Unique project lets for­eign ex­perts write about ex­pe­ri­ences in China

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - 11 Life - By WANG RU wan­[email protected]­nadaily.com.cn in a fic­tional form. At the end of the 1980s, as a high school teacher, A Lai be­came bored teach­ing the same texts year af­ter year and be­gan to fo­cus

Amer­i­can writer Lau­rence Brahm be­lieves fate brought him to China.

“I was born in a part of New York which is in the vicin­ity of Chi­na­town. It may have ex­erted an in­flu­ence on me from the very be­gin­ning, and I guess my pre­vi­ous life may be re­lated to China, so I have been look­ing for­ward to vis­it­ing China since child­hood.”

Brahm re­al­ized his dream when he ar­rived in China as a univer­sity ex­change stu­dent in 1981, and then stud­ied and worked for much of the past 37 years in the coun­try.

Now, Brahm plans a book se­ries called Search­ing for China as part of the Writ­ing on China by For­eign­ers project, which in­vites for­eign­ers to write about the coun­try.

A con­fer­ence to dis­cuss Brahm’s new book se­ries was held re­cently at the Bei­jing Lan­guage and Cul­ture Univer­sity.

Brahm, also known by his Chi­nese name Long Anzhi, given to him by his class­mates at Nankai Univer­sity in 1981, has much to say about China.

He worked as a lawyer in the 1980s and saw that China wanted to at­tract for­eign cap­i­tal at that time in or­der to gain new tech­nol­ogy and pro­mote in­dus­trial devel­op­ment.

In the 1990s, he wit­nessed the re­form of China’s state-owned en­ter­prises and pro­vided many sug­ges­tions as an eco­nomic ad­viser.

Af­ter 2000, he turned at­ten­tion to ecol­ogy, es­pe­cially in the west­ern part of China.

At the same time, he started to de­velop an in­creas­ing in­ter­est in the area and its cul­ture.

“Amer­i­cans who were born in the 1960s and 1970s were re­bel­lious and showed strong in­ter­est in dif­fer­ent cul­tures, es­pe­cially that of the Amer­i­can West. But for me, the Chi­nese West had some sim­i­lar­i­ties with the Amer­i­can West,” says Brahm.

In keep­ing with his in­ter­est, Brahm has pro­duced many films, doc­u­men­taries and books on west­ern China, such as Search­ing for Shangrila, Shamb­hala Su­tra and Con­ver­sa­tions with Sa­cred Moun­tains.

For him, the cul­ture of Chi­nese eth­nic groups in west­ern China re­sem­bles In­dian cul­ture in the Amer­i­can West in many as­pects, like their val­ues and friend­li­ness to the na­ture.

Brahm is also in­ter­ested in other el­e­ments of Chi­nese cul­ture and be­lieves it con­tains a spe­cial logic to un­der­stand the uni­verse.

He also says that many things in tra­di­tional Chi­nese cul­ture are in­ter­re­lated, adding that in or­der to learn tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine, you need to know some­thing about nutri­tion, and acupunc­ture points.

“And in or­der to learn them, you also need to know some­thing about Chi­nese tea.

“To know about tea, you had bet­ter gain an un­der­stand­ing of guqin, a plucked mu­sic in­stru­ment that the an­cient Chi­nese literati typ­i­cally played or en­joyed when drink­ing a cup of tea.

“I’m try­ing to learn many things. And the more I learn, the more I find out how ig­no­rant I am,” says Brahm.

Ac­cord­ing to Xu Baofeng, a pro­fes­sor at the Bei­jing Lan­guage and Cul­ture Univer­sity, and who is also the di­rec­tor of the China Cul­ture Trans­la­tion and Stud­ies Sup­port­ing Net­work, which is the plat­form to im­ple­ment the project, it in­vited Brahm to be a part of the project as he had spent a long time in China and was a wit­ness to China’s devel­op­ment over the years.

Speak­ing about the project, Xu says: “Nowa­days, many for­eign­ers have stereo­typ­i­cal and su­per­fi­cial im­pres­sion about China, which is typ­i­cally linked to Chi­nese food and kung fu. So we hope to show them a more in-depth side of China.

“Also, for­eign ex­perts’ works are bet­ter re­ceived by their coun­try­men. And we hope to pro­mote cul­tural ex­changes and un­der­stand­ing through this project.”

So far, 176 works on Chi­nese phi­los­o­phy, pol­i­tics, eco­nomic thought, cul­ture and art have been se­lected from two phases of the project, cov­er­ing 26 lan­guages, with the third phase call­ing for more works.

Writ­ers whose works have been cho­sen re­ceive a sub­sidy and help with pub­lish­ing them.

For in­stance, In­dian si­nol­o­gist B. R. Deepak’s My Tryst with China has been pub­lished in Hindi, Chi­nese and English.

Com­ment­ing on the project, Brahm says: “It’s a very good idea as it not only shows the pos­i­tive side of the coun­try but what we (the au­thors) have re­ally seen in China.”

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