Xi Focus-Closeup: Exchanges between Chinese and French civilizations, from Confucius to Montesquieu-Xinhua

Xi Focus-Closeup: Exchanges between Chinese and French civilizations, from Confucius to Montesquieu

Source: Xinhua

Editor: huaxia

2024-05-04 18:00:00

BEIJING, May 4 (Xinhua) -- During Chinese President Xi Jinping's upcoming state visit to France, exchanges between the great Chinese and French civilizations are likely to be a hot topic.

At the invitation of President of France Emmanuel Macron, Xi will start his visit on May 5. It coincides with the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and France, and is of great significance to building on past achievements and opening up new prospects for bilateral relations.

The visit is taking place during the China-France Year of Culture and Tourism, which has already seen several cultural activities held in both China and France, with more set to follow, boosting mutual cultural appreciation between the two countries.

During Xi's last state visit to France in March 2019, Macron presented him with a copy of "Confucius, or the Science of the Princes," a manuscript published in 1688, and told him that early translations of the Analects of Confucius had inspired French thinkers Montesquieu and Voltaire.

After listening to Macron's description of the book, Xi said that he would take the precious gift back to China's national library.

The book was subsequently shipped to the National Library of China in its country of intellectual origin.

Many Chinese and French people see the ancient book as a testament to the long-standing tradition of cultural communication between China and France, and also as a witness to the development of bilateral cooperation in cross-civilization exchanges.

On several occasions, Xi has demonstrated a strong interest in French culture, including its literature, philosophy and art.

Back in March 2014, while delivering an address in Paris to mark 50 years of China-France ties, Xi said: "Our two peoples are fascinated by each other's distinctive cultures. Chinese culture was greatly admired in France. The influence of Chinese culture can be found in the writings of French Enlightenment thinkers and the interior decoration of Versailles."

"As many of you know, some of the first generation of leaders of the Communist Party of China studied in France, such as Zhou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping, Cai Hesen, Chen Yi and Nie Rongzhen. Because of this, I developed a keen interest in French culture and particularly French history, philosophy, literature and art when I was a young man," Xi said in his speech.

He then noted how intellectuals from France have inspired him.

Reading Montesquieu, Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, Saint-Simon, Fourier and Sartre has deepened his understanding of how progress of the mind propels progress in society, he said. And reading Montaigne, La Fontaine, Molière, Stendhal, Balzac, Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, George Sand, Flaubert, Alexandre Dumas fils, Maupassant and Romain Rolland helped him better appreciate life with all its joys and sorrows, he added.

During an informal meeting in April 2023, Xi and Macron listened to an ancient Chinese Guqin masterpiece, "High Mountain and Flowing Water," in a traditionally decorated hall in the Pine Garden, located in the southern Chinese metropolis of Guangzhou.

Xi explained the name of the ancient tune to Macron, noting that it was derived from the beautiful story of Yu Boya and Zhong Ziqi in ancient Chinese history, and that it pays tribute to the close friendship between the pair. Only friends who share the same taste in music, like Yu and Zhong, can appreciate the song together, he said.

Toward the end of the meeting, Xi expressed joy that he and Macron shared the same or similar views on China-France relations, China-EU relations, and many international and regional issues, which he said demonstrated the high level and strategic nature of China-France relations. He said he hoped to maintain close strategic communication with Macron and elevate the bilateral comprehensive strategic partnership.

Macron thanked Xi for his hospitality and elaborate arrangements, and said that in addition to the friendly, in-depth exchanges between the two leaders, he was also able to appreciate China's long history and splendid culture, noting that he had gained a better understanding of the concepts of modern Chinese governance.

Culture has always been and will continue to be indispensable and significant to China-France relations.

Ahead of his state visit to France in 2019, Xi wrote an article titled "China and France, together toward common development," which was published in French newspaper Le Figaro.

"On this visit, I will bring with me goodwill toward France," the article read.

"Such goodwill is based on the admiration both from the Chinese people and from myself for the splendid history and culture and the unique charm that France has to offer," Xi wrote. That goodwill was also inspired by how the two great cultures have engaged and illuminated each other, he added.

As representatives of Eastern and Western cultures, China and France celebrate the fine tradition of being open and inclusive, Xi wrote.

"I hope our two countries will take bigger strides in our cooperation in culture, tourism, education, sports and youth affairs, and at the subnational level, and I hope to see our cooperation play an exemplary role in driving the cultural and people-to-people exchanges between China and the West," Xi said.