“A Single Flower Does Not Make Spring!”

Great visions can be realized only through actions. In the coming days, we should focus on the inter-civilizational exchanges and mutual learning, with the people-to-people communication as bond. 

by Cheng Xueyuan

In this lovely early Summer in Beijing, more than 2,000 distinguished guests from 47 countries including Sri Lanka participated the splendid Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations (CDAC). The Conference was initiated by President Xi Jinping following the Belt and Road Initiative, and has drawn worldwide attention and positive response from many countries in and beyond the region, which provides a platform for different civilizations in Asia to engage in equal dialogue and exchanges for better mutual understanding and learning.

Despite the busiest and hardest domestic schedule, President Maithripala Sirisena kept his previous promise, managed to attend the CDAC Opening Ceremony on 15th May 2019, and delivered a wonderful speech, showing his great support to the Sri Lanka-China bilateral relations, as well as the equal exchanges and mutual learning between different civilizations, which is of crucial importance especially under current situation in Sri Lanka. I had the honor to accompany with President Sirisena and would like to share my own experience and opinions with Sri Lankan friends.

Firstly, all civilizations should respect and treat each other equally. I quoted President Xi Jinping in his keynote speech on the CDAC as follows: “All civilizations are rooted in their unique cultural environment. Each embodies the wisdom and vision of a country or nation, and each is valuable for being uniquely its own. Civilizations only vary from each other, just as human beings are different only in terms of skin color and the language used. No civilization is superior over others. The thought that one’s own race and civilization are superior and the inclination to remold or replace other civilizations are just stupid. To act them out will only bring catastrophic consequences.” China and Sri Lanka both have splendid and historical civilizations. One example says all: The “Twenty-Four Histories” completely recorded the Chinese ancient history and created the unique Chinese theoretical system of history, while Sri Lankan monks also compiled the Dipavamsa and the Mahavamsa written in the Pali. Over thousands of years,the Chinese and Sir Lankan civilizations get along with each other with mutual respect and equality, sparkling together in the history of the human civilization.

Secondly, all civilizations should appreciate and uphold the beauty of each other. Each civilization is a crystallization of human aesthetic creation, the aspiration for all beauties is a common pursuit of humanity. Our planet is not a lack of beauty, but the lack of the eyes to find the beauty. The Chinese civilization built the Forbidden City, a treasure of the ancient palace construction. The Sri Lankan civilization also built the ancient city of Sigiriya which shows the ingenuity for its design. The vivid murals draw in the Mogao Grottoes of China is amazing, while the beautiful murals in the Golden Temple of Dambulla also makes the visitors linger. During the thousands years history for both countries, our ancestors have created brilliant and splendid civilization achievements. We should keep our own civilization dynamic and also provide conditions for other civilizations to flourish. Together we can make our own civilizations blossom in the garden of world civilizations.

Thirdly, all civilizations should stay open and inclusive and draw on each other’s strengths. Long-term self-isolation will cause a civilization to decline, while exchanges and mutual learning will sustain its development. A civilization can flourish only through exchanges and mutual learning with other civilizations. The eminent Chinese monk Fa-Hsien has visited Sri Lanka (AD 410-AD 413) and written the travel notes of Sri Lanka (part of his most famous work “Record of Buddhist Kingdoms”), which is a precious historical materials to study ancient Sri Lanka. Fa-Hsien also brought four Sri Lankan Sanskrit Buddhist scriptures including the Mahisasaka Vinaya, Dīrghâgama, Samyuktagama, and Zazang Sutra back to China. Another eminent monk Xuanzang has recorded about ancient Sri Lanka in his famous book the Great Tang Records on the Western Regions (AD 629-AD 642).

Sri Lankan eminent monks also visited China in the history. Sanghamitta visited Mount Wutai in China and introduce the way to worship the Manjushri Bodhisattva. In early 8th century, Amoghavajra visited China and became the Royal preceptor for three emperors. He was the founder of the Chinese Vajrayāna and famous for his translation of the Buddhist scriptures. He also introduce the Chinese style of drawing and sculpture into Sri Lanka, and this influence can be seen from the murals in Dambulla. Such inclusive attitude on exchanges and the efforts to learn from each other’s civilizations promotes the common development of Asian civilizations.

Fourthly, all civilizations should advance with the times and explore new ground in development. Just as a Chinese ancient poem said “There lies a glassy oblong pool, Where light and shade pursue their course. How could it be so clear and cool? For fresh water comes from the source.” For a civilization, seclusion can only lead to the backwardness, and conservation can only lead to the downfall. Any civilizations can only move forward through adapt itself to the changing times and break new ground. We need to come up with new ideas to add impetus and inspiration to the development of our civilizations. With these efforts, we will deliver achievements for our civilizations to transcend time and space and have a lasting appeal.

I recalled President Sirisena’s speech at the opening ceremony, “What we need is to respect each other as equals and say no to hubris and prejudice. We need to deepen understanding of the difference between one's own civilization and others', and work to promote interaction, dialogue and harmony among civilizations.” Both of our country are multi-ethnic and multi-cultural community, it is an inherent cultural gene for both countries to hold inclusiveness and openness to different civilizations. Both of our countries know very well that delicious soup is made by combining different ingredients, it is obvious that each kind of civilizations is the great wisdom of different nationality.

Great visions can be realized only through actions. In the coming days, we should focus on the inter-civilizational exchanges and mutual learning, with the people-to-people communication as bond. We should continue to turn the Belt and Road Initiative into tangible results and deliver greater benefits to the two countries and two peoples. We should work together to create the community with shared future for China and Sri Lanka, and also make contribution to the building of the community with shared future for Asian and mankind.

The writer is the Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka


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