Birmingham joins Chinese partners to launch Shakespeare Centre in China

Experts from the University of Birmingham have joined Nanjing University and Phoenix Publishing & Media Group to launch a ground-breaking collaboration that will help to broaden the appeal of Shakespeare in China.

The Shakespeare Centre, China sees the University’s world-renowned Shakespeare Institute, based in Stratford-upon-Avon, reach out to millions of Chinese people to increase access to and understanding of Shakespeare.

The Centre, dedicated to Shakespeare and all his works, was formally inaugurated in a recent grand ceremony in Nanjing. This event was attended the centre’s co-directors – Professor Cong Cong, of Nanjing University, Dr Nan Yuan, senior literature editor of Phoenix Media, and Professor Michael Dobson, Director of the Shakespeare Institute.

Professor Dobson said: “Launching the Shakespeare Centre is testament to the University of Birmingham’s growing reputation in China. It presents another exciting opportunity for our researchers to collaborate with peers and partners from across the globe.

“Nanjing University has long been a beacon in Shakespeare studies in China. Its combination of academic expertise and performance tradition makes it a natural partner for the Shakespeare Institute and we are already working on collaborative research.

“Discussions are in progress about how the Institute can advise Phoenix – China’s leading quality publisher of academic and popular books on Shakespeare – on materials worthy of translation into Mandarin, as well as purpose-designed residential courses in Stratford for Nanjing students.”

A brass plaque was unveiled at the ceremony and the Centre’s work got under way with a lecture on Hamlet from Professor Dobson.

It also included a workshop, including academics and theatre practitioners, about the inter-cultural performance Shakespeare’s Handan Dream – a hybrid production incorporating extracts from Shakespeare and extracts from Kun opera, performed in London earlier in the year.

Professor Xian Zhou, Dean of Nanjing University Institute for Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences (IAS), which is the institutional base for this collaboration, warmly welcomed the initiative, saying: “The IAS is the best place for the great minds to converge, and Shakespeare studies will play a very important role at this interdisciplinary platform.”

Mr. Gu Aibin, President of Yilin Press, said: “Yilin is one of the best literature and art publishing houses in China, enjoying the highest economic scale for seven successive years in China. With qualified publishing resources and professional editors, Yilin is confident about the prospects of the Centre.”

The Centre’s launch follows a recent agreement signed by University of Birmingham Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir David Eastwood and Chairman of the Board of Phoenix Publishing & Media Group Mr Zhang Jiankang in a special ceremony in Nanjing.

The agreement will also create a ‘Birmingham Lecture’ series – introductory materials in subjects where the University is recognised for its expertise, such as stem cell biology, energy storage, and gravitational waves. This will provide useful reference tools for students.

Phoenix Publishing & Media Group is one of the largest media and publishing companies in China – and a leader in publishing works on Shakespeare.

The partnership with the University of Birmingham follows discussions in Nanjing earlier this year and a visit to Birmingham by representatives of the media company in July, when they visited the Shakespeare Institute.

The Shakespeare Institute co-hosted this summer’s World Shakespeare Congress in Stratford-upon-Avon – a global celebration of Shakespeare’s memory and the global cultural legacy of his works in the 400th anniversary year of his death.

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