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Insights & Inspirations | Panel Discussion——Civilization is Colorful Because of Communication, Civilization is Enriched by Mutual Learning


Moderator: Ge Lei, Executive General Manager of CYTS-Linkage Public Relations Consulting Co., Ltd.
Bisera Fabrio, Chargée D’affaires of the Croatian Embassy in China
Yao Yanbo, Professor, PhD Supervisor and Associate Dean of the College of Tourism and Service Management, Nankai University
Ge Shuiping, President of Shanxi Federation of Literary and Art Circles, Professor of School of Chinese Language and Literature, Shanxi University
Du Xuewen, Renowned Literary and Art Critic, President of Shanxi Writers Association
Wang Shan, Executive Vice President and Secretary-General of the Poetry Institute of China

Ge Lei: Distinguished leaders and guests, welcome to the Panel Discussion session of the Grand Rivers Forum, I am Ge Lei from CYTS. I was born in Henan, where there is an ancient city called Suiyang on both sides of the Yellow River. As the sons of the Yellow River, we all know that this place has a long history and has also suffered a lot. I went to Qinghai last year and found it was a paradise for life at the source of the Yellow River. I saw countless antelopes, and wolves on the opposite bank, as well as foxes and birds. What moved me most was that as a Chinese, I visited the source of the Yellow River. As a tourist, I felt very lucky to have traveled to Mother Rivers of many countries before the corona pandemic, such as the Nile, the Danube, and the Ganges, etc. On the banks of each country’s mother river, you can see its most real history and the most real state of its people, which especially impresses me. So today we can gather together to discuss a theme about grand rivers, I think this is our common tribute to the mother river.

I will invite Ms. Bisera Fabrio to answer my first question. Many tourists, especially those who have traveled all over the world, yearn for a place called the Eye of the Earth. You can search it on the Internet. It’s a huge dark blue spring and the source of the Cetina River, the mother river of Croatia. Now let’s welcome Ms. Bisera Fabrio, chargée d’affaires ad interim of the Croatian Embassy in China, to introduce her mother river.

Bisera Fabrio: Hello, everyone. It’s a great pleasure for me to come to the beautiful Linfen. Shanxi Province and Croatia are old friends. Today, I’m very honored to share with you about Croatia. In 2015, there were about 500,000 Chinese tourists visited Croatia. As the moderator said just now, many Chinese tourists want to see the mysterious beauty of the Cetina River. The Cetina River is 30 kilometers away from Split, the second largest city in Croatia. It is 100 kilometers long and about 100 meters deep, which is relatively short compared with the Yellow River and the Yangtze River in China. But what makes it so mysterious is that many historians don’t know why the Cetina River was named for. Croatia is a coastal country. The first preferred destination for many Chinese tourists is Plitvice Lakes National Park. We sincerely invite you to visit Croatia. Thank you.

Ge Lei: Okay. Thank Ms. Fabrio for giving us a good culture and travel recommendation about Croatia. I think tourism is the best way for mutual understanding, mutual cognition, and mutual love of different civilizations and cultures. Just now, Ms. Fabrio presented to China on behalf of Croatia. Next, I’d like to ask Professor Yao Yanbo from Nankai University: after China officially proposed to build world-class tourist resorts, how can we turn the Yellow River into a world-class tourist product, so as to attract tourists from all over the world in the future?

Yao Yanbo: Thank you, moderator. In the past two years, various provinces and cities, especially the cultural and tourism administration departments, have paid great attention to the topic of creating a world-class tourism destination. We have also done this work for some provinces and cities. To this end, we have also teased out a rating system to evaluate whether a destination is such a cosmopolitan and important world-class destination. The system is very long. Next, I will simply summarize it. If a tourist destination can attract a large number of visitors from all over the world for sightseeing, leisure & vacation, and business activities, and can offer very convenient traffic and various world-class reception facilities, then we can say it meets the characteristics and criteria of a world-class tourist destination.

First, it should have a world-class tourism image, and have a very attractive world-class tourism attraction. In addition, it should be able to provide tourists with very good reception service in the tourist destination. That is, its facilities and service standards have reached a world-class standard, making tourists feel at home. In fact, any tourist destination that wants to be a world-class tourist destination can prepare based on these standards. We have also formulated the development outline for various regions based on this framework. However, I think it makes difference for the Yellow River. For example, we used to formulate outlines for a city to create a world-class destination image. But for the Yellow River which is a basin involving nine provinces and many cities, it’s very difficult to create a world-class tourist destination image. In other words, they must be integrated, and regional cooperation is very important. These cities need to position themselves around the theme of the Yellow River. However, it’s very difficult for these cities to determine which theme to focus on: tourism image, promotion of the natural landscape, or the civilization and culture of the Yellow River? In general, this is a necessary work if we want to build a world-class tourism image of the Yellow River Basin. These cities need to promote movement of population, and then have a very distinct tourism slogan and tourism destination image, and conduct marketing around such a theme. Of course, if the tourism image of a destination is world-class, or very famous, it also needs a very good social order, hospitable environment, and good facilities. This is about the tourism image.

