Forum on Hehe Culture calls for dialogues and exchanges among nations

Updated: Nov 9, 2023 By Ma Zhenhuan and Qi Xiao in Taizhou chinadaily.com.cn Print
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Two sculptures depicting the "Two Gods of Hehe" are displayed during the 2023 Global Forum on Hehe Culture, held in Tiantai county, Taizhou city of East China's Zhejiang province on Nov 7, 2023.[Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Indeed, over generations, paintings and images of the two have been ubiquitous, in which one holds a lotus flower and the other a treasure box as presents to greet each other — both "lotus" and "box" have the same pronunciation as "he", or peace and harmony.

"In light of the current international situation, the 'heart of peace' is needed now more than ever," said Yukio Hatoyama, former prime minister of Japan and president of the East Asian Community Institute, in his speech.

The Russia-Ukraine conflict and the recent crises in the Middle East remind people of the importance of peace and harmony, he said, and Hehe culture should serve as a guide in the call for mutual respect, mutual understanding and mutual cooperation among different nations.

In fact, throughout history, the "Two Gods of Hehe", Hanshan in particular, have exerted a long-lasting impact that has gone far beyond China.

With a simple and much more colloquial language, Hanshan's poetry is characterized by its unique style and rich layers of meaning, especially the idea of Hehe. The poems — a little over 300 survived — still remain popular in Japan after they were first introduced there in the 11th century.

Apart from the poems' literary influence on Japanese haiku, tanka (short songs), drama and painting, among others, they are believed to have helped Chan (or Zen) Buddhism further spread in Japan, South Korea, Southeast Asia and then onto the Western world.

In the 1950s, Hanshan's poem collection became an instant hit in the US, where it was first translated into English and Hanshan himself was idolized at the time by leading American authors such as Jack Kerouac.

In Cold Mountain, a 1997 historical novel that won the US National Book Award for Fiction and was adapted into an award-winning movie in 2003, Charles Frazier, the author, not only borrowed Hanshan's name for the book title, but also two lines from one of his best-known poems for the book's epigraph: "Men ask the way to Cold Mountain. Cold Mountain: there's no through trail."

"Looking at today's international relations, it is a fact that countries differ in their views," said Martha Mavrommatis, the Cyprus ambassador to China.

"Hehe culture and its deep meaning of harmony could contribute to the bridging of the existing differences between countries and create a background for achieving a global peace and common prosperity," she said.

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