CAA initiative promotes mutual learning of civilizations

Wu Huixin
The China Academy of Art's Liangzhu Campus has been turned into an artistic hub with researched exhibits from other great civilizations.
Wu Huixin
CAA initiative promotes mutual learning of civilizations

The Tianwen project has drawn artists, scientists, and philosophers alike to explore the creation of the world and civilizations.

The Inter(World)View2023: Mutual-Learning of Civilizations initiative has transformed the Liangzhu Campus of the China Academy of Art into an artistic hub showcasing the cultural exploration of other civilizations.

The academy is celebrating its 95th anniversary this year.

To draw inspiration, the CAA sent faculty and students to 12 cultural sites, including the Lufeng Dinosaur Valley in Yunnan Province, the Amazon rainforest, Silicon Valley, Icelandic volcanoes, Leonardo da Vinci’s Residence, the Rusakov Workers’ Club in Moscow, Damaidi in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, the Yangjialing Revolutionary Site in Shaanxi Province and Katsura Imperial Villa in Japan.

The exhibits on campus fall into 12 categories: Life, Basin, Society, Technology, Belief, Culture, History, Nation, Relic, Time, Education and World.

The Chinese term for the project is Tianwen (天问), meaning universal questions. Everyone wants to discover their origins. Arts and civilizations were used to determine these cultural sites’ historical and anthropological value.

Professors and students visited Damaidi, which is thought to be the origin of Chinese characters. In 1988, geologists uncovered rock carvings with early Chinese pictographs there.

The visit threw up questions for the artists. “How can we trace the origin of writing to the beginning of the world? What were the knowledge carriers and transmission tools prior to the systematic invention of writing? Does information from the prehistoric period still exist in modern writings?”

The faculty and students, in response to their findings, came up with the work titled “Earthy Writing and Containment of Time: Seeking the Wordless Book.”

They had carried out multi-perspective talks with 12 other civilizations as part of the Tianwen project. They appreciated the beauty of each civilization as well as the diversity of civilizations throughout the world.

The university has long encouraged teachers and students to be aware of future trends in human civilization, particularly in the field of science and technology. As a result, it sent a team to Silicon Valley in the United States.

“To some extent, the relationship between humanity and machinery reflects the relationship between human beings and nature,” according to Jiang Jun, director of the School of Visual Communication. “The moment artificial technology surpasses nature might also be the moment when we lose our genuineness.

“Technological civilization is a progression of human evolution through technological advancement.”

The Tianwen project is also part of the CAA Journey Plan, which aims to transcend history and professional viewpoints, broaden the vision of art, and interpret civilizational history via art and understand art from the perspective of civilizations.

The university started the Inter(World)View2020: Dialogue of Worldviews initiative in 2020, which focused on natural science and philosophy. It has now moved its emphasis to social science and the humanities.

“The Tianwen project considers humanistic thoughts to be the heaven, and social actions to be the earth. It encourages mutual learning between thoughts and actions in all directions.

“Civilization is more than just cultural learning; it includes rethinking ecology, economy, society, culture and history,” said Gao Shiming, president of the CAA.

For generations, Chinese people have held the following belief about handling intercultural relations, which is “One should value not only one’s own culture but also the cultures of others (各美其美,美人之美,美美与共),” and this will contribute to the flourishing of all cultures.

We believe that respect for other nations and cultures would lead to prosperity for all cultures around the world. That is also the Tianwen project’s philosophy.

CAA initiative promotes mutual learning of civilizations

How to get there:

More than 200 trains run daily between Shanghai and Hangzhou, with the fastest taking 45 minutes. Tickets can be purchased on the 12306 app or at train stations.

In Hangzhou, take Line 19 at Hangzhou East Railway Station, transfer to Metro Line 2 at Shentang Bridge to Liangzhu Station.

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