Next, we will talk about its attraction. Tourism attraction, colloquially speaking, refers to tourism resources. The Yellow River has the resource endowment because of its long history and unique natural landscape in the world. Therefore, we can say that the Yellow River Basin is much endowed as a world-class tourist destination. On the basis of this endowment, we can develop some tourism products around such a theme. Our team has worked with the WTA to make the Tourism Development Report on River Valley Civilization, which is on the table in front of you. In this report, we have borrowed from other Grand River Civilizations around the world, and I think we can also learn from some of their products for the Yellow River Basin. For example, its ecological products and creative tourism products are very popular in the world. The products of science and education, science popularization, and educational movement are lacking in the Yellow River Basin. I think we can focus on these products.

In addition, I think the Yellow River Basin is very suitable for some holiday products, which have very different characteristics from sightseeing products. That is to say, holiday products allow people to live in the resort. Mount Yun is a very good scenic spot for holidays and for people to stay and live for a long time. We also need to grasp some key points of holiday to develop similar products in the Yellow River Basin. Thank you.

Ge Lei: Thank you, Ms. Yao. Ms. Yao said that each region needs customization. Each region has its features. We just mentioned the Yellow River source, Ningxia, deserts, the confluence of the Yellow River and desert, the confluence of the Great Wall and the Yellow River in Inner Mongolia which becomes a paradise in Dongying, as well as Shanxi Province, you can feel the national spirit represented by the Yellow River. Each region has attractive landscape and elements of the Yellow River. In my heart, what impressed me most about the Yellow River are the villages, and the people who lived on the banks of the Yellow River. I know Ms. Ge is a famous writer. She ever wrote a note, “A great society can only be presented vividly to the world through its countryside”. There are a lot of villages on the banks of the Yellow River, how to make these villages leave a historical memory, and can maintain vitality in this era?

Ge Shuiping: I want to say that everyone here can see the Yellow River behind is golden, but many of you know the Yellow River should not be yellow. As the saying goes, the Yellow River is clearest in Guide County. I ever went to Guide and found the Yellow River was very clear. There is a ballad in Guide, saying “a bowl of Yellow River water, half bowl of sands”. The Yellow River is so yellow because of water and soil erosion, symbolizing the color of the Chinese nation. When we say that Hukou Waterfall is the soul of the Chinese nation, sometimes I think that when the Yellow River flows to Hukou Waterfall, it is like a peaceful river suddenly standing up at Hukou Waterfall. When we think of the Yellow River coming with such momentum, each of us should calm down and think about it. Think about how long humans can survive in this world without water, that’s my simple understanding of the Yellow River, because I was born in the countryside and grew up drinking river water. When the day comes when the water is unavailable for drinking, I suddenly think something’s wrong with our water. Our surface water is sinking and is polluted. What’s wrong with our water? When I see the Yellow River in Yuncheng, Jishan, and Linfen, I think of so much bright civilization brought by the Yellow River and think about what’s wrong with our villages and why more and more tall buildings are constructed in our cities. I may get lost in an alley in a city in the north. Why is this? Because these cities are so similar.

Will our countryside be the same? If we look back our current era a few years later, what exactly is rural civilization? What exactly is Chinese civilization? What does our Chinese civilization present on this land, that is, what do our villages in the Yellow River Basin bring to us? I wonder why we have to go for the same thing. Civilization and culture have their own personalities, and their commonness is bound to have their own personalities. Ms. Yao just said that nations are universal. What’s the national character of our culture? When we invite others to visit our ancient villages or ancient dwellings, we blindly expand them. Whether the bigness can represent the northern courtyards or northern cities? But what we should think more about is what the legacy of our civilization is?

What’s the legacy of the environment we live in? The last sentence of Linfen tourism slogan is “Find your way home”. What I think more after I go home is heated bed, food and drink, and my love. I think this is probably the most important argument for the continuation of the annual or biannual Great Rivers Forum. I wonder why Mr. Liang Xiaosheng just expressed some things around Xiangning County instead of the Yellow River, because our ancestors were born in the countryside and buried in the yellow land. I believe he wants to strive for something for farmers because of his care for the land. As we are all people of Asian descent, we were born in the Yellow River Basin, and our ancestors created the Chinese civilization. So I will think and I hope more of us here to think about it, and all of us should have a kind of cultural confidence. The cultural confidence is our villages and our culture, as well as pictures of recording our parents growing up. Please take care of such confidence. Thank you.

