Confucius Institute Promotes Dissemination of Chinese Literature Overseas (Literature in Focus)

[Source]    People’s Daily (Overseas Edition) [Time]    2018-04-03 17:26:37 

The Confucius Institute has gained for itself an increasingly clear and solid role as an important platform and channel for international Chinese teaching and overseas dissemination of Chinese culture.

According to the latest data published by the Confucius Institute Headquarters, up to December 2017, there had been 525 Confucius Institutes and 1113 Confucius Classrooms in elementary and secondary schools, spreading across 145 countries and regions around the world.

Within nearly fourteen-year globalized development, the Confucius Institute has gradually manifested its multi-dimensional function, evolving its operational pattern from one that focused on Chinese teaching solely in its humble beginnings to one that supplements the core teaching tasks with other cultural exchange activities. In such development, the impact of the Confucius Institute in promoting the dissemination of Chinese literature overseas is increasingly evident and the role it played is increasingly important.

The dissemination of language is never merely a linguistic approach. Instead, it must be linked to deeper and more hidden factors such as aesthetic tastes, culture and customs, ideologies and values of the ethnic groups on which language relies. Those factors are intertwined and make up one another. Therefore, the author believes that disseminating Chinese literature overseas through an appropriate means should be the mission and purpose of Confucius Institutes, and is also an inevitable trend for its future growth and development.

Adept Combination Blow

According to the author’s observation, judging from the development course of the Confucius Institute, its contribution to the overseas dissemination of Chinese culture formed from scratch. As to resource accessibility, the Confucius Institute used to be in need of resources while now, with the abundance of it, it is able to pick and choose. In terms of dissemination channels, it has developed from a one-way outward promotion into a two-way international exchange and communication engine. As for methods, it has developed a supplementary pattern in place of the original singlehanded battle. Considering space for expansion, the Confucius Institute has explored possibilities in more regions and cultures instead of relying heavily on European countries and the United States. In the case of historic morphology, contemporary Chinese literature has accounted for far higher proportion than classic and modern literature. Concerning genres explored, the dominance of novels was gradually transformed into the dissemination of various contemporary Chinese literary works, including novels, poetry, dramas, fairy tales and allegory.

Through the changes mentioned above, it is no exaggeration to say that all Confucius Institutes that are interested in spreading Chinese literature overseas have effectively adopted a power combination.

In addition to traditional lectures by writers and panel discussions, poem reading and book signing, the Confucius Institute also explores more measures to ensure its end goal, such as holding workshops on Chinese writers and literature or new book launch events in host countries, launching overseas magazines that publish translated Chinese works, and setting up overseas websites to disseminate Chinese literature. Among those, one of the most well planned, long-lasting and influential goes to the Chinese Literature Overseas Dissemination Project, launched in the Confucius Institute at the University of Oklahoma by Beijing Normal University and the University of Oklahoma.

The Chinese Literature Overseas Dissemination Project, co-organized by Beijing Normal University and the College of Arts and Sciences University of Oklahoma, is a significant project approved in September 2009 and fully sponsored by Hanban. The aim of the Project is to strengthen the communication and link between Chinese literature and foreign literature and to offer Chinese literature amateurs and researchers overseas and people from various sectors who are interested in Chinese culture and literature a channel to understand and appreciate contemporary Chinese literature.

The Project mainly includes three measures: establishing the English magazine Chinese Literature Today in America, publishing Chinese Literature Today translated series composed of 10 works in America and holding “Chinese Literature Overseas Dissemination” academic seminars regularly both in China and America.

It is known that up to March 2018, the semi-yearly Chinese Literature Today has been issued twelve times. The Chinese Literature Today translated series has published seven works, including Sandalwood Death by Mo Yan, Deserted City by Jia Pingwa, A Black Rhapsody: Poemsby Jidi Majia by Jidi Majia, Regret Record by Dongxi, and Winter Sun by Shizhi, Contemporary Chinese Short Stories and Contemporary Chinese Novellas. In addition, the “Chinese Literature Overseas Dissemination” academic seminar has been held twice, fully accomplishing the target set at the founding of this project.

