Building Bridges Between China and Europe

2022-04-02 16:18:00 Source:China Today Author:Goran Đurđević & Zvonimir Stopić
【Close】 【Print】 BigMiddleSmall

Two Croatian scholars explore new depths of the exchanges between China and Europe by delving into archaeology and history. 

       Croatia, a country located between Central Europe, the Balkans, and the Mediterranean Sea, has ties with China that can be traced far back in history. Renowned Croatian physicians and foreign experts in China Andrija Štampar and Berislav Borčić, football managers Slaven Bilić and Miroslav Ćiro Blažević, and musicians like Maksim Mrvica among others, have had valuable roles and influence in the fields of Chinese health system, sports, and culture. In recent times before the COVID-19 outbreak, there had been an increasing number of Chinese tourists to Crotatia. The historical background of these links goes back to the times of the ancient Silk Road, based on which the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has been introduced. To the 2022 Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, Croatia has lent great support.  “The successful staging of the Beijing 2022 Winter Games represents a great victory for sports over the COVID-19 pandemic, which has not allowed us to return to normal life for two years,” president of the Croatian Olympic Committee and former prime minister of the Republic of Croatia Zlatko Matesa remarked in his article published by China Daily.  

The motto of the Beijing Winter Games was “Together for a Shared Future.” As an archaeologist and a historian, we are sure that understanding and having a knowledge of the past will bring us a better future, while mutual respect and dialogue can bring common and shared posterity. From these perspectives, we started a several-year long project dedicated to Chinese history and archaeology. The outcome of the project was a monograph Silk, Dragons and Paper published in December 2021. Our main motivations were as follows: First, we wanted to write a comprehensive story of China that would help Croatian readers be better acquainted with the country from its inception to the end of its last feudal dynasty, the Qing Dynasty, because there is no similar publication on the Croatian market, thus allowing our book to bridge that gap. Second, we intended to encourage young Croats to learn more about Chinese history and archaeology and build their relations with China in the future. Thus the book was written in a style easy for students and pupils to read. Third, we included a special chapter in the book dedicated to European-Chinese contacts and emphasize the Silk Road and Marco Polo, all of which helped open a trans-historical perspective of Sino-European ties. 

As co-authors of Silk, Dragons and Paper, we work in the School of History at Capital Normal University and Beijing Foreign Studies University. Both of us are Croatian-born scholars who received education in China and now work in Beijing. Our research cover  Sino-Yugoslavian relations, the “Third World,” diplomacy of the Cold War, contemporary international relations between China and South-East Europe, global antiquities and comparative archaeology, digital humanities, and environmental humanities.  

The subtitle of the book “Chinese Civilization, Culture, History and Archaeology,” further explains how the book analyzes and describes China’s past from the Paleolithic to the end of the Qing Dynasty. Chinese civilization, throughout its long duration, has bestowed the world with many inventions that people use today in everyday life, such as paper, silk, paper money, gunpowder, tea, the compass, and many other things. In the Croatian language, there are words such as “čaj” (tea or “cha” in Chinese), “ping-pong” (ping-pong), “tajfun” (typhoon) that originated from the Chinese language.  

Altogether, the book is divided into 38 sections, touching on Chinese history, archaeology, geography, artistic achievements, philosophy, religion, social processes, and political change. In addition, each chapter is followed by learning outcomes and includes selected literature. This publication ends with chronological tables of dynasties and rulers, a glossary, an index of geographical phrases and personal names, and a very extensive bibliography of historical sour­ces, books, and articles written in English, Chinese, and Croatian. 

In the first part of the book, “An Overview of the History of China,” we gave a concise account of the past which spans from the Paleolithic Age until the end of the Qing Dynasty in 1911. In the writing process, we paid special attention to social processes and political changes, as well as similarities and differences between separate dynasties. The second part, “Chinese Archaeology: from the Beginnings to the Challenges of the 21st Century” offers basic information about the Chinese beginnings of interest in the past, the scientific pursuit of archeology and history, and the first findings and the founding of the first scientific institutions in China. In the last major part “Sino-European Contacts,” we touched on the most important interactions that occurred between China and the West in history, focusing most on the exchanges of ideas, knowledge, and goods between peoples and nations. Special attention was paid to cultural exchanges between Southeast European countries, including Croatia, with China, especially through the Silk Road. As a bridge between Europe and Asia, Southeast Europe has played an important role in the interaction of different civilizations, cultures, and political entities. Southeast Europe has long been part of the larger political entities that in turn were part of the Silk Road and had contacts with the Far East and China.  

Since the China-CEE (Central and Eastern European countries) cooperation mechanism (China + 17) was launched in 2012, China’s relations with the CEE countries has been significantly improved. However, despite all the efforts, many countries still lack genuine and adequate materials which can help them reach a better mutual understanding with China. Unlike neighboring Serbia or Slovenia, which have decade long traditions of China-related studies, many countries in the Balkans region, including Croatia, are still just beginning to develop independent and functional sinology or Chinese studies departments in educational institutions. When it comes to primary and secondary education, universities or higher levels of education, we fall behind in sharing knowledge on China (including books) which is a necessary starting point for making any long-term progress in the development of their relations with China. This book, as a fruit of cooperation between Capital Normal and Zagreb School of Economics and Management in Croatia, aims to fill in the existing gap of material on understanding China and thus help facilitate the development of bilateral relations. As Chinese President Xi Jinping pointed out, “The whole world is a community with a shared future,” we hope that Silk, Dragons and Paper will be useful in building that shared future. 


Goran Đurđević is a Croatian archaeologist working as an assistant professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University; Zvonimir Stopić is a Croatian historian, working as an assistant professor of the School of History at Capital Normal University. 

Share to:

Copyright © 1998 - 2016

今日中国杂志版权所有 | 京ICP备10041721号-4

Chinese Dictionary