China-Greece Year of Culture and Tourism launched at foot of Athens Acropolis

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The China-Greece Year of Culture and Tourism opened on Thursday with a ceremony held at the foot of the Athens Acropolis, as officials of both sides expressed confidence in a stronger friendship and further cooperation between the two peoples.

The opening ceremony, attended by Greek and Chinese officials, was hosted inside the archaeological site of the Ancient Agora, the commercial, social and political hub of Athens in antiquity, providing a glimpse into the rich program of events to unfold in the coming months.

"Guided by the words of Lao Tzu 'a journey of a thousand miles begins with a simple step' and Socrates' saying 'the most valuable acquisition is a good friend,' I wish a good start and best success," Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a video message, citing words of wisdom by the two ancient philosophers.

Greeks and Chinese will be offered several opportunities this year and the next to communicate and enhance collaboration through a series of exhibitions in museums on both sides, film screenings such as the first Greek-Chinese co-production, and many other events, he explained.

The year 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said in his video message to the ceremony, adding that the cultural and tourism event will further help enhance mutual understanding, deepen traditional friendship and promote practical cooperation between the two countries.

"We highlight the past of our two countries, we shape the present together and we plan for the future," Greek Culture and Sports Minister Lina Mendoni said at the event, outlining a program of planned cultural events and projects.

"We treat our traditions with respect, recognizing that culture is the oxygen of our societies, but also the most convenient way for peoples to get closer to each other."

During the ceremony, Anna Vasiliki Karapanagiotou, director of the National Archaeological Museum of Athens and Wang Qiang, charge d'Affaires minister-counselor of the Chinese Embassy in Greece, inaugurated the digital exhibition "Parallel Space: Meet the Terracotta Warriors in Greece" that runs until Feb. 28, 2022 on the Greek museum's website.

"Through advanced digital screens that offer a rich interactive cultural experience, the exhibition will allow Greeks to appreciate the charm of Chinese relics in virtual space-time and understand the course of the excavation, research and protection of the Terracotta Warriors," Li Qun, head of China's National Cultural Heritage Administration which co-organized the exhibition, said in a video message.

"This is the result of a creative collaboration that runs during the entire period of COVID-19 and I must say that it kept us active," Karapanagiotou told Xinhua.

The opening event at Ancient Agora closed with a performance by artists of the Greek National Opera and the unveiling of a sculpture featuring ancient Greek philosopher Socrates and Chinese philosopher Confucius.

The artwork entitled "Socrates and Confucius: A Meeting" is created by Wu Weishan, curator of the National Art Museum of China.

"I am sure that if we present our heritage in a modern way people will renew their interest in it," said Vassilios Xiros, diplomatic advisor to the Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports, and a member of the team that prepared events for the upcoming culture and tourism year.

"Both countries have modern culture to present which remains relatively unknown," added Xiros, voicing confidence that the China-Greece Year of Culture and Tourism will be a great opportunity to further explore that area.

"Despite the novel coronavirus pandemic and the difficulties arising, our relations with China advance and I wish they will further develop in the future," said Constantine Yannidis, president of the Hellenic-Chinese Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Tourism and Shipping. 

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