New Silk Road and Cultural Cooperation between Ukraine and China


Ukraine and China will celebrate 25 years of diplomatic relations next year. This is an important event in the history of our countries. In this context it is worth recalling that there is a long history of relations between our countries – much more ancient than it seems.

Our ancestors contacted with China in the times of Kievan Rus within the development of trade cooperation in the Eurasian space. The famous Great Silk Road stretched from China to Europe through Kyiv and Slavic lands. Naturally, the merchants from Ukrainian lands visited East, and eastern merchants – Kyiv markets. There is a lot of physical evidence – archaeologists find Chinese artifacts at a considerable distance from their places of manufacture. It was the period of greatest prosperity of the Silk Road, its “Golden Age”. Ukraine played a significant role in its functioning at that time.

Today China is a powerful state with developed economy, which actively influences the global geopolitical situation. It is the largest consumer, producer and exporter in the world. The leading role of China in the world market is undeniable. During the years of reforms that have taken place in the country in recent years, Celestial has transformed from a backward agrarian country into a leading industrial power, whose industry influences the stability of many countries. Since 2010, China has confidently occupied the second place in the world after the USA in terms of economic development, overtaking Japan, which occupied it for 42 years.

New Silk Road and Cultural Cooperation between Ukraine and China

The country continues looking for new ways of development. Yes, in September 2013 President of People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping declared the concept of the “New Silk Road” under the slogan “One zone – one way”. This global strategy includes projects “Economic Zone of Silk Road” and “Marine Silk Road of XXI century” and aims to create a powerful and extensive infrastructure network on the way from the western borders of China through the countries of Central Asia and Iran to Europe.

Implementation of the project of transport infrastructure construction should result in a significant increase of internal Eurasian trade and intensify economic development of huge internal areas of Eurasia, and the countries of South and Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa, where the “New Silk Road” has to reach, at least its marine part.

In the spring of 2015, the investment fund Silk Road Company was created to implement the project and substantial funds were allocated for it. Earlier China established Asian Bank of Infrastructure Investment (ABII) under this project – International Investment Bank, which the media called a rival of the IMF and the World Bank. By the end of 2015 it consisted of 60 countries of Asia and all major European countries.

Therefore People’s Republic of China, as the country leader of global development and chief architect of economic zone construction of modern Silk Road from Asia to Europe, which lies through our country, is so important for the future of Ukraine. However, the most important in the relationship between China and Ukraine is that the positive dynamics of their development lies not in borrowing someone else’s, but in the deep immersion into the spiritual and cultural origins of our civilizations.

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New Silk Road and Cultural Cooperation between Ukraine and China

Taking into account that the Chinese are growing in modern interdependent world through mutual development with other countries, Ukraine continues to maintain an active policy of multilateral cooperation with China. Today Ukraine is a country that strives to transform its inexhaustible spiritual and creative potential into innovative industrial reality of sustainable development, and not at the expense but in the interests of all the countries in Europe, Asia and the whole world. In that case Ukraine and China are strategic partners. But the current state of Ukrainian-Chinese relations, despite the signing of the Memorandum on Strategic Partnership, focuses mainly on trade-economic field with the increase of export-import imbalance in favor of China. In order to minimize it Ukraine needs to go to another level, to deeper industrial and technical, scientific and technological, innovative and investment base. According to Chinese traditional thinking, this change of relations on mutually beneficial conditions is preceded by the establishment of their cultural and ethical bases: first human relations, and only then – business. But in Ukraine it is being oriented to the standards of Western management type. Thus mutual and above all civilizational and cultural adaptation is necessary: the Ukrainian – to the Chinese culture, the Chinese – to Ukrainian and European.

The program of cultural cooperation between our two countries is aimed to promote this. It is initiated at the highest level, signed by the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine and the Ministry of Culture of China. The program is designed for 2013-2017. Active cooperation is conducted under the program. Among the most large-scale events there is the project “Kobzar – through the eyes of Chinese artists”, in the implementation of which Chinese Academy of Painting and Calligraphy from Beijing and Taras Shevchenko National Museum with the assistance of the Embassy of Ukraine in People’s Republic of China, the Embassy of People’s Republic of China in Ukraine, National Academy of Arts of Ukraine, National Academy Arts and Architecture participated. The project started in August 2015. Today a number of exciting activities was implemented under this project. The first of them was the visit of leading Chinese artists, calligraphers and painters, known not only in their home country, but also far beyond its borders, to Ukraine. Numerous delegation of artists headed by the vice-president of the Academy of Chinese Painting and Calligraphy Yii Gen Huei visited museums, art schools, studios of Ukrainian artists. However, the main purpose was acquaintance with the life and works of Taras Shevchenko and the creation of Chinese artistic Shevchenkiana. They represented all the regions of China and major art schools, which certainly enriched the project and increased its importance. Most artists came to Ukraine for the first time, got acquainted with Shevchenko places, joined our culture and history. Their works are the first presentation of Shevchenkiana outside Ukraine. The works of the poet’s were firstly illustrated by the artists of Eastern artistic tradition, and what is especially interesting in the traditional art of the ancient East – calligraphy. The artistic works in the traditional style of “Gohua” and examples of calligraphy were done.

