Slovenia joins in celebrating the UN Chinese Language Day
Statement by Ambassador Andrej Benedejčič, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Slovenia, on the occasion of the UN Chinese Language Day, Vienna, 8 May 2017
Excellencies, Colleagues, dear Friends,
It is a great pleasure for me to be here with you. And this is not only because I myself grew up in Beijing, but also because my country enjoys friendly relations with China. I would therefore like to recognize here the presence of Ms. Violeta Tomič, member of the Slovenian Parliament, as well as of Ms. Danijela Voljč, Director of the Ljubljana Confucius Institute. A particularly important platform for deepening Slovenian-Chinese cooperation is the Initiative 16+1, which was established in 2012 with the aim of strengthening ties between China and sixteen Central and Eastern European countries. I am happy to say that Slovenia is an active partner of this framework and that we especially support intensifying our cultural exchange and people-to-people contacts.
I am therefore all the more pleased that this year's UN Chinese Language Day is allowing us to do just that. An integral part of this event is an exhibition on the life of one of the pioneers in the transmission of knowledge and ideas, who significantly contributed to the scientific-technical and cultural exchange between Europe and China, already in the 18th century. I am talking about a fellow Slovenian, Augustin Ferdinand Hallerstein, better known among the Chinese as Liu Songling. He was born in the Slovenian town of Mengeš in 1703 and then educated at the Jesuit College in Ljubljana. He left for China in 1735 as a missionary and arrived there after almost three exhausting years on the Maritime Silk Road. He then spent 35 years in Beijing as the court astronomer, with the title of the Head of the Imperial Astronomical Bureau. He created a spherical astrolabe with rotating rings at the Beijing Observatory and was also the first demographer in China who precisely calculated the exact number of Chinese population of the time. His transfer of European science to Beijing and back makes him one of the most famous brokers of science, culture and art.
What makes the exhibition even more special, however, is the fact that this artistic interpretation of Hallerstein's life is the work of a Slovenian-Chinese artist, Ms. Wang Huiqin. She was born in Nantong in 1955, graduated from the Art School in Nanjing and then continued her studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Ljubljana. What brought her to Slovenia? It was love for a Slovenian who came to China in the 1970's to study the Chinese language and is today the leading sinologist in my country, Dr. Mitja Saje. He too is here with us today. Ms. Wang Huiqin has been living in Slovenia now for 30 years, almost as long as Hallerstein in China. Maybe this similar experience is also the reason why she became interested in him in the first place and brought his memory back from obscurity. This meant painstaking research in Slovenian and Chinese archives, which extended over several years. This exhibition is therefore also a testament to her passion and perseverance.
Before concluding, let me also point out that within the Initiative 16+1 Slovenia will be hosting the next meeting of the Ministers of Agriculture, which will take place this August. I am mentioning this because last year cooperation between Slovenia and China in the field of agriculture especially grew and one of the more important exported products from the Slovenian side was wine. I am therefore pleased that you will have the opportunity to try some of it today. In this connection, let me say that the wine comes from the family-owned VERUS vineyards in eastern Slovenia, whose wines are known for being full-flavored and well-balanced, with an intense and clear varietal expression. Finally, let me also thank the Slovenian Cultural Center in Vienna, SKICA, for financially supporting this event.