Since its official launch, numerous media outlets, experts and scholars at home and abroad have paid great attention to it. And with its continuous implementation, the Confucius Institute at the University of Oklahoma has become the leading Confucius Institute in disseminating Chinese literature to the world.

In addition, other Confucius Institutes, such as the Confucius Institute at the University of Bucharest, Romania, the Confucius Institute Latin America Regional Center, the Confucius Institute at the University of Havana, Cuba, and Confucius Institute at the University of Milan, Italy, have also done a remarkable job in disseminating Chinese literature overseas by various forms and approaches.

According to incomplete statistics, in 2017 alone, more than 60 dissemination activities were carried out via its many platforms. The number would be much higher if those activities partly involving Chinese literature appreciation and translation, carried out by the Confucius Institutes from various countries, were also counted.

In the long run, the relatively quiet and multilateral dissemination of Chinese literature conducted by the Confucius Institutes around the world is likely to have lasting and far-reaching effects.

Broadening the Space of Chinese Literature Dissemination

The emergence of the Confucius Institute has invigorated the abundant resources of Chinese literature overseas, expanded its channels, enlarged its space, and enriched means and methods. Confucius Institutes in various countries incorporate the dissemination into their work according to local conditions, inevitably enriching the connotation of the construction and development of Confucius Institutes in the long run, and add weight and charm to the daily Chinese teaching and Chinese cultural promotion activities. It is possible to establish a reciprocal and win-win relation between the overseas dissemination of Chinese literature and the sustainable development of Confucius Institutes around the world.

During the dissemination of Chinese literature in the world, the Confucius Institute can utilize its advantages to offer Chinese literature dissemination activities according to local conditions. For example, the “Trip of Liu Zhenyun’s Literature and Films to Europe” organized by the Confucius Institute Headquarters (Hanban) was officially launched in March and April, 2017, touring the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Austria, Italy, France and Germany. It not only served as a useful attempt to create a new model of cultural project operation, but also provided an innovative model for many Confucius Institutes, such as the ones in Leiden, Vienna, Milan, and Paris, to cooperate closely with local cultural institutions and broaden innovation models of cultural exchange channels between China and Europe. Meanwhile, it effectively created new space for overseas dissemination of contemporary Chinese literature. Another example is the “My Chinese Dream: Essay and Painting Competition” organized by the Confucius Institute at the University of Montenegro, and many essay competitions conducted by other Confucius Institutes, such as the first “Belt and Road: the Story between Me and Chinese” essay competition organized by the Confucius Institute at the University of Novi Sad. These, in a certain sense, have cultivated the awareness of Chinese literature around the world. Some Confucius Institutes hold Chinese poetry readings regularly or occasionally, adding to the greater cause of the dissemination of Chinese literature in the world.

With the Confucius Institutes’ involvement, not only was the dissemination space broadened, but also the attractiveness and appeal of Chinese literature to overseas audience enhanced effectively, allowing its application to avoid many obstacles and unfold more naturally.

The involvement of Confucius Institutes has significantly increased the channels of dissemination and exchange of Chinese literature, stimulating the possibility of bilateral and even multi-directional communication between Chinese and foreign literature. It has thus provided spiritual resources for building a community of shared future for mankind.

Selectively exerting the active role of the Confucius Institute in the dissemination according to local conditions has multiple functions and meanings worth noting and expecting. It helps promote the connotative development of the Confucius Institute, contributes to a rich and three-dimensional international image of China, and displays the charm of Chinese culture. It also builds a better-developed, more impassioned and warmer link between the Chinese nation and other nations in the world.

With the ongoing development of Confucius Institutes around the globe, and the ever fiercer interest by the international community towards learning Chinese language and understanding Chinese culture, Chinese literature will surely penetrate the very essence of Confucius Institutes in more flexible manners.

(The author is the Chinese director and a professor of the Confucius Institute at the Tufts University, the US)

(Story by Yao Jianbin, People’s Daily (Overseas Edition), page 7, March 28th, 2018)


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