A closer look at the China Cultural Center in Paris

China-France Photo: VCG

The Global Times recently visited the China Cultural Center in Paris, France to listen to the stories of staff and learn how they fell in love with Chinese culture.

The China Cultural Center in Paris, opened in November 2002, was the first cultural center established by the Chinese government in Europe. Over the years, it became known as the “Chinese cultural salon of Paris.” The center has held a series of training courses, lectures, forums, exhibitions and performances, becoming a bridge for Chinese-French people-to-people cultural exchanges and cooperation.

The year 2024 marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of ­China-France diplomatic ties. It is also the ­China-France Year of Culture and Tourism.

When the Global Times reporter visited the Chinese Cultural Center in Paris, it was a Saturday, the center’s busiest day. In a building primarily used for teaching, nearly every room was filled with local youth attending classes.

The center is an embodiment of the exchanges and mutual appreciation of the cultures of China and France. It is located on the left bank of the Seine River, adjacent to renowned cultural and artistic landmarks such as Les Invalides, the Rodin Museum, and the Musée d’Orsay. The building housing the center was once owned by a descendant of Napoleon. 

Upon entering the center, historical architecture and modern design intertwine. The green spaces between buildings feature panda sculptures, lamps inspired by China’s nine-colored deer, and a sculpture titled Seeking the Way by Wu Weishan, a world-renowned Chinese artist and the director of the National Art Museum of China.

As a “salon,” the center frequently hosts various Chinese cultural exchange events and exhibitions. Currently, the second floor of the center is exhibiting Chinese calligraphy works. Besides calligraphy, the China Cultural Center in Paris also offers courses in Chinese language, traditional painting and traditional Chinese musical instruments such as guzheng. Many French teenagers who love Chinese culture study here.

“I have been learning Chinese for six years. I like China and I like speaking Chinese. My mother is Chinese,” said 11-year-old Elsa, whose Chinese name is Tianyu.

While a crowd was drawn by a beautiful guzheng performance, the Global Times reporter noticed that a French girl was among the performers.

“I started three years ago, and I’ve played with the same teacher here in this school. I learned about guzheng when I was young. And I have watched Chinese movies. I wondered what this instrument was, because you couldn’t see it [around here]. My French friends think it’s very mysterious,” Marie-Ange Boyomo told the Global Times.   

“It’s so huge and it’s a whole other universe. There are so many things you have to do and it’s very complex sometimes, because you can play several melodies even with one hand. And it’s a lot of things to learn, so even in the third year, you’re still learning a lot of things,” added Boyomo, reflecting upon her experience of practicing guzheng. 

Liu Hongge, director of the China Cultural Center in Paris, told the Global Times that the center is dedicated to promoting in-depth exchanges between China and France. 

“Our ultimate goal is to promote exchanges and mutual learning between civilizations, so that the friendship between the people of China and France will continue to deepen.”