Chargé d’Affaires of the Embassy of People’s Republic of China in Hungary Chao Yang delivers his speech at the event - Photo: Canqi Li

Chinese Embassy in Hungary celebrates Chinese Culture Night in downtown Budapest

On March 17, 2023, the Chinese Embassy in Hungary held a Chinese Culture Night in Városliget to celebrate the collaboration between Hungary and China. The event was attended by prominent figures in the cultural dialogue between Hungary and China, such as directors of the Confucius Institutes in Hungary, sinologists, administrative staff of the Chinese Embassy, and journalists involved in covering the Chinese-Hungarian cultural exchange.

The event’s program

The Culture Night was kicked off by a video describing China’s landscapes and society, followed by Chinese folk music performances by a band consisting of performers from the Zhejiang Conservatory of Music. Speeches about ways in which the Chinese-Hungarian cultural dialogue has progressed were subsequently delivered by Chargé d’Affaires of the Chinese Embassy Chao Yang, University of Pécs Vice Rector for General Affairs and Connections and Strategic Affairs Dr. József Bethlehem, and Vice President of the Hungarian-Chinese Friendship Society Éva Ipolyi. The Culture Night concluded by offering the attendees a wide variety of traditional Chinese main dishes and desserts to savor. Throughout the event, attendees were also given the opportunity to explore Chinese movies, books, and souvenirs at a separate desk.

Yang’s speech and Hungarian-Chinese cultural exchange today

“I hope that today’s event is only the beginning and that we will have more such opportunities in the future,” Yang said in his speech. “Although our two countries are physically distant, they have a strong friendship with each other. In our 74 years of collaboration, we have always had mutual respect, understanding, and trust, serving as a model for cultural exchange between nations.”

“Under the strategic leadership of President Jinping Xi and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, the relationship between the two countries has been at its historical best… We are happy to observe the fruitful results of the Chinese-Hungarian cultural exchange stemming from our joint hard work,” he added.

“Hungary now has five Confucius Institutes. We have also established the Hungarian-Chinese Bilingual Primary and Secondary School, the only day school that uses Chinese and the local language as its language of instruction in East Central Europe. Furthermore, the two nations have founded their respective cultural centers – Hungary now has a large number of sinologists who are experts in Chinese language, history, and culture,” Yang told the audience. “Using different approaches, individuals from different disciplines have contributed to developing mutual understanding between the citizens of the two nations.”

A singer performs the traditional Chinese song Jasmine Flower for the audience, accompanied by the Chinese folk music band – Photo: Canqi Li

Other speakers’ highlights

Bethlehem stated in his speech: “I have got many, many very personal experiences of how people could fight and cope with (the challenges brought by COVID-19) during the past 3 years, but now, listening to this music and these songs really showed that culture was the very important bridge between this kind of patience and the obstacles we had to face.”

Ipolyi told the audience: “The Hungarian-Chinese Friendship Society believes that the nourishment of cultural relationships and the exchange of information and knowledge is important and indispensable in the multi-level collaboration of two nations.”

China’s attitude towards Hungary

In an exclusive interview with Yang, he told the Budapest Times that by organizing events like the Chinese Culture Night, he hopes to spread a friendly attitude towards China not only among governments and investment projects but also among ordinary citizens. “Although there is a difference in the size of the two countries, China views Hungary as an equal collaborator. China supports Hungary in its developmental trajectory – in 2017, China has decided to further strengthen its collaboration with Hungary,” he added. “As of now, China views Hungary as the top country in Central Europe in terms of investments. As part of the Belt and Road Initiative, we have also constructed the Budapest-Belgrade railway.”

Participants’ views on the event

Event participant and Index journalist István Bereznay found the event “really nice”. “It was a good occasion to exchange culture with people whom we don’t meet on the streets or in everyday settings… I’ve had nice experiences with Chinese people – with the ones I personally met before, I think we had good conversations and nice exchanges of ideas in general. That’s why I was interested in what we would see today,” he told the Budapest Times. Bereznay found the food and folk music performances highlights of the event: “I liked listening to (the music). I was trying to figure out what it means to the people who make that kind of music.”

Another participant of the event Dr. Pál Csontos from the University of Debrecen found the cultural aspect of the event the most interesting. As the Hungarian Director of the University of Debrecen’s Confucius Institute, Csontos tried to make use of all the available resources to continue conveying Chinese culture to Hungarian audiences at his institution. “Every year, we celebrate Chinese New Year and the Mid-Autumn Festival. Our work includes collaborating with the Chinese Student Association of Debrecen (CSAD) – the Chinese students are very helpful,” he said. Besides teaching Mandarin at multiple levels, Csontos and his colleagues also offer courses on Chinese movies, taijiquan, kungfu, and a lecture series on Chinese culture. In addition to activities in Debrecen, they have also organized an annual conference series in Gyomaendrőd, where they explore the use of rice, tea, and spices in both Hungarian and Chinese culture.

“This is just the beginning,” Csontos stated regarding Chinese-Hungarian cultural exchange. “We have a lot of ideas.”

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