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National soft power calls for cultural luminaries with inspirational influence

Author  :  Chen Hongyu     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2018-04-10

A luminary, by definition, is a prominent figure who is an expert in and has made special contributions to a particular subject or skill. Cultural luminaries are those pioneering masters who are exceedingly notable and influential in cultural production, management, economy, communication and other cultural sectors. Throughout the history of Chinese and world civilizations, each era produced its own cultural luminaries including famous thinkers, writers and artists whose works and achievements were usually the symbols of social development and the progress of the era.

There is an old saying that the quickest way to learn the culture of a country or a nation is to learn about their cultural luminaries first. The extraordinary accomplishments and cultural aspiration of the cultural masters in the modern history of China, such as the renowned scholar and intellectual leader Liang Qichao, writer and poet Wang Guowei and Guo Moruo, played an important role in molding the cultural ethos of the Chinese nation. Their personal characters and cultural virtues comprise an invaluable intellectual legacy that is worth carrying forward. 

A look back on the scientific and technological history shows that a distinguished leading figure usually gives rise to a major breakthrough in terms of an important skill, discipline and industry. It is the same for the cultural fields. An eminent cultural scholar tends to be able to promote the progress of the artistic production of a particular time period and alter the cultural ecology of a particular region and era. Back in the history of Chinese cultural development, it was such notable literati as Qu Yuan who gave richness to the Chu Ci, a form of poetry as verses and songs of the Kingdom of Chu, Li Bai and Du Fu, who infused the imagery of Tang Poetry with grandeur, and Su Shi and Li Qingzhao, who invigorated Song Ci, a type of lyric poetry, the rhythmic and tonal pattern of which are based upon certain, definitive musical song tunes.

Today, at a point in history when China is striving to revitalize its culture, cultural luminaries are particularly endowed with a special inspirational influence and symbolic role. In contemporary times, when the importance of cultural self-awareness and self-confidence are prioritized and when strengthening cultural soft power is highly stressed, the country requires the emergence of cultural luminaries. 

The quantity and quality of them, and whether they could exert substantial international influence concern the country’s reform of its future cultural system.

As the cultural undertakings and cultural industry deepen in China, the Party and the government have placed a high premium on the task of cultivating teams of cultural luminaries. Since the 18th CPC National Congress, cultural advancement in China has been elevated to an unprecedented status and the building of cultural talent teams has also been placed in a prominent position in an effort to make the country a greater cultural power. 

To fully stimulate the guiding role of cultural luminaries, incentives and funding should be provided for those who have made remarkable achievements in the field of culture and favorable conditions should be offered to support them in their attempts at innovation, business start-ups, and other outstanding pursuits for excellence.

The era in which we live is in need of and also able to produce a large number of cultural luminaries. The ideological and cultural edifice of a certain era must be underpinned by a multitude of masters and celebrated scholars. 

When culture has increasingly become the important source of the national cohesion and creativity today and also the vital factor of a country’s comprehensive national power and economic and social development, it is a task of great significance to build cultural talent teams that possess both professional competence and moral integrity, and that are truly inspirational and influential in the present times.


This article was edited and translated from the China Culture Daily. Chen Hongyu is from the Beijing Academy of Social Sciences.


(Edited and translated by BAI LE)


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