Lectures and seminars at China Forum held by the Confucius Institute at University of Graz, Austria
On September 6-7, 2013, the Confucius Institute at the University of Graz held the third China Forum. Top professors from Germany and Austria, representing different fields, delivered brilliant, intellectually challenging lectures and seminars. The location of this year’s China Forum was the Summer Refectory in Monastery Rein, an 884-year-old historical site. The event was hosted by Anton Grabner-Haider, a philosophy professor at the University of Graz, andHead of the Society of Summer Academy, a major partner organization.
This year’s China Forum consists of ten lectures, which attracted 180 professors and experts, and inspired fervent discussions, showing intense interest of the Austrian intellectuals in Chinese overall society.
September 6 was the first day of the forum. Five professors from Vienna and Graz presented a comparison between Chinese and European societies, political dialogue and knowledge conversion between the two, as well as a current religious situation in China.
The opening lecture “A Comparison between Chinese and European Societies”, delivered by Professor Max Haller from the Sociology Department of the University of Graz, was based on full and accurate data, and helped the audience better understand an Eastern country so different from Europe—A country with a long history, magnificent cultural heritage, the world’s largest population and most dynamically developing economy. The reasons for complexity and diversity of Chinese social structure, as well as the future direction of its development became topics of heated discussion following the lecture.
Johann Götschl, philosophy professor at the University of Graz, honorary professor with the Graz University of Technology, and visiting professor at Danube University Krems, highly esteemed in the academic circle, was one of the most important experts in this year’s forum. Using vivid illustrations, he introduced different dimensions of the theory of knowledge conversion and their mutual relationships. He also provided an analysis of similarities and differences between Chinese and European knowledge conversion, broadening the audiences’ horizons.
Professor Anton Pelinka from Vienna is a leading expert in political science in Austria and former dean of the Vienna Institute of Conflict Research. Currently he is a professor of political science and nationalism studies at the Central European University of Budapest, and a political commentator for the Austrian national TV station ORF. His speech focused on the political dialogue between China and Europe, and especially the leading countries of the European Union. From the macroscopic analysis of foreign policy to the microscopic disputes over economic sanctions, the professor elaborated on the political developments between China and European countries in the recent years.
The China Forum organized by the Confucius Institute at the University of Graz has always obtained support from the Chinese Embassy in Austria. This year’s forum invited Mr. Dong Weiguo from the Education Department of the Embassy to present on the Chinese educational system, and explain how a country with over 1.3 billion people provides basic education for the whole nation and how it strives at developing higher education and training senior talents. Other hot issues were the current situation of adult and vocational education, overseas Chinese students, and foreign students learning in China.
The bright spot of this year’s China Forum, apart from the outstanding lectures given by the invited experts, was the discussions following them. Many of the listeners were researchers of China themselves, having their own original point of view on questions from different fields. Also the keynote speakers vigorously interacted with each other. In the picture above we can see the keynote speaker of the fifth lecture, “Religions in Today’s China”, Professor Markus Landstätter from the Department of Sinology at the University of Vienna, engaged in discussion with Professor Anton Pelinka, expert in political science.
September 7 marked the second day of the China Forum. The first speaker was Chen Wanjie, deputy director of the Confucius Institute at the University of Graz. He delivered a richly illustrated lecture “The Vitality of Chinese Economy”, in which he presented the economic goals of China’s 12th Five-Year Plan, economic development priorities of the new administration, and opportunities for European, especially for Austrian companies in the future Chinese economic boom. In the picture you can see Director Chen (right) answering questions for the audience.
Doctor Shang Hong, a sojourner in Austria, taking “Inner Canon of the Yellow Emperor” (Huangdi Neijing) as a point of reference, presented the theory of traditional Chinese medicine, including the concepts of yin and yang, the five elements, the four methods of diagnosis, and acupuncture points. She explained in simple terms the principles of treatment and health protection in Chinese medicine, and based on her almost twenty-year professional experience, she compared the theory of traditional Chinese medicine and modern Western medicine. Finally, Doctor Shang elaborated on the current developments of traditional Chinese medicine in China and beyond, and answered questions from the audience concerning healthy diet from a traditional Chinese medical perspective.
Professor Anton Grabner-Haider from the University of Graz, apart from hosting this year’s China Forum, also delivered a speech entitled “Modern Chinese Philosophy”. He opened his lecture with a famous quotation from Karl Marx, and humorously remarked that he himself studied philosophy at the University of Bonn, previously attended by Marx. Professor Grabner-Heider is dedicated to reinforcing cross-cultural dialogue, and has already published over 40 monographs, translated into nine languages.
Director Chen Hangzhu from Confucius Institute at University of Nuremberg, gave a presentation on “Chinese Art and Culture“, including traditional Chinese painting, porcelain, and traditional Chinese medicine. Professor Chen used to work at the Education Office of the Chinese Embassy in Austria, and therefore he is very familiar with the issues connected with Sino-Austrian cultural exchange. After the lecture he answered questions of the audience concerning calligraphy, art collecting, and Chinese cinematography.
The last keynote speaker was Professor Michael Reder from the Munich School of Philosophy. His lecture, entitled “The Objectives of Cross-Cultural Philosophy”, emphasized the importance of cultural exchange in the era of globalization. Many of the obstacles that arise in cross-cultural exchange stem from differences in philosophical systems. That is why we should seek common ground while reserving the uniqueness of both systems, and in this way enhancing mutual understanding and communication should be considered research priorities.
It is worth noting that, with the support of the Confucius Institute Headquarters, China Forum 2011 & 2012, a bilingual Chinese-German publication that contains papers from the two forums, has been officially published. It was available for sale during this year’s China Forum, along with two other Confucius Institute’s publications (an album from “Chinese-Western Joint Exhibition of Figure Painting”, entitled Spiel des Lebens (The Game of Life), and “Interviews with Chinese Women in Graz”, titled Ein Regenbogen kennt kein Heimweh (A Rainbow is Never Homesick).