The Primary Mission of Culture
By Yu Qiuyu
Trans. by Lin Wei（林巍）
The effectiveness of cross-cultural communication between communities in the world may also be enhanced by being each other’s cultural sites. Xuanzang (602–664), for instance, went on a pilgrimage to India for Buddhist sutras, implying much more profound meanings than simply learning the texts; his was an exploration into the cradle of Buddhism. The journey itself sufficiently substantialized the scriptures.
Historically, European civilizations prevailed over their Chinese counterpart when the two strange opponents unavoidably confronted one another in the 18th Century, very much owing to the Europeans’ due diligence on Chinese cultural sites, which handed them the high ground in unequal exchanges. On the other hand, having indulged in talking only about alien legends, the Chinese barely had any knowledge about their counterparts except ludicrous conjectures, and were trapped in a laughably passive position. One would know this well from reading the correspondence or diaries left by French Jesuit missionaries and the Englishman George Macartney respectively.
As a matter of fact, whether in the East or West, isn’t it true that all great intellectuals, everywhere they go, especially in times of turmoil and chaos, always preach peace and harmony in their speeches, lectures and writings? They spare no efforts to smooth the popular mood, calm social nerves and tranquilize communities.
Certainly there are controversies among different cultures’ advocates. The goal of their debates, however, is nothing more than searching for better ways to achieve social harmony and stability, which has always been the ultimate objective of culture even in today’s twenty-first Century.
The thing that impressed me most happened in the aftermath of World War II in Europe. In ruined cities, the scarred survivors, members of torn families, clad in rags, walked into unrenovated concert halls. Immersed in holy and pure music, their wounded souls had been comforted, their anxiety eased and their egos transformed when they came out of the halls. Before long, the whole Europe recovered and was rejuvenated. Once again, culture carried out its primary mission even in the ashes of war.
Culture perpetually inspires and empowers people to pursue and pray for something harmless. And once people are harmed, culture always emerges as a remedy to cure, rehabilitate and immunize them.