Xu Zhimo Poetry and Art Festival kicks off in King's College Cambridge

The 9th Cambridge Xu Zhimo Poetry and Art Festival kicked off on Friday in King's College, Cambridge.

Commemorating renowned Chinese poet Xu Zhimo, who was an associate member of King's College

for 18 months in 1921-22, the festival gathers nearly 100 poets, artists and scholars from several countries, including Britain, China, France, Italy, and Greece.

"Xu's eminence as a Chinese poet and his close connection with the Bloomsbury group and King's College has had a great effect on the profile of the College and brings in many visitors to appreciate his elegiac description of the willow tree by the Cam. It's thus fitting that his work is celebrated here at his College," said Michael Proctor, Provost of King's College, in a congratulatory message to the festival.

The theme of this year's festival is "harmony". Alan Macfarlane, emeritus professor of Anthropological Science and chair of the festival, shared his thoughts on the theme in a preface of the event.

"Harmony, I've learnt in the last twenty years since I've been working extensively in China, is a central concept and value in Chinese civilization," he said.

"What Confucius and other philosophers of China advocated was that we should live in harmony with other people. That we should adjust our relationships to create this condition," he said.

Macfarlane used music as a metaphor to illustrate his understanding of harmony. "We are faced with a symphony in which we have many different instruments playing side by side, many different ideas and cultures coming together. We can treat that in a manner which causes constant friction and contestation by trying to keep these things out, trying to put up barriers, trying to keep away people from other cultures or other ideas you don't like, by trying to cut the supply chains with embargos and blockades. Or we can attempt harmony and win-win situations."

First held in 2015, the Cambridge Xu Zhimo Poetry and Art Festival has since attracted many contemporary poets, artists and scholars from several countries. It moved online during the COVID-19 pandemic period.

According to the organizers, this year's six-week off-line festival features a variety of creative activities aimed at facilitating participants to share, draw inspiration, and deepen dialogue and understanding with each other.

During the opening day, there were poetry readings, new book discussions, and music performances. In the afternoon sunshine, participants were invited to the Xu Zhimo memorial garden, which was opened in 2018. The verses of Xu's famous poem "A Second Farewell to Cambridge" have been carved into a granite stone at the entrance of the garden.

"Every time I come, there's something different," David Paskett, former president of the British Royal Watercolor Society, told Xinhua.

"I've come (to the festival) for many years from before the pandemic...it's lovely to come back again," said Frances Wood, a well-known British sinologist.

For her, the festival is "an ideal platform" for all sorts of cultural figures to communicate with each other.

Tim Yip, a renowned art director and visual artist who participated in the Xu Zhimo Poetry Festival for the first time, told Xinhua that this is a high-level platform to promote cultural exchanges.

Xue Ling, director of the China National Tourist Office in London, shared her thoughts with Xinhua that King's College gave Xu Zhimo the inspiration for creativity, thus leaving us a legacy with timeless classic poems.

"As a bridge for UK-China communication, the Xu Zhimo Poetry and Art Festival provides visitors to Cambridge with the harmonious experience of poetic stories of Xu Zhimo, stories about China, as well as the fusion of Eastern and Western cultures," said Xue.