Lunar New Year celebrations bring Shakespeare connections to fore

From Westminster and guest lecture invites to cross-cultural PhDs and birthday celebrations, the ties between China and the Shakespeare Institute run deep.

Professor Cong Cong - Nanjing University.

Professor Cong Cong - Nanjing University.

This Tuesday, Professor Cong Cong from Nanjing University will give the University of Birmingham China Institute’s Lunar New Year Lecture, sharing her insights into Chinese translations of Shakespeare’s work. It’s part of an ongoing relationship that goes back to 2016, when the Institute, Nanjing University and Nanjing-based Phoenix Media and Publishing set up the Shakespeare Centre, China.

That partnership will also be front and centre on Wednesday, when Professor Cong Cong will appear alongside the Director of the Shakespeare Institute, Professor Michael Dobson, in Westminster at the annual general meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Shakespeare, leading a discussion on ‘Shakespeare and Education’.

Shakespeare is the world’s local playwright, taught in more education systems worldwide than any other single writer. Having Professor Cong present at the APPG should help to remind our politicians that culture is not just a matter of domestic policy, but a key dimension of international relations.

Professor Michael Dobson - Director of the Shakespeare Institute.

It’s not just Nanjing either. In April, the Shakespeare Institute will be welcoming a delegation of government officials from the city of Fuzhou for the birthday celebrations of Shakespeare. The Shakespeare Institute is hoping to co-produce a play with University of Birmingham students at the Peony Pavilion in Firs Garden, which Fuzhou Municipality donated to Stratford-upon-Avon in 2018. The delegation hopes to learn more about how to promote their own national playwright and contemporary of Shakespeare, Tang Xianzu, who lived and died in Fuzhou.

Since its foundation in 1951, the Shakespeare Institute has played host to numerous Chinese scholars, studying cross-cultural subjects from the earliest Chinese visitors to Stratford to the adaptation of his plays in present-day Chinese theatre and film. Yueqi Wu, is currently writing her PhD on all-female operatic productions of Shakespeare in China, called Yue.

I feel that this town is connected to my homeland in so many wonderful and unexpected ways. Every day I pass by the Peony Pavilion on my way to the Shakespeare Institute and it makes me smile. I also found a picture of the Yue opera troupe from my hometown city, Hangzhou, performing right in front of the Shakespeare's Birthplace. I think the Institute has a strong bond to Shakespearean communities all over the world and the relationship with China is definitely a special one.

Yueqi Wu - PhD student at the Shakespeare Institute.

Professor Dobson adds: “Our collaboration in Nanjing, as well as connecting us with a wealth of Chinese scholarship and performance, has helped to mark the Shakespeare Institute out as one of the best places in Europe in which to study the fascinating intercultural things that happen when Shakespearean drama meets Asian traditions of performance and poetry. I can’t wait to see Professor Cong’s lecture.”

Join Professor Cong Cong (Shakespeare Centre, China and Nanjing University) and the China Institute for the 2024 Li Suang Lecture, followed by a networking reception.

Date: Tuesday 6th February 2024 (12:30 - 13:30).

Location: Lloyd Suite, Edgbaston Park Hotel.

Register your place at the Lecture.