Ge Lei: Thank you, Ms. Ge. All of a sudden, it seems to arouse my homesickness. I miss my hometown and my parents and grandparents. Perhaps the Yellow River is not only a tourist destination, but also a place where every Chinese can find their own cultural fireworks, which are still passed down from generation to generation. This is increasingly precious and worth thinking about for change. In fact, there are many people who have lived for generations on the banks of the Yellow River, and there are also people who come and go from the south to the north. I ever met tourists from India when I went to the Yungang Grottoes last time. I’d like to ask Mr. Du, who are a critic and has traveled a lot of places. From your perspective, how do you view the collision of different cultures in the Yellow River Basin, and the collision between the Yellow River civilization and other civilizations in the world, and what kind of impact it has brought to us today?

Du Xuewen: Thank you. This is a very big topic. When we talk about farming in the Yellow River civilization, is it a closed state? In fact, it’s not. The moderator mentioned Yungang Grottoes. In terms of its architectural style, architectural ideas and its historical background, it’s really a very open background, which is indeed the most international and influential in the Northern Wei Dynasty. Recent news reports that General Secretary Xi Jinping is visiting Uzbekistan, where the ancient city Samarkand is particularly interesting because it is historically a place of close connection between the West and East. In terms of artistic creation, Samarkand was a former site, where large quantities of millet, i.e., the millet that we eat today, were discovered during archaeology. It’s well known that this millet is produced in the Taihang Mountains and is very closely related to the Loess Plateau, but with the passage of time, it gradually spread around till Central Asia.

Traders who traveled closely along the Silk Road lived in ancient cities like Samarkand, they departed from Samarkand to Xi’an and other regions of the country, including Datong City in Shanxi Province. These are the places where traders from Samarkand lived in. Their arrival had exerted a great influence on the life, production and culture types, including art and literature, of the Central China and the farming areas. In addition to the communication between regions, the communication within the Yellow River Basin was also very frequent. For example, the bronze ware found in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, has a very complicated name, and I especially recited it. There are four layers of patterns on it. We noticed a pair of animals on the lowest layer, above which is a python, which is not a pattern of central plains. This indicates such form of art has implications for the Chinese mainland.

From the perspective of the development and evolution of civilizations, there is a universal and regular phenomenon between civilizations in different regions and countries, that is, it will imperceptibly promote exchanges. The fusion of these exchanges between different regions led to new development in civilization. On the whole, the exchanges between cultures in different regions of grand river basins promoted the new development of civilization and ensured the continuous development and expansion of civilization.

Ge Lei: In the archaeology of the Yellow River, we found that many people came here, including merchants, craftsmen and soldiers. The funny fact is that there was also a group of people who came to the banks of the Yellow River — poets. As we know, poetry is the most romantic color of the Chinese people. Many of us, including those who have never been to the Yellow River, got to know the Yellow River from Chinese ancient poetry. For example, “A smoke hangs straight on the desert vast, a sun sits round on the endless stream”. Mr. Wang, what do you think of a more romantic Yellow River depicted in Chinese poetry?

Wang Shan: The moderator raised a very good and big question. Due to the limited time, I will answer the question according to the habit of literature or poetry.

The first thing I want to say is that poetry is definitely related to romance, but in addition to romance, poetry is very closely related to beauty, justice, incisiveness, courage and other series of words.

Each time at the end of a party, a friend of mine recited Li Bai’s poems with great emotion: Don’t you see the Yellow River pouring from heaven, rushing to the sea, never to return? This brought the atmosphere to a climax. We have too many poems describing the Yellow River since ancient times. The “you” in “Don’t you see…” is an appellation. In fact, it has a special meaning in our Chinese culture. I don’t think it can be equated with “gentleman” in the West, it has Chinese characteristics. “The Yellow River pouring from heaven, rushing to the sea, never to return” describes the Yellow River, expressing the author’s feelings about life and history. The poet’s description of the Yellow River, or the Yellow River in the poems, has been integrated into the blood of every one of us, and has become a collective power of our nation. We have been enlightened, moved, and inspired by these poetries we have read deep in our hearts. Poetry has become a way for us to know, observe, and express the world, and has become a way of our life. I think this is the pride of China, and a tradition and a characteristic of our Chinese nation. That’s the tradition of poetry.

Ge Lei: Thank you, Mr. Wang. Each civilization has a source. Although the source is different, the ultimate destination of all rivers is the sea. In fact, the development of China and many other countries may have benefited from globalization in the past decades, as well as the exchange of commerce, culture and all aspects between different civilizations. Therefore, when we discuss the topic of grand river civilization today, we need to gain wisdom from the ancient grand rivers. In other words, it’s about how we, in today’s real world, can promote exchanges, mutual learning, understanding and integration between different cultures and civilizations by looking at ancient rivers, and finally build a community with a shared future for mankind. I hope each guest can provide some thoughts and suggestions in this regard. Let’s first invite Ms. Fabrio to share with us briefly.

