Ciao, Italy! The cultural bridge between China and Italy
Updated 17:28, 21-Mar-2019
Speaking of Italy, what is the first impression that pops into your mind?
Probably the flavorful spaghetti, espresso, pizza, or the big names from the Renaissance such as Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raffaello Sanzio, or the scenic spots with profound culture and history, such as Rome, Florence and Venice.
They are all part of Italy, and yet not all about Italy. But nearly every Chinese person while mentioning Italy could say something about the European country based on their impressions. Though it is not surprising at all for peoples of different cultures and countries to know each other nowadays, the Italian and Chinese people have actually shared a friendship for much longer than many think.
Friendship etched in history
Spaghetti, a traditional Italian food. /VCG Photo

Spaghetti, a traditional Italian food. /VCG Photo

The bilateral cultural exchanges can be dated back to the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), when Italian explorer and traveler Marco Polo first landed in the Middle Kingdom. He thus became a figure who is widely known in China, just like his book “The Travels of Marco Polo.”
It was said that he had spent at least four years in China, during which he visited many cities as far as Yunnan Province, and he is said to be a friend to Kublai Khan, the founding emperor of the Yuan Dynasty as well.
In his book, Marco Polo depicted the wealth and great size of China, as well as its capital Beijing, which was called Dadu at the time, and it has stirred the imaginations of Europeans in the ancient Oriental nation, which had also inspired the Age of Discovery to some extent.
Exchanges of the modern time
In the modern world, the exchanges between China and Italy are far more diverse. Both countries have demonstrated their diverse cultures and images in front of each other, and the Belt and Road Initiative has provided a new avenue of exchange.
File photo of Grand Canal in Venice, Italy. /VCG Photo

File photo of Grand Canal in Venice, Italy. /VCG Photo

For the gastronomes, the most impressive part of Italy might be the delicious food, such as spaghetti, pizza, risotto, and Italian wine, all of which rivals French cuisine. For art students, Italy has a long list of masters whose names shine throughout European history during the Renaissance and beyond.
For fashionistas, the most attractive part is probably the Milan Fashion Week which kicks off every spring with trendy designs and outfits. For filmmakers, the Venice Film Festival, known as the oldest of the world's “Big Three” events, exceeds expectations.
Quite a number of Chinese directors have pocketed the Golden Lion awards in the northeastern Italian city, such as Zhang Yimou, Jia Zhangke and Ang Lee.
The logo of the 75th Venice Film Festival (L) and the Excelsior Hotel (Rear C) are pictured during the Venice Film Festival at Venice Lido on September 3, 2018. /VCG Photo‍

The logo of the 75th Venice Film Festival (L) and the Excelsior Hotel (Rear C) are pictured during the Venice Film Festival at Venice Lido on September 3, 2018. /VCG Photo‍

The two ancient cultures have also found inspirations in each other. For instance, the classic Italian opera “Turandot,” the story of a Chinese princess, was adapted into a Chinese Peking Opera version. The newly adapted version toured six Italian cities in the beginning of 2019, and was widely applauded.
It was not the first time for such exchanges. As early as 2015, the Peking Opera version of "Faust," based on a German literary work, hit the Italian VIE Festival. The play was co-produced by the China National Peking Opera Company and the Emilia Romagna Theatre Foundation of Italy.
With Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Italy, it is expected that cultural communication and exchange between the two countries can see new advances and development. 

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