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Training program for foreign scholars enters second year

Deng Zhangyu
Updated: Jul 7,2015 10:14 AM     China Daily

Foreign researchers visit a relics exhibition in Beijing, as part of the Cultivating Young Sinologists Plan.[Photo/Provided to China Daily]

The Ministry of Culture’s three-week training program to help foreign scholars better understand China, entered its second year on July 6 and will run through July 25.

Held in Beijing since last summer, the program this time has attracted 36 people from 30 countries, including the United States, Canada, Russia, the Netherlands and Japan.

The Sinologists, ages 25 to 45, are mostly college teachers and think tank researchers, who will visit Chinese universities and other bodies based on their scholarly requirements, according to the Ministry of Culture.

During their stay, the delegates will also make a trip to Central China’s Henan province, to see the Shaolin Temple and possibly meet abbot Shi Yongxin.

The program, Cultivating Young Sinologists Plan, was held twice last year-in July and September-offering 56 foreign scholars a chance to visit the top government think tank Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the Palace Museum, Peking University and the Chinese National Academy of Arts.

“China has opened up economically for some time. The central government is ready to be open at an ideological level, and we welcome outstanding scholars in social sciences to take part in our program,” says Zhu Qi, an official at the Ministry of Culture who is in charge of the program.

The program invites China’s influential figures from fields such as economics, culture and literature to deliver speeches to the participants.

This year, Wang Meng, a well-known writer; Li Yining, a leading economist; and Ge Jianxiong, a famous historian, are on the speakers’ list.

According to Dong Wei, vice-minister of the culture ministry, last year’s programs helped Sinologists gain a deeper knowledge of Chinese people and China’s culture, and the country is willing to invite more of them for research here.

Participants in this year’s program have various areas of interest. Other than the usual topics of literature and language, some scholars want to study China’s foreign policy, the government system, the Belt and Road Initiative, the film industry and the ancient Chinese army.

The scale of the program will be expanded to include more foreigners in the future, Zhu says.

Scholars at different foreign institutes and colleges, as well as leaders from other fields, aged between 30 and 45, are welcome to join the program, Zhu adds.

The program is now accessible to candidates recommended by Chinese embassies around the world and by CASS. The recruitment channel will be enlarged but the details are still under discussion.

“We hope these scholars can be more active and exert their influence in helping spread Chinese culture,” Zhu says.

Last year, Eric Lefebvre from the Guimet Museum in Paris did three weeks of research at the Palace Museum during the program.

He held lectures on French museums’ collections of Chinese antiques and on Chinese relics from the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), which attracted lots of Palace Museum staffers, says Zeng Jun, head of Chinese painting at the museum.

When Lefebvre returned to Paris, he helped curate a show of Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220) artifacts in Guimet Museum in September. The exhibition was among the largest of its kind outside China.

“It was a win-win situation. We learned from the French-their ways of relic protection, how they curate and their working style,” Zeng says.

And Lefebvre’s knowledge of Chinese relics helped promote Chinese art in France.