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Message for the Prague Cultural Revue

There are hardly two civilizations, two world views, two cultural approaches more strikingly distinct than our Western and the Chinese one. Whereas paths of Chinese lives were mystically carved by the moon, which is often thought to be the dwelling of mythical celestial beauty Chang’e, our Western approach would refer to the daylight that shapes our lives. Where Westerners joyously bask in the sun, the Chinese take great steps to avoid its direct beams. The very basic Chinese philosophical stream is tightly set in a vertical position in which Heaven, Man and Land are each given its respective place. The Western perception of unification is, however, thought to be horizontal.

The Chinese contemplate the world and express themselves in pictures. These naturally come with the enhanced freedom of interpretation and associations. Western writing is due to its unambiguous punctuality and its drive for precise expression unable to offer these phenomena in such manner. Our written system is comparably constrained and does not allow for an escape from its borders. The Chinese see themselves as part of nature’s complexity. They seek to understand it and find their proper place without an ambition to change the given order. We, on the other hand, seem to be determined to take over the reins of future development and we hope to arrange the world in accordance with the picture we guard. Yet, it is deemed to be a natural process. The understanding and interpretation of truth comes as another difference. The dictation of our ontological perspective drives us to think of truth as a reflection of ruthless reality. In the view of Chinese, first and foremost, the truth should not be harmful. A proper list of such differences could be much longer…

If it is true that closeness creates remoteness, I would dare to say that in our case, we have come up against a reversal of this concept. From my point of view, it is clear that the geographical distance may as well stand for mutual Czech – Chinese proximity. Both sides have still to explore and to take the advantage of so far undiscovered sources of cooperation as well as mutual inspiration and support. There are two paths that may be followed in order to bridge cultural and civilization differences. One of them is strictly rational – both sides present their interest and try to reach a mutually beneficial consensus. The other one, however, as presented by one of the last great Czechs, Tomáš Cardinal Špidlík, is to open up our hearts – to learn, to discuss and to respect.

What are the contemporary Czech – Chinese relations like? They reflect the globalized world order, yet also manage to retain charm and not to slip into everyday banality. A number of phenomena provide for its foundation: dialogue, economic cooperation based on mutual complementarity, emphasis on new technologies as well as the will to protect the environment. The shared appeal and influence over each other in the fields of culture and art have grown in unprecedented scale. Relations between modern countries could not, however, exist without grass-roots communication between people of both countries. Regional cooperation, contacts among various cities, schools, medical facilities and other institutions therefore make a vital part of mutual relations. The number of tourists traveling between the Czech Republic and China is growing rapidly. People of both countries learn more of each another, and better understanding of their partners leads to better comprehension of one’s own perspective. This, therefore, may be accounted as the most important aspect of Czech – Chinese cooperation.

July 20, 2013 Beijing Libor Sečka