Culture enhances understanding between people: cultural center
China’s ‘spectacular, special development’ praised
Published: May 09, 2024 08:53 PM
A view of Beijing (left) and a view of Budapest (right) Photos: VCG

A view of Beijing (left) and a view of Budapest (right) Photos: VCG

In Budapest, capital of East European country Hungary, signs, characters and cultural elements of the far Asian country of China are easily spotted as the China Cultural Center in the city aims to help more Hungarian people learn about China and Chinese culture.  

Since many people overseas prefer to participate in offline activities, "overseas Chinese cultural centers can help local people empathize and find commonality with China and Chinese people through host dialogues, public lectures and cultural promotion events," Jin Hao, director of the China Cultural Center in Budapest, told the Global Times on Wednesday.  

"Culture is a channel to help eliminate misunderstanding and enhance mutual understanding, with the goal of narrowing the distance between Chinese and foreign people." 

In December, the center hosted an event at Hungary's Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center called "China Through the Eyes of Hungarian Photographers" together with the Association of Hungarian Photographers (MFSZ), the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center and the Wink International Cultural Arts and Sports Association, during which a group of Hungarian photographers shared how their trips to China surpassed all expectations. 

Recalling their visit to China in September, MFSZ President Zsolt Hamarits expressed overwhelming awe at the sheer richness of Chinese culture. 

"I arrived in a dream world. I'm still dreaming about this journey. It's hard to put into words how amazing it felt," he said, noting that if he could, he would return to China "tomorrow." 

Mutual visits, exchanges

One of the photographers is Zsolt Olaf Szamody, former president of MFSZ who had visited China in 2008 when he participated in the Pingyao International Photography Festival. 

"At that time, China was exotic and strange to me," he said.  

"But now, everybody knows that ­China alone in the world is capable of such a spectacular and special development, be it the architecture or public transport, or communication." 

He and other six photographers captured natural scenes, the vibrant social life and the bustling economy of Beijing, Shanghai and Suzhou in East China's ­Jiangsu Province, signifying the resilience of these cities.  

Similar events have helped more people understand China, allowing the friendship between Hungarian and Chinese people grow stronger, and further developing cultural connections as well. 

"One of our main tasks is to get people overseas, including Hungarians, to visit China as much as possible," Jin said, adding that he found that they had limited access to accurate and comprehensive information about China.   

The information they receive is basically what Western media wants them to see and read, and there is a "filter" for this information. Some of them still had an impression about China from a few decades ago, and they didn't have the chance to learn about the development of China, especially modern China.  

"We have been working hard to create opportunities for mutual visits and exchanges, so that overseas people can experience Chinese culture through visits." 

"Freedom and love are dear to me; my life I give, sweet love, for thee, yet love I give for liberty." This is probably one of the most well-known foreign poems in China, the work of the revolutionary poet Sándor Petofi brought hope and power to the Chinese people during turbulent times in the early 1900s. Chinese great literati Lu Xun helped promote the poem to encourage more people at that time.

Even today, a statue of Petofi still stands in the square in front of the Lu Xun Museum in Shanghai, reminding millions of Chinese visitors of the traditional friendship between China and Hungary. 

As 2023 marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of the famous Hungarian poet, the China Cultural Center in Budapest has reached out to various cultural institutions in China and Hungary to hold a number of cultural exchanges activities in the two countries with theme of "Petofi in China." 

A great responsibility

At the same time, the Chinese Cultural Center also realized that "helping Hungarian young people, especially Generation Z, fall in love with Chinese culture, learn more about Chinese culture, and understand contemporary China is a relatively big topic, and we feel that we have a great responsibility." 

With the rise of the internet age, more and more Chinese cultural products like mobile games, online novels and streaming series have provided unexpected opportunities for the promotion of Chinese culture among younger groups.

According to the China Culture Center in Budapest, young Hungarian people love Chinese dramas and fantasy series like A Dream of Splendor starring Chinese actress Liu Yifei, with some fan groups proactively creating Hungarian subtitles for these shows. They like wearing traditional Chinese clothing and cosplaying figures in the popular Chinese video game Genshin Impact. 

Levente Horváth, director of the Eurasia Center of John von Neumann University and chief advisor to the governor of the Central Bank of Hungary, said that educational and cultural cooperation plays an important role in the relations between the two countries. 

He noted that in order to promote cooperation in all areas, it is important to get to know the culture and traditions of other countries, and thereby their way of thinking.  

"It is through this action that quality cooperation between Hungary and China can be achieved. But it is also true in the relations of all other countries that we have to know and understand the other party. So that is why one of the five pillars of the Belt and Road Initiative is the people-to-people cooperation," he added.