“An Encounter on a Journey across Time and Space – Cultural Routes of Europe Exhibition”, organized by the Delegation of the European Union to China, will open in Changchun on Saturday 17th August 2019 at Changchun Library, where it will be on display for one week. The roving exhibition will showcase the 38 Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe in three Chinese cities of rich cultural heritage related to the concept of “routes”, namely Changchun along the ‘Chinese Eastern Railway’, Xi’an as the starting point of the Ancient Silk Road, and Beijing as the destination of the Grand Canal. The exhibition aims at promoting cross-cultural dialogue and sustainable tourism between China and the European Union, through sharing the beauty, value and inspiration of 38 European cultural routes.
EU-Asia connectivity has become increasingly important in recent years, with China launching its Belt and Road Initiative and the European Union presenting its own Strategy for Connecting Europe and Asia. While the main focus of these strategies is on trade, cultural and people-to-people exchanges are also important elements of connectivity. The current exhibition aims to make a contribution to this cross-cultural exchange between the EU and China. Last year was also the EU-China Tourism Year, which aimed at promoting sustainable tourism and lesser known destinations. This exhibition also offers fresh ideas for Chinese travelers looking to discover Europe in new and unique ways.
The texts, images and video clips of the 38 routes displayed here have been made available by the ‘Enlarged Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe’ and the ‘European Institute of Cultural Routes’, as well as by the S.A. de Xestión do Plan Xacobeo, Xunta de Galicia in Spain. Other sources such as touch-screen materials are provided by Buen Camino Editorial from Spain. Beijing Foreign Studies University’s researchers and painters Wanli and Tang Zhuo, from the Consortium for Chinese Studies and Intercultural Communication, are also contributing to this exhibition by providing a pictorial insight into the early experience of Europeans entering into contact with Chinese cultural routes. The exhibition in Changchun has been made possible thanks to the warm support of the Changchun government, Changchun Library and Jilin Jiaxi Cultural Development Ltd, as well as other related government offices, public and private organizations.
What is a “cultural route”?
The term “Cultural Route” was first officially coined by the Council of Europe in 1987 on the occasion of the ‘Santiago de Compostela Declaration’. In 1994 the concept of Cultural Route as world heritage was clearly defined and criteria identified during a conference on ‘Routes as Part of Our Cultural Heritage’ in Madrid, Spain. In the ‘Charter on Cultural Routes’ by ICOMOS in 2008, cultural routes were officially identified as a new category of cultural heritage.
The Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe programme was launched in 1987 to demonstrate, by means of a journey through space and time, how heritage from different countries of Europe contributes to a shared cultural heritage.
The Enlarged Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes (EPA) of the Council of Europe (2010) represents a milestone in the development of European cultural routes. There “Cultural Route” is defined as a cultural, educational heritage project, where tourism constitutively cooperates, aiming at the development and promotion of an itinerary or a series of itineraries based on a historic route, a cultural concept, figure or phenomenon with a transnational importance and significance for the understanding and respect of common European values. Through the EPA program, Europe greatly enhanced its research and preservation of cultural route heritage, sustainable tourism, common European identity, and inter-cultural dialogue. By 2019, the Council of Europe has certified 38 cultural routes, covering more than 50 countries in and beyond Europe. Among them, the most popular route is the Santiago de Compostela Pilgrim Routes, also known as El Camino de Santiago; it is the first cultural route certified by the Council of Europe in 1987, which later was declared world heritage by UNESCO in 1993.
China is also a country rich in cultural routes’ heritage. The Silk Road is the longest of this kind of heritage and brought to China and its partners an extraordinary enrichment on many levels of civilization. In 2014, both the Silk Road and the Grand Canal entered the UNESCO World Heritage list, but there are still some other cultural routes like the Sichuan Road, the Tea Horse Road, The Russian-Chinese Tea Road, some paths towards the Sacred Mountains, Beijing as the Central Axis of the Nation, etc., requesting this distinction.
Cultural routes record history, connect cultures and serve as pathways for economy and trade. In this exhibition, all 38 cultural routes of the Council of Europe are presented to the audience following the themes of history, culture, economy and trade. Chinese travelers are warmly welcomed to experience these routes and enjoy their beauty across time and space.
The Beijing Camino International Cultural Exchange Center (BCC) and the Comillas Pontifical University are the economic operators of this exhibition.
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