From Xi’an to Malta: a meeting of cultures
An official delegation from Xi’an Municipal Administration of Culture and Tourism together with a group of artists from Xi’an, visited Malta to promote bilateral cultural exchanges and co-host a variety of events with the China Cultural Centre in Malta in celebration of the 20th anniversary of its official opening. From Saturday, July 22 to Monday, July 24, the Maltese public had the opportunity to experience the rich cultural heritage of this ancient city.
The ancient city of Xi’an
After Beijing and Shanghai, Xi’an is China’s most famous city. March 29, 1974, the date of the discovery of the Terracotta Warriors, put Xi’an on the map of the Western world. Yet this ancient imperial capital had been in contact with the Western World centuries ago since it served as the eastern departure point of the Silk Road, connecting China to the Mediterranean. Formerly known as Chang’an, meaning “eternal peace”, its name was eventually changed to Xi’an, meaning “Western peace”.
In the old days, the city was an important crossroad and a hub of diverse ethnic identities and religious beliefs. Several historical architectural monuments act as reminders of this enduring legacy including the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda and the Small Wild Goose Pagoda which were built to preserve the Buddhist scriptures during the Tang Dynasty (618 to 907) and the Great Mosque that dates from the late Ming period (1368 to 1644). Nowadays, the city vibrates with hundreds of thousands of tourists who call to visit these ancient wonders every year.
Serving as the capital for 13 dynasties, including the Qin (221 BC – 207 BC), Han (206 BC – 220 AD), Sui (581 AD – 618 AD) and Tang (618 AD – 908 AD) Dynasties, Xi’an’s layers and accumulation of thousands of years of history are quite remarkable. Evidence of this is the presence of several museums such as the Shaanxi History Museum, Xianyang Museum, Banpo Museum, and the Forest of Steles Museum. Today, Xi’an is the capital city of Shaanxi Province.
Song of Everlasting Sorrow Art Troupe of Huaqing Palace
Two Terracotta Warriors replicas donated to Santa Luċija Local Council
Those who wish to experience a corner of China in Malta can visit the Chinese Garden of Serenity at Santa Luċija. Besides enjoying the appealing architecture, visitors can appreciate the philosophy behind the creation of such gardens whose main goal is to express the harmony that should exist between humans and nature. Now, those who venture through this garden will also be able to enjoy a close encounter with two Terracotta Warrior replicas that were donated to Santa Luċija Local Council last Saturday, July 22, by Xi’an’s Municipal Administration of Culture and Tourism.
“The Terracotta Warriors are probably more famous than Xi’an itself,” said Yu Dunhai, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Malta during the donation ceremony. “When the site was discovered in 1974, it shocked the world, and it became known as the eighth wonder of the world and the greatest archaeological discovery of the 20th century.”
President Emeritus, Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca attested: “Today, the China Cultural Centre in Malta is once again fostering this cultural exchange through the donation of replicas of the Chinese Terracotta statues found in the Mausoleum of Emperor Qin Shi Huang, the First Emperor of China. The statues offer a glimpse into the artistic and technological achievements of ancient China. Their location today is celebrated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The site serves as a testament to the grandeur and power of the ancient Chinese civilisation, and remains a symbol of China’s rich cultural heritage.”
Zhao Feng, Deputy Director General of Xi’an Municipal Administration of Culture and Tourism explained, “The Terracotta Army Museum which has been open to the public for several decades, serves as a cultural envoy of the ancient city of Xi’an. It has received many important foreign dignitaries and hundreds of thousands of international tourists. The two figurines being presented today to the Santa Luċija Council are the highest rank and most distinctive type of the Terracotta Warriors, meticulously crafted in real size. I hope we can forge friendships that transcend time and space through these Terracotta Warriors.”
Charmaine St John, Mayor of Santa Luċija said that it was a great honour to be entrusted to place these replicas of the Terracotta Warriors into the Chinese Garden of Serenity. “These two warriors from 2,000 years ago will guard this garden and uphold a friendship between China and Malta that will last forever,” she said.
Yuan Yuan, Director of the China Cultural Centre in Malta said, “The Terracotta Warriors are an extraordinary representation of China’s rich cultural legacy, and their presence here today in Malta signifies the strong ties between our two nations. It’s exciting to see that the Terracotta Warriors have found their new home in Malta.”
