Feature: Becoming scholar of Chinese philosophy the German way
LANZHOU, July 14 (Xinhua) -- With the 600-page-plus "History of Chinese Thought" published this May, Ulrich Forderer, 64, fully deserves to be called a scholar of Chinese philosophy.
Ulrich's love for Chinese culture dates back decades. The story of Marco Polo sparked his longing to travel to China and personally see the country with such a splendidly long history.
Ulrich chose Sinology as his college major. After graduation, he worked as a German-French translator for a while. His passion for Chinese philosophy ultimately resulted in his 20 years of dedication to the German translation of a French book introducing Chinese philosophy.
In 2013, he came to Lanzhou, the capital of northwest China's Gansu Province, for close-up contact with Chinese culture while teaching German at Lanzhou University.
"Understanding classical Chinese is not an easy task for me," Ulrich admitted. He has boned up on reading ancient Chinese literature, and his proficiency in Chinese has gradually improved.
When translating philosophical concepts such as "Tao" (the natural order of the universe) and "Ren" (benevolence), he said it is crucial to preserve their meanings and keep them consistent throughout the book so that readers learn the importance of these concepts in the Chinese philosophical system.
Appreciating foreign cultures has become his lifelong pursuit since his youth. He said learning about other countries helps to understand one's own and the things shared in common among human beings.
"I believe the 'History of Chinese Thought' will attract more German people to learn Chinese culture, building a bridge of cultural communication between China and Germany," said Lin Lingna, dean of the German department at Lanzhou University.
Besides being a translator, Ulrich also valued another role as a teacher. "The work of a translator is relatively lonely. I love face-to-face communication with young people."
During his lectures, he sometimes recited German poems and explained them in fluent Chinese. He also designed various activities such as group debates and role-plays and even learned some popular games from his Chinese colleagues and applied them to teaching.
Ulrich also compiled a textbook including famous German short stories, philosophies, poems, and comics for his "Selected Readings of German Literature" class.
Junior-year student Yang Junyi participated in the class with great interest: "It's not just a language class. It's an immersive cross-cultural communication."
"I love teaching. It gives me a sense of fulfillment. I have realized my value of life through teaching, whether in Germany, France, or China," said Ulrich. "Young people are lively and are full of new ideas. I encourage my students to express their opinions and broaden their horizons."
He officially wrapped up his teaching in China and returned to Germany in June. But nine years in Lanzhou has impressed him a lot.
"I always feel like I prefer natural landscapes to busy cities. I love hiking and have found many 'hidden gems' around Lanzhou. The scenery is fantastic," he said.
In addition to his love for the city, his enthusiasm for cross-cultural communication persists.
"I will continue my translation work and devote myself to bridging the two countries," Ulrich said.
He said he has already contacted some adult education programs in Germany to see if he could teach Chinese philosophy there.
Noticing that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Germany, he hopes that a free and enlightened exchange of ideas can happen through more seminars and workshops by Chinese and German experts.
"Aside from technological and other forms of cooperation, cultural communication, above all, is important to promote understanding between the two peoples," Ulrich said.