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Cultural affinities between the two ancient countries of Italy and China

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by Yin Ping, 2007
Within three months, Paolo Sabbatini has found many cultural affinities between the two ancient countries of Italy and China.
Turning over his clippings commemorating his best experiences in China, the director of the Cultural Office of the Italian Consulate General in Shanghai recounted above all two encounters.
The most impressive one was related to music, one of Sabbatini's favorite hobbies.
On his way to a piano concert at the Heluting Concert Hall on February 1, Sabbatini entered a piano shop close by.
Versed in harpsichord, Sabbatini approached one piano and began to play a sonata by Domenico Scarlatti, one of the most renowned Italian composers of the XVII century.
While he was absorbed in the music and proud of the gaze of the approaching audience, an 8 or 9 year-old girl standing next to him said in English: "Can I play?"
He gave up to her and the girl began to play.
To his great surprise, it was exactly the same piece he just played.
"It was perfect, wonderful!" Sabbatini said with great admiration.
That was not the end of his surprise.
When he entered the concert hall and listened to the performance of the 18-year-old pianist Shen Wenyu, Sabbatini was once again shocked.
"That was the most extraordinary concert I have ever attended," he said.
When he looked around, Sabbatini found the audience, filled with youngsters, playing synchronously with their fingers on the air!
That was the most striking experience Sabbatini has undergone during his 3-month stay in Shanghai.
When told it has become a vogue in China for children to learn one or two kinds of musical instruments, Sabbatini fully endorsed the practice.
"Art can make life better," he said. "It will remind people of things that are not just materialistic."
In a March concert performed by a singer from China's northwest region of Xinjiang, Sabbatini was glad to hear operas from different countries.
To his pride, the first and the last operas were both from Italy.
Another memorable experience is his travel to Jiangyin, a city in East China's Jiangsu Province, which took him to the village ancient Chinese traveller Xu Xiake used to live in.
"When I arrived there, I was very emotional," he said.
Coming from the country of Marco Polo, the famous traveler to China, Sabbatini found a strong affinity for the Chinese explorer.
"Travelling makes your soul big," he said. "By travelling, you look for the content of life and find yourselves."
As to food, which both countries are famous for, Italy and China seem to take eating at each other's restaurants as fashionable.
"Eating in Chinese restaurants is fashionable in Italy," Sabbatini said, adding Chinese restaurants look exotic.
The first item Italians would order is spring rolls.
"Every Italian would order this," he said. "Spring roll has become a symbol of Chinese foods."
On the Chinese side, eating in a Italian restaurant is also modern and tasteful.
Music, travelling and food are only a few of the similarities Italy and China share.
Now, in the Italian cultural year in China, Sabbatini is going to make the cultural connection between the two countries even closer.
A number of Italian dances, music concerts, chorus, arts exhibition and movies will be shown to Chinese audiences.
Above all, a large education collaboration programme is going to unfold.
Four Italian business and technical universities will join forces with Tongji University and Fudan University, both based in Shanghai, to open courses for students of engineering and business administration from both countries.
The inauguration of the program is expected in September.
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