Fact Check
Inter-civilizational dialogue
By Lan Xinzhen  ·  2023-12-11  ·   Source: NO.50 DECEMBER 14, 2023

More than 300 participants from China and abroad gathered in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang Province, on December 3 for the First Liangzhu Forum.

Established to further facilitate international cultural exchange, the forum takes its name from the Archaeological Ruins of Liangzhu City. First discovered in 1936, these ruins lie in Yuhang District of Hangzhou and date back to 4,300 to 5,300 years ago. They reveal an early regional state in late Neolithic China that prospered on rice cultivation.

Discoveries at the site include nearly 200 tons of carbonized rice remains, unique jadeware, and a large-scale complex water management system, the earliest known in China. Among the jadeware found there are ritual vessels with exquisite carvings for use in ceremonies. The ruins are composed of a palace, an inner city and an outer city, a layout indicating the existence of a strong social hierarchy.

Chinese people often use "5,000 years of civilization" to define the nation's history. However, this concept, though widely quoted, gives only a rough idea of how ancient the Chinese civilization is. Liangzhu, as well as other archaeological sites such as Hemudu, also in Zhejiang and with a history of some 7,000 years, have provided solid evidence that ancient cultures existed in China more than 5,000 years ago.

The Liangzhu Forum was jointly held by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Zhejiang Provincial Government with the theme Implementing the Global Civilizations Initiative (GCI), Promoting Exchange and Mutual Learning Between Civilizations. The GCI, put forward by President Xi Jinping, underlines the need to respect the diversity of civilizations, promote common values and build bridges to facilitate this exchange and mutual learning.

In a congratulatory message to the First Liangzhu Forum, Xi called for efforts to promote the vision of equality, mutual learning, dialogue and mutual accommodation to help diverse civilizations live in harmony and reinforce one another, as well as enhance friendship, mutual understanding and affection between people of different countries.

Xi announced that the Liangzhu Forum would be convened to strengthen dialogue on civilizations with partner countries during his keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the Third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing on October 18.

The Belt and Road Initiative, proposed by China in 2013, aims to boost connectivity along and beyond the ancient Silk Road routes. In his speech, Xi identified people-to-people exchange as one of the eight major steps in advancing Belt and Road cooperation. With the participation of more than 150 countries and over 30 international organizations, the Belt and Road Initiative is facilitating the mingling of diverse languages, cultures and histories.

In 2019, the Archaeological Ruins of Liangzhu City were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List, which lists the world's most important heritage sites that "tell the story of our planet, of our shared humanity and the wealth of its cultures," according to UNESCO. Discoveries at the site have shed light on the transition from small-scale Neolithic societies to large integrated political units with highly developed social structures, rituals and crafts. The city is an outstanding example of early urban civilization. 

Closer bonds between the peoples are the key to enhancing state-to-state relations. Mutual learning helps bolster mutual understanding, which in turn promotes harmony. At a time when ideas like the superiority of Western culture and the clash of civilizations are still popular, the world needs to strive for exchange that is equal, respectful and inclusive. The Liangzhu Forum offers a new platform to celebrate cultural diversity, a highly relevant concept in the world today.

Copyedited by G.P. Wilson 

Comments to lanxinzhen@cicgamericas.com 

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