Peng Liyuan, wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping, on Friday morning invited the first ladies of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan to visit the historic Yisushe Theater in Xi'an, northwest China's Shaanxi Province.
The guests were Aigul Japarova, wife of Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov, and Ziroatkhon Mirziyoyeva, wife of Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev. Japarov and Mirziyoyev were in Xi'an for the China-Central Asia Summit, which concluded on Friday.
Peng first took her guests to a Qinqiang opera art museum in the Yisushe Theater cultural block, where they viewed exquisite items related to the folk opera.
They stopped in front of a piece of mural work, looking closely at how local musicians performed together with their peers from the Western Regions back in the Tang Dynasty (618-907). They were briefed on the popularity of Qinqiang in China.
Peng and her guests also had a try at making shadow puppets at an exhibition hall and talked with veteran artists of the folk art. At the Yisushe Theater, they watched a classical Qinqiang performance.
Qinqiang Opera, a Chinese folk opera genre originating in the Western Zhou Dynasty (1046 B.C.-771 B.C.), continues to thrive in a vast region of northwest China and was added to the country's intangible heritage list in 2006.
Like many forms of traditional Chinese opera, Qinqiang incorporates singing, dancing, martial arts and acrobatics. Performed in the Shaanxi dialect, its repertoire primarily consists of old stories and folk tales.
China stands ready to strengthen cultural exchanges and cooperation with Central Asian countries and promote mutual understanding and friendship among peoples, Peng said.
Japarova and Mirziyoyeva said they felt the Silk Road had connected the cultures of Central Asia and China. They expected both sides to deepen people-to-people exchanges and mutual learning.
Long lasting cultural exchanges yield fruitful results
In the 30-plus years since the diplomatic relations were established, people in China and Central Asian countries have renewed the millennial friendship, reaped fruitful results in such areas as education, culture, health, tourism and sub-national exchange and fostered a multi-faceted framework of people-to-people exchanges.
There are 62 pairs of sister provinces, regions and cities between China and Central Asia. In 2022, China proposed holding a China-Central Asia people-to-people friendship forum and vowed to bring the number of sister cities, twinned with Chinese cities, in the five countries to 100 within a decade.
Since 2004, China has established 13 Confucius Institutes and 24 Confucius Classrooms in Central Asia, with over 18,000 students now studying at these learning institutions.
From 2010 to 2018, the number of Central Asian students studying in China increased from 11,930 to 29,885, with an average annual growth rate of 12.33 percent. China has become one of the main destinations and preferred countries for students in Central Asian countries to study abroad. The number of Central Asian students studying in China has rapidly increased after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Xi also stressed the need to strengthen dialogue between civilizations during his keynote speech at Friday's China-Central Asia Summit, saying that China invites Central Asian countries to take part in the "Cultural Silk Road" program, and will set up more traditional medicine centers in Central Asia.
"We will speed up the establishment of cultural centers in each other's countries. China will continue to provide government scholarships for Central Asian countries, and support their universities in joining the University Alliance of the Silk Road," Xi added.
"We will ensure the success of the Year of Culture and Arts for the Peoples of China and Central Asian Countries as well as the China-Central Asia high-level media dialogue. We will launch the China-Central Asia Cultural and Tourism Capital program, and open special train services for cultural tourism in Central Asia," Xi noted.