Bisera Fabrio: Of course, cooperation is an irresistible trend. The global concern is climate change. We should work together to protect our planet. We can learn from each other through civilization construction,and learn each other’s ideas and cultural characteristics to make progress together. It has been seven years since I came to China. During these seven years, I have visited the mountains and rivers of China, and also some cities near the Yellow River. I can really feel the open spirit of the Chinese people. Even in the context of the pandemic, we can still gather together to attend the forum today successfully. It’s really of great significance. We can learn from each other and regard each other as partners to make progress together. Thank you.

Ge Lei: Thank you. In fact, today’s forum is a very good way for us to exchange with each other, and I’d like to thank Ms. Fabrio for such comments. She just mentioned an interesting point. In fact, dialogue between civilizations and exchanges between cultures are ultimately the common interests of mankind. Therefore, climate is also a particularly good global topic to promote dialogue between civilizations.

Yao Yanbo: As a tourist, I put my priority on tourism. I remember when I was an undergraduate, my teacher taught us the course Introduction to Tourism. The first class was about the meaning of tourism activities. One of the teachers told us firmly that tourism was folk diplomacy, which impressed me deeply. Through such tourism activity, tourists of different races and different countries and regions can communicate with each other. Many ethnic barriers, even those caused by historical reasons, can be removed by building a communication bridge through cultural tourism exchanges.

Ge Lei: Maybe this is the meaning of the Forum on Grand Rivers Civilization and Tourism. Our ultimate goal is to experience the charm of grand rivers by walking here in person.

Ge Shuiping: You just mentioned the Yungang Grottoes, I thought they were the cultural crystallization of the Northern Wei and Han dynasties. The integration of nationalities formed the world’s top-level culture. I think integration is the most important in this era. Both rivers and cultures are mobile. While rivers bring cultures to other places, they also bring civilizations from other places to their own settlements. Corresponding to the forum’s theme “River, Harmony, Cooperation”, I think integration is very important in this era.

Ge Lei: It’s so amazing. The Chinese characters “River, Harmony, Cooperation” represent rivers physically, as well as the spiritual and emotional harmony.

Du Xuewen: I think there is a fundamental problem. There is a common task in different regions, different nations, different countries and even different historical periods: how to know and understand each other. What do you know and understand about each other? What’s the mode of production? What’s the lifestyle? What are ethical relationships? What’s the way of thinking? In fact, when we talk about the same thing, even the same concept, our cognition of the same thing is quite different due to our different experience, education and way of thinking. We’re not talking about the same thing. What’s the reason? This is because there are differences between different cultures, and what we need to do is to break down those differences so that we can understand each other. Therefore, I think understanding is very important.

In terms of rivers, there are various rivers in the world, but their ultimate destination is the sea. We cannot ask all rivers to be the same. Each river has its own style, charm and beauty. But each river has a common purpose to flow to the sea. This is also the destination of different ethnic groups. Although all of us have different cultural backgrounds, cultural histories and growth experiences, what we yearn for most and the ultimate goal is that everyone can grow and develop in the ocean of human culture and yearn for the happiness and beauty of life. Therefore, I think it’s necessary to understand and identify with each other between different cultures and nationalities.

Ge Lei: Thank you, Mr. Du. Both civilization and human communication need empathy and consideration for others.

Wang Shan: What I want to say most is that we should try to do the right things regardless of difficulty. Because of the epidemic and other factors in recent years, we have encountered some problems in the exchanges among countries in the world, including physical exchanges and spiritual exchanges. The tougher the situation, the more we can feel the value of the Forum on Grand Rivers Civilization and Tourism. The grand rivers refer to the Yellow River in the narrow sense, and the grand rivers in the world in the broad sense. They can be harmonious but different. I was lucky to visit Hukou Waterfall a month and a half ago. What shocked me about Hukou Waterfall was the momentum of the Yellow River, which spared no effort to keep moving forward. I think our exchanges should not be stopped by any adverse factors. I believe the pandemic will pass. Thank you.

Ge Lei: Thank you, Mr. Wang. The pandemic will pass. Everyone has hope for the future. In particular, I want to thank all the panelists on the stage for giving us a very high-quality dialogue today. At least in this dialogue, there has been a better understanding between scholars and tourists, and between Croatia and China. Secondly, I’d like to express my special thanks to the WTA and Culture and Tourism Department of Shanxi Province for holding this forum and bringing us to the bank of the Yellow River and the foot of Mount Yun to discuss the topic of civilization and a community with a shared future for mankind. New wisdom emerges from these exchanges, leading us to a better future. We hope that different people, different cultures and different countries can work together, under the theme of the Forum on Grand Rivers Civilization and Tourism, to build an open and inclusive mind, build a beautiful homeland, and create a responsible and better planet and a better future for us and our future generations.

This is the end of our forum. Thank you.