Artists wow Arab world (China Daily)

Subheadline: The largest ever team of artists to attend an art fair in Oman has showcased China’s unique cultural crafts. Deng Zhangyu reports.
Traditional Chinese art and crafts such as kung fu, tea art, calligraphy, knotting and embroidery were showcased to the Arab world when a team of 43 artists attended the monthlong Muscat Festival held at the Sultanate of Oman, a country of the Persian Gulf.
Muscat Festival 2015 was held from Jan 15 to Feb 14. It is Oman’s biggest annual art event and attracted more than one million visitors from around the world, especially those from nearby Arab countries, according to the Festival committee. China Pavilion was one of the hottest attractions in the international art zone where about 10 countries including France, Egypt and Turkey had their own pavilions.
Although China has taken part in the annual festival in previous years, this year it sent its biggest art team to Oman since the two nations established ties in 1978. Oman used to be a key country on the Silk Road to ship goods from the East to the West.
It’s the third time that the Ministry of Culture has sent an art team to take part in a cultural fair in the Arab world after their attendance in Saudi Arabia and Dubai. In April, it will send a team of artists to Algeria.
“In recent years, exchanges relating to culture, education and economy between Arab countries and China have increased greatly. It’s a good chance for China to emerge itself in the Arab world when the trend of Look East is on the rise in Arab states,” says Xue Qingguo, an expert on Arab world and a professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University.
Xue and another well-known historian, Yan Chongnian, were invited to Oman to communicate with Omanis via local media. It was the first time Chinese scholars, and not just artists, were invited to take part in Muscat Festival.
With the theme “Happy Chinese New Year,” the China pavilion had four parts: food, crafts, kung fu and Chinese wishes. From its opening on Jan 27, it held 11 different kinds of crafts classes to teach visitors Chinese traditional crafts such as kite making, tie-dying, paper cutting and Chinese ink painting. The outdoor kung fu show also drew large crowds.
On Feb 10, a 70-meter-long dragon kite soared through the skies, attracting visitors.
“These kinds of cultural activities are a good way for Arab people to learn more about China. In fact, even though Arabs have little idea about China, they usually have a good impression of China,” says Xue, a scholar who has studied the Arab world for decades.
According to two Pew polls in 2005 and 2010, China is the Arab world’s favored world power, being preferred to countries such as the United States, Russia, France and Turkey, says Xue.
Xue explains that throughout history, China has never invaded Arab countries: like most Arab states, China has a long history and is rich in culture. A well known quote from the Prophet Muhammad, an important figure in the Muslim religion, tells people to seek knowledge as far as China. Many people in the Arab world associate China with wisdom.
Because of the growing exchanges between China and Arab countries in fields of economy, culture and education, the number of Chinese learning Arabic is growing. Ten years ago, there were about seven colleges offering Arabic class. Now more than 40 collages across China offer classes in Arabic.
The support from the national level for literature translation of both Chinese and Arab is increasing annually, says Xue. He is also the translator for well-known Arab poet Adonis.
“I think Chinese culture and Arab culture share something essential in common. Both the ancient cultures believe in harmony,” Xue says.
Contact the writer at dengzhangyu@chinadaily.com.cn

 
A local official looks at Chinese handicrafts at the Muscat Festival 2015 in Oman.

 
Local people watch with interest as lion dancing kickstarts China Day at the event.

 
Chinese scholars Yan Chongnian (first from right) and Xue Qingguo (second from right) paint the eyes of a kite dragon on the opening of the same fair. Photos Provided To China Daily
(China Daily 03/03/2015 page22)