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Celebrating Cultural Diversity Through Poetry: International Students Share Their Favorite Poems at Tsinghua University

CultureBooksCelebrating Cultural Diversity Through Poetry: International Students Share Their Favorite Poems at Tsinghua University

Vietnamese writer Huu Thinh’s poem “Asking” explores how different elements of nature live with each other. The poet asks the earth, water, and grass how they coexist, and they respond by saying that they honor, fill, and weave into each other. But when the poet asks how humans live with each other, the question is repeated thrice, emphasizing the complexity and difficulty of human relationships.

In March, the first salon of the “literary network” of the Belt and Road Poetry Bridge was held in Dongyue Temple, a 700-year-old Taoist temple in Beijing. Xia Lu, an associate professor from the School of Languages at Peking University, read Huu Thinh’s poem in Vietnamese, Chinese, and English, which she had translated herself. Her heartfelt recitation moved the audience.

Jiang Haoshu, one of the initiators of the literary salon and a member of the China Writers Association, commented on how the poem speaks to the importance of listening in human relationships. He suggested that listening to others is a good way to answer the question of how humans can live with each other. He believed that by truly listening, people can make the world a better place.

The emphasis on listening is significant because it suggests that communication is a key factor in human relationships. By listening to each other, individuals can understand each other’s perspectives, needs, and desires. It is through this understanding that people can build empathy and respect, which are essential for healthy and positive relationships.

Moreover, the poem’s use of nature as a metaphor for human relationships highlights the interconnectedness of all things. Just as the earth, water, and grass depend on each other for survival, humans are also interconnected and rely on each other for emotional and social support. Therefore, it is important to recognize the impact of our actions on others and to strive to build positive relationships that benefit everyone.

Huu Thinh’s poem “Asking” raises thought-provoking questions about the complexities of human relationships. The reading of the poem by Xia Lu at the Belt and Road Poetry Bridge salon in Beijing emphasized the importance of listening as a way to improve these relationships. By listening to each other and recognizing our interconnectedness, we can create a world where empathy, respect, and positive relationships flourish.

At a “tea with Chinese literature” session, international students from countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative, along with Chinese poets and scholars, gathered to read poems in various languages. The event took place in the spring, and the opening speech by Li Shaojun, chief editor of Poetry Magazine, emphasized the long-standing tradition of poets worldwide creating masterpieces about this season. Li explained that the beauty of spring in poetry transcends time and space and can be appreciated by people from all cultures.

Mbaka Ndoo Trinella, an international relations student from Congo studying at Tsinghua University, chose to read a poem in French called “Being a Woman in the Democratic Republic of Congo.” The poem, written by a young Congolese poet named Ruth Maketa in 2021, resonated deeply with Trinella. She explained that women in Africa have contributed significantly to society for ages but have always had a low social status. Trinella felt that the poem reflected this reality and chose to share it.

The event showcased the diversity of cultures and languages represented by the students and poets in attendance. The languages included Mandarin, Thai, Armenian, Myanmar, Urdu, French, Indonesian, Vietnamese, English, and even the Shanxi dialect. This diversity reflects the spirit of the Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to strengthen connections and cooperation among countries and regions along the ancient Silk Road.

Through sharing poetry from different cultures, the event highlighted the importance of art in fostering cross-cultural understanding and appreciation. By sharing their personal connections to the poems they chose to read, participants were able to create a space for empathy and mutual respect. This is especially important in today’s globalized world, where diversity and cultural exchange are becoming increasingly important.

The setting of the event, with magnolia flowers blooming in the temple’s yard, added to the ambiance of spring and poetry. The natural beauty of the environment enhanced the sense of connection and shared experience among the participants. It served as a reminder that poetry, like nature, transcends human-made boundaries and connects people from all walks of life.

The “tea with Chinese literature” session showcased the diversity of cultures and languages represented by the students and poets in attendance. The event emphasized the importance of art in fostering cross-cultural understanding and appreciation, particularly in the context of the Belt and Road Initiative. The natural beauty of the environment added to the ambiance of the event and served as a reminder of the universal nature of poetry and its ability to connect people.

During a recent event at Tsinghua University, international students from countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) joined Chinese poets and scholars for a “tea with Chinese literature” session, where they read poems in Mandarin, as well as their native languages and dialects. Ding Si Htoi San Pan, a 28-year-old student from Myanmar, read a piece by Myanmar poet Zawgyi called The Way of Water Hyacinth. She explained that the poem is part of a series of 41, but she chose it because it speaks about facing difficulties with courage and determination to reach one’s destination.

Ding Si Htoi San Pan found the event to be an opportunity to explore poetry from other countries as well. She was touched by the poem Being a Woman in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Indonesian poem Courage by Soe Hok-Gie, and the Chinese poem Dipingxian (Horizon) by Su Liming, all of which talk about fighting for dreams despite the difficulties. The event also allowed her to connect with her own country’s poetry, which was a valuable experience.

The event featured readings in various languages and dialects, including Shanxi dialect by Li Xiaoyang, Gudu Xingqiu (Lonely Planet) by Chinese poet Yang Biwei, Beyond the Stars by Muhammad Iqbal, If I Were Breeze by Avetik Isahakyan, and Journey to Phukhaothong by Sunthorn Phu. Attendees could refer to Chinese translations provided on pamphlets while listening to the poems read in the original languages.

In addition to poetry readings, artist Luo Shijie played the guqin, a Chinese seven-string musical instrument, and Lai Dafu, a scholar from China University of Petroleum, played a piece of Chinese music with an ocarina. The event was well-received by attendees, including Jiang from the China Writers Association, who described it as a “wonderful experience,” and Lu Yang, a researcher from One Belt-One Road Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University, who found it to be an opportunity for direct communication with overseas students about their poetry and culture.

Lu Yang believes that events like this are crucial for promoting cultural exchanges and fostering closer people-to-people ties, which is one of the key goals of the BRI. Through poetry and music, people can listen to each other, increase communication, and develop a deeper understanding of different cultures and nations. The event demonstrated the power of poetry to transcend linguistic and cultural barriers and connect people from diverse backgrounds.

Lu Yang emphasized that the BRI aims to promote cooperation in different aspects, including infrastructure and facilities connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration, and closer people-to-people ties. Poetry, as a form of cultural exchange, has the potential to draw people closer to each other and promote understanding and mutual respect. She hopes that more events like this will take place in the future to strengthen ties between different cultures and nations. Overall, the event was a great success and a promising start to a more connected and harmonious future.

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