One of the Terracotta Warrior replicas at the Garden of Serenity in Santa Luċija
20th-anniversary concert of the China Cultural Centre in Malta
The China Cultural Centre in Malta was inaugurated on September 19, 2003. It is located in a hundred-year-old building at 173 Melita Street, Valletta. Extensive restoration and maintenance work were carried out on the building in order to preserve its historical and architectural character, while also adapting it to suit the Centre’s requirements. The Centre is a non-profit cultural organisation dedicated to promoting understanding and appreciation of Chinese culture and the arts, by means of cultural, educational and people-to-people activities.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of its official opening in Malta, a concert titled ‘Welcome to Xi’an, the ancient Capital of the Millennium’ was held at the Chinese Garden of Serenity on Saturday evening, July 22.
President Emeritus, Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, addressed the opening of this concert. She said this 51-year-old friendship between Malta and China was initiated by two great statesmen – Malta’s former Prime Minister, Dom Mintoff, and the former President of the People’s Republic of China, Mao Zedong. It is through such collaboration that the China Cultural Centre in Malta was established in Malta in 2003.“Today, we are marking another significant milestone as we commemorate the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the China Cultural Centre in Malta. This is not just a milestone for Malta but it is also a watershed moment on a European level, as this China Cultural Centre was the first of its kind in Europe. We must acknowledge that throughout these two decades, the China Cultural Centre has been another beacon of cultural exchange, fostering understanding and forging lasting bonds between our nations. The cultural bridge we have built has not only enriched our lives but has also opened new avenues for friendship and cooperation,” she said.
Renowned artists from the Song of Everlasting Sorrow Art Troupe of Huaqing Palace entertained the audience with their classical dances in Tang-Dynasty style, while musicians of the Xi’an Novo Folk Orchestra captivated the spectators with their soulful Chinese folk instrumental music. The latter succeeded to surprise and impress the audience by playing the popular song ‘Festa’, a Maltese musical composition by Mro Charles Camilleri.
Xi’an Novo Folk Orchestra
Tea party with grace: Fascination in Chang’an
The events on Sunday afternoon, July 23, kicked off with a Tea Fair presented by Masters of Tea ceremony from Xi’an who showed the public the elegant traditional process of preparing tea, both during the Tang Dynasty and the Song Dynasty.
Dressed in exquisite traditional costumes and equipped with refined traditional tea accessories that imitate a Tang-style royal gilded tea set which was unearthed in 1987 at the ancient Buddhist Famen Temple in northwest Shaanxi, the Masters of Tea explained the function of each vessel. A delicate knot roasting cage served to hold the tea leaves that were compressed into tea cakes, while a graceful roller was used to break the roasted tea leaves into minute sizes. The tea luozi had the purpose to sieve the tea, whereas a gold-gilded turtle-shaped silver box was used to store the tea foam. Other devices were utilised to store fine salt which was added to the tea.
Tea ceremony held at the Garden of Serenity in Santa Luċija
Lighting ceremony of Chang’an festive lanterns
On Sunday evening, the Lantern Festival was launched and the colourful Chinese lanterns that were brought from Xi’an for this occasion shone beautifully on Melita Street, seamlessly blending with the ancient capita
l of Malta. By now, this event has become a new popular attraction in Valletta, merging the creative dialogue of two cultures and two ancient civilisations.
In ancient China, Chinese lanterns were used to provide light and to form part of the aspec
ts of worship. Today, they are used only for decoration in homes and public places and as modern forms of celebration. Throughout the centuries lanterns have become a symbol of Chinese traditional culture in China.
During this event, besides admiring the festive ambience, the public was invited to play a traditional game from
Xi’an and try on Tang-style attire. This served as an opportunity for those who walked through this street in Valletta to meet and talk with members of the Xi’an delegation.
Chinese lanterns in Valletta
Cultural talk about the protection and inheritance of cultural heritage in China
On Monday, July 24, Yao Xinyuan, a renowned expert from Xi’an awarded by the Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism and currently serving as Chairman of Shaanxi Huaqing Palace Culture and Tourism Ltd., presented a Cultural Talk about the Protection and Inheritance of Cultural Heritage in China. Focusing on Huaqing Palace, Yao explained how in 2007, they came up with a plan to transform a historical site with a rapid decline in tourists into an outstandingly profitable and sought attraction.
Huaqing Palace is a unique landmark in Shaanxi province. The royal palace is a major historical and cultural site protected at the national level and listed in the first batch of National 5A Tourist Attractions; the highest rating awarded by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism to the most important and best-maintained tourist attractions in the People’s Republic of China. Located at the foot of Lishan Mountain with spectacular scenery, the site enjoys also the status of a National Key Scenic Area.
While serving to introduce a new captivating historical spot in Xi’an, this Cultural Talk also acted as a significant means to share stories and ideas about the rich cultural heritage and long history of both China and Malta.
The public appreciating the Chinese traditional activities