Eastern Culture Gone West

The implication of one of British l9th cen­tury writer Rudyard Kipling’s most famous quotations: “East is East, West is West and never the twain shall meet” is endorsed by con­temporary scholar Dr Samuel Huntington in his work The Clash of Civilizations, in which he asserts that future wars will not be between individual states and politi­cal unions but between differing civili­zations. Thankfully, there are many valid disputes to both these claims, most obvi­ous in the history of mutual admiration, respect and interchange between Eastern and Western culture.

There is an erroneous assumption in China that the complexity and extent of Chinese culture make it impossible for those in the West to appreciate it. Yet Eastern art had a profound influence on French impressionists Edouard Manet and Claude Monet, and Peking Opera was hailed as the ultimate performance art form by such master dramatists as Bertolt Brecht, Antonin Artaud and Arthur Miller.

French artist Roland Buraud has ex­pressed his fascination with the spirit of nature in Chinese paintings, and how Chinese artists capture it in a few strokes, making the blank space on a canvas as evocative as the painting itself. The show of Chinese ink and wash landscapes held by his contemporary, Francois Bossiere, in Beijing last April caused a consider­able stir within the capital’s arts circles. They were not only admiring of Bossiere’s skill, but also astounded at his deep perception of the Chinese aesthetic.

Says Zhao Qizheng, director of the State Council Information Office, “Cul­ture is the basis of understanding be­tween nations and peoples. Both China and Europe have a long history and bril­liant culture, but mutual understanding cannot occur overnight, only through continuous contact, discussion and dialogue at various levels.”

ZHANG HONG, China Today, vol. 54 No.7, 2005

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