper headline: Actress Zhao Wei urges ‘understanding’ over French chateau name changes


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