BEIJING, Nov. 14, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — A news report from Beijing Review:
Now in her 90s, Mexican academic Flora Botton Beja was one of the first academics in Latin America in the 1960s to focus her research on China. "It has been my life’s work," she said.
In the mid-1960s, she was awarded a UNESCO scholarship to pursue a master’s degree in Oriental studies at El Colegio de México (Colmex), where she chose to pursue Chinese studies as her research direction. Later, she joined the Center for Asian and African Studies at Colmex, the first department in Latin America to focus on Chinese studies.
She has promoted cultural exchange between China and Mexico through translation, teaching and writing. She has also mentored a number of sociology professionals in Latin America.
"My academic career can be summarized as a love story between me and China—because love is loyal and long-lasting," Botton said.
On September 8, Botton’s decades of dedication were recognized by the inaugural Orchid Awards. Initiated by China International Communications Group (CICG) in 2022, the awards recognize non-Chinese individuals and organizations that have furthered international cultural exchange and advanced mutual understanding between China and other civilizations. Botton was one of 10 recipients who received Orchid Awards at a ceremony in Beijing.
Having been cultivated in China for over 2,000 years, orchids, with their quiet elegance and faint aroma, symbolize a person’s noble character and behavior in Chinese culture. They are also often used as a symbol of friendship. The term jinlan, literally translated as "gold orchid," represents strong friendship.
For these reasons, the flower perfectly represents the features of the award recipients, who have distinguished themselves in their own fields while all having a profound understanding of and love for the Chinese culture, have long committed to enhancing cultural exchange between China and the global community, and have promoted mutual learning among diverse civilizations.
Potential candidates can nominate themselves or be nominated by an organization, such as Chinese embassies and consulates abroad, and foreign embassies and consulates in China.
"It is important that China understands fundamental cultural differences in mindset between the Chinese and, notably, Western people," said David Ferguson, another international communication expert, who also received an Orchid Award. The 67-year-old Scotsman gained this perspective from 17 years of living and working in China.
Before he first arrived in China, he had learned about China through Western media. After he arrived, he found that what was happening was completely different from what he had read about the country before. And he decided to confront and correct the Western misconceptions and tell the truth about China.
He has visited multiple Chinese cities and written books about them. He is currently an English editor at Foreign Languages Press, a publishing house focusing on releasing Chinese works into different languages.
"I think the biggest challenge we face is trying to transform messages that are created, in Chinese, from a Chinese perspective, into messages that are effective in targeting a Western audience," he said. He explained that Chinese discourse is much more about facts and figures, while the Western one is much more about engaging with people on a human level, and that’s the thing that China needs to learn to do better.
Australian arts patron and former diplomat Carrillo Gantner, who also received an Orchid Award, believes that artists are the best friendship ambassadors as they speak the common language of the human hearts.
Gantner, like many non-Chinese, discovered China initially through food. Australia has a big Chinese community, and Chinese food was a part of his growing-up.
In 1985, Gantner became the cultural counselor at the Australian Embassy in China and worked on a wide variety of cultural activities. For example, he was involved in the negotiation on sending two pandas from China to Australia, and directed a classic Australian play for the Shanghai People’s Art Theater titled A Stretch of the Imagination, which is widely considered to be the first one-person show ever to be performed in China.
Gantner said that culture brings people more closely together. "It teaches them about the other," he said. "When you know something about the other, people are less fearful."
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