Austrian Sinologist’s Chinese Tie: Trappl’s Lasting Love for China

[Source] [Time]    2019-04-26 15:31:10 

Trappl (second front right) planting a Friendship Tree in Changchun University

Austrian sinologist Richard Trappl, nearly 70, recently visited Changchun as planned. In Changchun University, he planted a pine as a symbol of friendship. This is the fifth tree that he has ever planted in China.

“Trees live longer than human, and our friendship will still exist when I’m no longer living.”Richard said in fluent Chinese, and he said more such trees would be planted in the future. Richard, hale and hearty, with blonde hair, talked very fast.

In June, 2018, Richard participated in the 2018 China-US Education and Development Forum for the Deaf held by Changchun University, with which he formed a tie with the university since. During this visit, he will talk with Changchun University about cooperation in some traditional Chinese cultural programs.

Apart from being a sinologist, Richard is also the Austrian director of the Confucius Institute at the University of Vienna in Austria. His tie with China could be traced back to more than four decades ago.

In 1973, when the University of Vienna founded its department of Sinology, Richard was among the first group of students in this department. In 1974, when he came to China to study, his trip to Beijing took 10 days. And this trip to China started his lifelong association with China.

“I was born when my parents were over 40. They knew little about China, but they allowed me to go because they knew I loved Chinese.” Richard said, still feeling grateful for his parents’ support.

In Richard’ s memory, he saw few cars but more buses and numerous bikes on his way from Beijing Railway Station to Beijing Language Institute, and there were no streetlights then. At that time, some Chinese kids would follow him and stare at him for a long time as he was a foreigner.

“I also worked in some villages and factories, excavate in the Sino-Albanian Friendship People’s Commune in Beijing, and joined the revolutionary model opera class, which particularly catered to overseas students at the university.” Richard said.

As he came to understand China better, Richard devoted more efforts to the study of Chinese culture, philosophy, history and so on. In 1979, he completed his doctoral dissertation which focused on the development of literature in the Wei, Jin, Southern and Northern Dynasties. He especially liked the Chinese literary classic Carving a Dragon at the Core of Literature.

“By studying Chinese literary works, I find that Chinese people are becoming more open and their ideas are changing quietly. ” Richard said.

Since 1978, he has made a point of visiting China almost every year. Especially since he became the representative of the University of Vienna to China in 1997, he has paid more frequent visits to China because of his work. “China’s development is beyond my imagination, and I have the privilege to witness it.” Richard said.

Richard also works as a “disseminator” of Chinese culture. In 2006, he promoted the establishment of the Confucius Institute at the University of Vienna in cooperation with Beijing Foreign Studies University in order to give more people an access to the Chinese language and culture.

In Austria, Richard gives lectures on Chinese culture. His lectures are well-received, and even many diplomats are in his audience.” I have taught Chinese culture for more than 40 years, and thousands of students have taken my courses.” Richard pointed out that more and more people want to know about China.

Richard is convinced of the old Chinese saying “seeing is believing”. In recent years, he brings some of his students to China so that they can see the real China and take a close look at it. “Only one-third of my students are Austrians. The rest are from other countries.”

Richard has a very tight schedule for his visit to China. In addition to Changchun, he will visit Shanghai, Hong Kong and other cities for academic exchanges. Besides, he will attend the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing.

“All the connections between politics and economy have roots in culture. As a scholar of cultural communication, the best way to avoid misunderstanding and conflicts is to promote mutual exchange and understanding.” Richard said.

(Story and photos by Guo Jia,, Changchun, April 24th)

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