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The next step was appearance of poetry collection “Kobzar” by Shevchenko which was translated by Chinese famous literary critic and interpreter Ge Baotsyuan (1913 – 2000), the presentation of which was on March 25, 2016 at the Embassy of Ukraine in the People’s Republic of China. It was attended by representatives of more than 10 higher educational establishments of China, the Chinese Association of friendship with foreign countries, the National Library of China, scientists and artists, including the wife of the interpreter Ge Baotsyuan Lyan Peylan, head of publishing house “Folk Literature” (and he is a sponsor of the edition) Guan Shyhuan, editor Chzhan Fushen, Beijing University professor Li Minbin, an invited Professor of Shanghai University of Foreign Languages Vasyl Ivashkiv. Release of this publication is a joint initiative of Ukrainian and Chinese sides.

The exhibition “Unfading Glory. Honour to Taras Shevchenko” was open on May 11, 2016 at the National Museum of Taras Shevchenko in Kiev, where the works dedicated to Taras Shevchenko and which were performed by the artists of People’s Republic of China were presented for the first time. The exhibition had a great resonance in the cultural field in Ukraine. It demonstrated a new level of relations between our countries – the beginning of active actions in the field of cultural diplomacy which is a very important factor of mutual understanding between people and countries eventually in today’s globalized world. The works completed in the traditional Chinese art technique of “Gohua” are understandable to Chinese audience and interesting to us with its originality and new interpretation. The exhibition is an opportunity for the Chinese audience to learn more about Ukraine, its culture, traditions and multifaceted creativity of Taras Shevchenko which has become so called exit “window” for Ukraine to Chinese cultural environment. And for the Ukrainian audience it is the ability to come closer to understanding Chinese culture and its modern art, which is little-known to us. The materials about honoring the memory of Shevchenko in China are kept in the collection of Taras Shevchenko National Museum, but these materials that is to say are from another epoch. But there are some unique examples of Chinese calligraphy among them.

In May 1986 a teacher of Chinese classical literature and a professor of Beijing Pedagogical University Tan De Lin visited at that time still State Museum of Taras Shevchenko in Kiev. He brought a calligraphic scroll with him, where a bamboo branch – a symbol of China – was depicted and it was written with hieroglyphs: “The scrolls of poetry by Taras Shevchenko live among people forever – between heaven and earth”. According to the Chinese tradition these words embodied in calligraphy are the highest manifestation of honour and respect for Ukrainian artist.

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Since the first visit of Chinese artists to Ukraine, this project interested the Third President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko. Yushchenko supported the initiative and personally contributed to it. In particular, he proposed to the organizers to demonstrate the works of Ukrainian folk decorative and applied arts from his own collection in the current format of exhibition during its exposure in Beijing.

The exhibition opened on September 10, 2016 in Beijing gallery World Art Museum in the city center. Unique works of Ukrainian Decorative Folk Art (some of them were made at the end of the 17th century) completed the exhibition extremely successfully by making it an outstanding event in the cultural life of Beijing. The intention to create Art Museum-Gallery of Taras Shevchenko in Beijing was announced at the opening ceremony. The works from the “Unfading Glory. Honor to Taras Shevchenko” exhibition and works of modern Ukrainian artists who were transferred from Ukraine to Beijing museum as a gift will become the beginning of the formation of its collection.

New Silk Road and Cultural Cooperation between Ukraine and China

The opening of the Museum of Taras Shevchenko in Beijing was held on September 23, 2016. Cultural and public organizations of Ukraine and People’s Republic of China, such as: National Museum of Taras Shevchenko, National Academy of Fine Arts and Architecture, Ukrainian Military Organization, private museum of Cossack lands of Ukraine, the Embassy of Ukraine in China, Academy of Painting and Calligraphy of China and Academy of Lee Kezhan took part in its creation under the patronage of President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko. The museum is located in the south of the capital in the Academy of Kezhan Lee. This is known art and scientific institution in China. An academician of painting Gen Lee – the son of the famous painter Li Kezhan – rules it.

According to the director of the new museum Yii Gen Huey / Alan Yii /, a new exhibition is being prepared in the museum at the moment. Shevchenko works made by artists and photographers of both countries will enter it. The premises will function also as a gallery where not only the Chinese, but also the Ukrainian masters will be able to present their art works.

Honourable director of the museum, famous Chinese artist Li Gen said he hoped the museum of Taras Shevchenko was going to become a convenient platform for the creation, study and collecting paintings, sculptures and other works of art associated with Great Taras Shevchenko. In future plans there is further development of the museum, which organizers see not only in its functioning in gallery format, but also in creating a new type of exhibition – multimedia.