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“Would I were a river…”: an intimate observation of the Chinese and Hungarian poetry recital at SZTE CI, Hungary

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The famous Hungarian poet Sándor Petőfi (1823-1849) is a household name in China, but is the original Hungarian text of his poems so eloquent or tender as their Chinese renditions?

October 30, 2018

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On October 8th, local time, the Chinese and Hungarian bilingual readings of the love poem “Were I were a river” were held in the square in front of the Rector’s Building of the University of Szeged. This is an important part of the University Autumn Cultural Festival. At 12 o’clock, Richard Mohr, the Hungarian Director of the Confucius Institute at the University of Szeged (SZTE CI), first introduced the background of the event to the audience, and then invited the Chinese and the Hungarian readers – Ms. ZHANG Xiuwen, a Chinese teacher of the Confucius Institute, and Miss WANG Yudie, a Hungarian student from the Shanghai International Studies University. With the melodious piano music “Little Comfort” rising slowly over the square, Miss WANG Yudie recited the popular Hungarian poem with a beautiful voice, rich emotions and standard Hungarian intonation and pronunciation. At the end of a stanza followed by a brief lull, Ms. ZHANG began to recite the Chinese version of the corresponding stanza with a calm and magnetic voice. The recitations and the music were mixed seamlessly in a harmonious manner, attracting passers-by to stop and listen. Then a growing crowd was gathering around the two readers. Everyone was immersed in beautiful poetry and music. Finally, in the midst of “But then only if my love/Were the hush of twilight,/Crimsoning my woe-wan face/With the blush of nigh night,” this event came to a close.

The recital of Chinese and Hungarian bilingual poetry is another new attempt by SZTE CI to continuously explore effective ways of cultural exchange between China and Hungary. The previous cultural activities were mainly aimed at promoting Chinese culture. They mainly encouraged local audiences to appreciate and learn Chinese language and culture. Although the effect was very obvious, the local culture was not paid due attention to and the acceptance of cultural communication was affected to some extent. Introducing Chinese culture in a way that is appealing to the local audience will greatly reduce the sense of strangeness towards Chinese culture, and the effect of cultural promotion will be significantly improved. The Confucius Institute at Szeged University has participated in the parent meetings of partner schools, introduced the China Central Television Station (CCTV)’s “Classic rumors” program and the recitation of ancient Chinese poetry in Chinese language teaching, and held the academic-year-end annual conferences and cultural galas together with partner schools, gradually integrating itself into the local community and making its due contributions to the promotion of Chinese language and culture and the exchanges between China and Hungary.

(Report/Photography: Confucius Institute at the University of Szeged, Hungary)