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Scots-Chinese cultural agreement

A Memorandum of Understanding on Culture between China and Scotland has been signed today, committing the governments in Beijing and Edinburgh to supporting greater exchange and collaboration across the arts, creative industries, heritage and national collections – one of three major cultural agreements sealing links between the two nations.

First Minister Alex Salmond signed the MoU along with China’s Minister of Culture Mr Cai Wu at a ceremony in Beijing.

The intergovernmental MoU commits to closer ties across four key areas: cultural collaboration; best practice; educational outreach; and networking opportunities. It follows discussions between the First Minister and His Excellency Cai Wu on July 9 2010 in Beijing on the opportunities for building on the already significant cultural exchanges and ties between China and Scotland.

Immediately following the MoU signing, the First Minister then witnessed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding, between Edinburgh International Festival and the China International Culture Association to further expand artistic dialogue. This was signed by Jonathan Mills, Edinburgh International Festival Director.

In the same ceremony at China’s Ministry of Culture, a formal agreement was also signed between Historic Scotland and the State Administration of Cultural Heritage to incorporate into the ‘Scottish 10’ digital mapping project, the Eastern Qing Tombs, east of Beijing in the Hebei Province – which Mr Salmond visited yesterday (Sunday).

Examples of Sino-Scots cultural exchange in recent years include performances by both the National Ballet of China and Shanghai Peking Opera Troupe at this year’s Edinburgh International Festival, a 2009 tour in China by Scottish Ballet and collaborations between the National Museum of Scotland and both the National Geological Museum of China and the Chinese Aviation Museum. Last week a nine-person delegation of museum directors from China were in Scotland to view some of most popular museums, including the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow and the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

In October Mr Salmond opened the Confucius Institute at the University of Glasgow, a partnership with Nankai University supported by the Chinese Ministry of Education’s Office for Chinese Language (Hanban) to build on long-standing research collaborations between the two universities and promote greater understanding of Chinese society and culture.

At a reception held this evening to celebrate the new MoU on Culture, Scottish Opera and nearly 50 students from Beijing No 4 School performed ‘Tale o’ Tam’, an opera based on Robert Burns’ epic poem, Tam O’Shanter. Scottish Opera, which also performed at the Beijing Caledonian Society St Andrew’s Day Ball on Saturday, have been rehearsing with the school pupils for the last week. This follows a similar Scottish Opera outreach workshop and performance in September, with the English Schools Foundation, of Bizet’s Carmen, at Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.

The First Minister said: « Since I met Mr Cai last year, the opportunities for increasing the scope and level of cultural exchanges between our two nations have multiplied. Across a wide range of cultural and heritage activities, doors are swinging open, enabling people in both countries to discover more about our respective cultures. These links add value to educational, scientific and business activities that can bring lasting benefits to Scotland and to China. Just hours after my visit yesterday to the famous Eastern Qing Tombs that will be digitally documented by our pioneering ‘Scottish Ten’ heritage project, China’s wonderful gift of two Giant Pandas arrived at Edinburgh Zoo as part of a collaborative effort to safeguard the future of these endangered creatures.

« Such examples of cultural exchange help to enhance mutual understanding between countries, creating an atmosphere of respect, trust and celebration. That is why I am pleased to welcome not only the new inter-governmental MoU between Scotland and China, but the two other partnerships agreed today. Taken together, these underline the rich, varied and blossoming cultural dialogue and understanding between our two nations. »

Jonathan Mills, Edinburgh International Festival Director, commented: « Having introduced Festival audiences in Edinburgh to the stunning, astonishing and articulate performances of the National Ballet of China and the Shanghai Peking Opera Troupe in Festival 2011, we wish to maintain artistic links with China and deepen our relationship with this incredibly rich, diverse and profoundly important culture. »

Scottish Opera’s General Director Alex Reedijk added; « Our work with No. 4 School this week is a great illustration of the cultural collaboration our countries aspire to. We’ve been able to share our best practice in arts education, built up over 40 years, and have been impressed by the pupils’ commitment to achieving so much in such a short period of time. It’s also wonderful to have the opportunity while we are in China to showcase young Scottish talent as an inspirational example of where arts education can lead. »

The Memorandum of Understanding between the Scottish Government and the Ministry of Culture of the People’s Republic of China covers all performing and visual arts, museums and collections, literature, publishing, film, crafts, built heritage and creative industries.

Last week, the First Minister declared that Scotland’s cultural heritage had undergone a « renaissance » following the opening of four newly-refurbished national cultural institutions – the National Museum of Scotland and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh, Stirling Castle’s Royal Palace and the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Ayrshire – and a major new Museum of Transport & Travel in Glasgow, all within twelve months.

The agreement signed today between Historic Scotland and the State Administration of Cultural Heritage will see the Eastern Qing Tombs, which mark the final resting place of some of China’s best known emperors, digitally documented under the ‘Scottish 10’ project which will see all five UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Scotland and five international sites captured in 3-dimensional detail using cutting-edge laser scanning technology. These records can be used to monitor structural changes and provide source material for remote access and educational programmes.

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