Chinese-European Objects of Memory

Sven Günther, Institute for the History of Ancient Civilizations (IHAC), Northeast Normal University (NENU), Changchun
German Consulate General, Shenyang
Fand statt
In Präsenz
Vom - Bis
14.12.2023 -
Haoran Zhang, Western Classical Studies, the Institute for the History of Ancient Civilizations (IHAC)

More than forty Chinese and international scholars and students from various institutes attended the hybrid Workshop, that opening was hosted by ZHANG QIANG (Changchun), the director of The Institute for the History of Ancient Civilizations (IHAC), and began with welcome addresses of LIU JIUQING (Changchun), Vice-president of Northeast Normal University (NENU), and HENDRIK BARKELING (Shenyang), Consul General at the German Consulate General; both emphasized the importance of studies on shared cultural memory between China and European countries. Then followed the keynote speech by HERMANN SCHÄFER (Bonn), founding president of the “Haus der Geschichte der Bundesrepublik Deutschland”, who elaborated on the concept of “lieux de memoires” and exemplified its application by reviewing some objects of his recent book “Deutsche Geschichte in 100 Objekten”. Moreover, he placed his concept within the Chinese-European framework, comparing selected objects and places of memory in China and Europe while expressing hope for future research into and especially publications on Chinese-German/European objects of cultural memory. The discussion afterwards mainly centred on the chances and difficulties to choose shared historical objects of memory without neglecting others or politicizing the selected ones.

The following workshop papers centred on three case studies which were each taken on from the perspective of a Chinese and European scholar. The first focused on the Nestorian Stele from Xi’an, also known as the “Stele to the Propagation in China of the Luminous Religion (Church of the East) of the Roman Empire (Daqin) (大秦景教流行中国碑)”. While GUO ZILONG (Changchun) provided an interpretation of the term “Daqin” by analysing the cross-cultural memories behind the name, which on the ancient Chinese side were not unanimously positive, THOMAS JANSEN (Lampeter / Changchun) delved into the historical reception of the stele itself, exploring its significance as a place of memory across different periods of time and for diverse groups such as Jesuits as well as Chinese and European Christians.

The second case study explored Byzantine gold coins found along the Silk Roads. LI QIANG (Changchun) discussed the presence of real and imitated Byzantine gold coins as well as their political, economic, and cultural significance in the Far East, in particular highlighting their connection to the image of Byzantium along the Silk Roads. ELIZABETH WEBSTER (Changchun) then presented her case study on the Shoroon Bumbagar Tomb in Mongolia, interred with Byzantine coins and Tang Dynasty relics, emphasizing its role as a place of memory and cultural identity.

The third case study examined a copy of the Lupa Capitolina, the she-wolf statue in Changchun, originally presented by an Italian delegation in 1938 to the then municipal government within the Japanese-controlled Manchukuo state which was found after WW2 and became then housed in the workshop’s meeting room at the School of History and Culture of Northeast Normal University. ZHANG HONGXIA (Changchun) traced the history of the object by examining the newspaper reports, while SVEN GÜNTHER (Changchun) discussed how Italian Fascists utilized the she-wolf's image among many other ancient references within their Romanità-ideology in the early 20th century, in Rome with a live she-wolf plus a live eagle, symbol of the fascist regime, on the Capitoline Hill as well as ubiquitous images of the Lupa and in diplomacy by sending copies of the Lupa Capitolina to friendly states in- and outside the ancient Imperium Romanum as well as placing it as symbol of the fascist’s imperialistic policy in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia.

Finally, KATHARINA ZINN (Lampeter / Changchun) provided closing remarks from the perspective of an Egyptologist, and used Nefertiti and her famous bust in the Egyptian Museum in Berlin as an example to illustrate how various groups use objects for their specific cultural memory. She concluded by exploring the relationship between heritage and memory.

The vivid discussions during and after the workshop showed that the time is ripe for a more comprehensive collection and discussion of Chinese-European objects of memory throughout the long, interconnected history of China and Europe, from antiquity to modernity.

Conference overview:

Zhang Qiang (Changchun) / Liu Jiuqing (Changchun) / Hendrik Barkeling (Shenyang): Welcome addresses


Hermann Schäfer (Bonn): The Concept of ‘lieux de memoires’ (‘places of memory’/‘Erinnerungsorte’). Attractive Visualizing – Easy Learning – Communicative Remembrance of History by Testimonials/Remains/Objects of History

Case-Study 1
Guo Zilong (Changchun) / Thomas Jansen (Lampeter / Changchun): The Nestorian Stele & Daqin (Rome)

Case-Study 2
Li Qiang (Changchun) / Elizabeth Webster (Changchun): Byzantine Gold Coins in the Far East & the Silk Roads in Late Antiquity

Case-Study 3
Zhang Hongxia (Changchun) / Sven Günther (Changchun): Classical Reception in China: Mussolini’s She-Wolf & the Third Rome in Changchun

Closing Remarks
Katharina Zinn (Lampeter / Changchun): Chinese-European Objects of Memory: Thoughts about Ancient and Modern Egypt, Heritage, (Cultural) Memory and Pop Culture