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Home > Embassy News > 2016
Remarks by H.E. Ambassador Liu Xiaoming at the Leeds Intercultural Theater Festival

University of Leeds, 27 July 2016

Sir Alan Langlands,
Ladies and Gentlemen:

Let me begin by offering my warm congratulations on the opening of the Leeds Intercultural Theater Festival!

This is my first visit to Leeds. But Leeds is no stranger to me. The beautiful city of Leeds is a cultural, financial and business centre in Northern England. I can't help remembering Leeds' sister city in China. Like Leeds, Hangzhou, the capital of China's Zhejiang Province, is known for its scenic beauty and cultural heritage. It is also hosting this year's G20 Summit. The University of Leeds is a world prestigious university with a long history. Today, over 8,000 international students including 2,000 Chinese students are studying here. This makes the University of Leeds a meeting place for different cultures.

More than 400 years ago, two drama masters - Tang Xianzu and William Shakespeare - were born in China and Britain. Tang and Shakespeare had completely different cultural backgrounds. But this didn't prevent them from creating equally popular plays that have been passed on from generation to generation. The two great playwrights died in the same year, 1616. They are considered the "soul of the age" in the Renaissance of the West and the humanist enlightment of the East.

This was by no means a mere historical coincidence. These two literary giants did not just happen to be Chinese and British during the same historical period. In fact, Tang and Shakespeare are the best examples to show that China and the UK are both great nations with a time-honoured culture and history.

During President Xi Jinping's state visit to the UK last year, he proposed that China and the UK could jointly commemorate the 400th anniversary of the passing of Tang and Shakespeare. This is an excellent opportunity to advance and deepen exchanges and mutual understanding between the peoples of our two countries. This proposal was immediately greeted with warm enthusiasm from the cultural and educational circles of our two countries.

I am happy to see a number of cultural exchange activities co-hosted by China and the UK over the past months. And more will be coming shortly. They are a rich diversity of events commemorating the 400-year legacy of William Shakespeare and Tang Xianzu.

There are traditional Chinese Kunqu Opera, Yueju Opera and Ganju Opera performances.

There are Western ballet and plays.

There are seminars that brought together scholars and artists from both countries.

There are publications of works by Tang in English and Shakespeare in Chinese.

Their hometowns, Fuzhou and Stratford-upon-Avon, have established sister-city relationship.

Tonight, a new play based on the great masters' works is brought to the stage. A Midsummer Night's DREAMING Under the Southern Bough is the fruit of collaborative work of artists and students from China and Britain. It is a creative interpretation of Shakespeare's and Tang's classic works. This ingenious re-production transcends time and culture, and brings two literary masters to the same stage.

In Shakespeare's A Madrigal, he wrote:

"Youth like summer morn".

"Youth like summer brave".

"Youth is full of sports".

"Youth is hot and bold".

And "Youth, I do adore thee".

Indeed, youth represents the future of China and Britain. Youth represents the future of China-UK relations. I encourage more and more young Chinese and British to come together to commemorate William Shakespeare and Tang Xianzu, in order to engage in closer communication and cooperation, in order to gain better understanding of each other's culture and build a deeper friendship, and in order to cement the foundation of the "Golden Era" of China-UK relations and create a brighter future for our two countries.

In conclusion, I wish everyone an enjoyable evening and I wish the Intercultural Theatre Festival a complete success!

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