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uschinaarts.org - Chronology of Cultural Exchanges with China

Chronology of Cultural Exchanges with China

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Starting in 1979 and continuing through the 1980s, the Center designed and carried out an exciting series of short- and long-term exchanges of specialists in music, visual arts, drama, literature, dance, architecture, and arts education. American specialists visiting China typically offered lectures, demonstrations, and master classes, and were exposed to the country’s major arts institutions. In addition, they sometimes performed, arranged exhibitions, and carried out research. Exchanges to the U pharmaciemg.fr.S. from China often included small delegations and individual artists and scholars on fact-finding tours.


A group of American film specialists toured China in February. Two young dancers, Li Cunxin and Zhang Weiqiang, spent the summer of 1979 as scholarship students at the Houston Ballet Academy. In October, Li Cunxin was back in Houston to begin a one-year apprenticeship with the company.

In December, Tan Shuzhen, Deputy Director of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, arrived in New York for two months of seminars, visits to major music schools, and meetings with musicians and instrument makers.

Dancers Tan Shuzhen
Dance students Li Cunxin and Zhang Weiqiang
with Ben Stevenson and Claire Duncan, at the
Houston Ballet Academy.
Tan Shuzhen, Deputy Director of the Shanghai
Conservatory of Music, visits New York,
December 1979.


1981-p1 Cao Yu
Cao Yu and Arthur Miller
in New York.
Cao Yu applauds the case of "Peking Man"
on opening night.

Ben Stevenson, Artistic Director of the Houston Ballet, spent the month of March teaching at the Central Institute of Dance in Beijing.

In March, Cao Yu, China’s foremost playwright, arrived for a five-week tour of the U.S. where he conducted seminars on Chinese theater, met with American theater professionals, and visited college campuses around the country. At Columbia University in New York, the playwright presented a joint lecture with Arthur Miller on contemporary Chinese theater.

David Gilbert
David Gilbert, Conductor

Dr. Marjory Bong-ray Liu, Associate Professor of Music at Arizona State University, spent a year at the Central Institute of Music in Beijing lecturing, collecting research materials in music and theater for the Center’s archives, and doing research on Kunqu Opera, her area of specialization.

Dr. Cornelius Chang, Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, helped to develop a program in art history research at Beijing’s Central Institute of Fine Arts.

Starting in June, David Gilbert, music director and conductor of the Greenwich Philharmonia, spent six months as guest conductor of the Central Philharmonic Orchestra in Beijing. In this role, he developed a concert series consisting entirely of pieces that were new to the musicians.




Beverly Sills
Beverly Sills and Schuyler Chapin at the Central Conservatory of Music with Yu Yixuan, Jiang Ying, and Shen Xiang

Beverly Sills, General Director of the New York City Opera and world renowned opera singer, visited China for three weeks in May. Sills lectured and gave demonstrations in Beijing, Shanghai, and other cities.

In April, a small delegation of leaders in American arts visited China and met with colleagues to carry out professional dialogues, present their own work, and set the stage for future exchanges in the arts. This was the first exchange program between the Center and the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles, the non-governmental arts organization that oversees all of China’s national associations in the arts. Participants included photographer Cornell Capa; composer and Center director Chou Wen-chung; set designer Ming Cho Lee; choreographer Alwin Nikolais; sculptor George Segal; folklorist Peter Seitel; writer Susan Sontag; and filmmaker Robert Young.

The Center, in conjunction with the Central Philharmonic Society and the Central Conservatory of Music, arranged long-term visits to China for three performing artists—David Gilbert, Ronald Anderson, and Jacob Lateiner.

In the spring, the Center welcomed three prominent Chinese artists for a four-month stay in the U.S. They included Chen Gang, one of China’s most talented composers; Mao Yuan, a teacher at Beijing’s Central Institute of Opera; and Li Keyu, an internationally acclaimed costume designer at the Central Ballet Theater Company in Beijing.

Starting in 1981, the Center sponsored a year-long visit to the U.S. of the Shanghai Ballet Orchestra’s conductor, Chen Xieyang. He observed orchestra rehearsals, attended performances, met with musicians and administrators on the East and West Coasts, and launched a concert tour that took him to five cities on two continents before his return to Shanghai in fall 1982.

Composer Chen Gang Sculptor George Segal Chen Xieyang
Composer Chen Gang Sculptor George Segal at the Zhejiang
Academy of Fine Arts, Hangzhou.
Chen Xieyang in his American debut.


Professor of violin Leonard Felberg examines a Chinese-made instrument with (left to right) Huang Xiaozhi, Yu Lina, and Ding Zhinuo following the Chinese teachers' performance at the University of New Mexico.

A delegation of five women violinists from China—three teachers and two students—visited the U.S. in the summer and fall. In Washington D.C., New York, and other cities, they attended performances, observed music education classes, met with composers, and gave recitals and demonstrations of violin teaching methods in China.

Yuan Yunsheng, one of China’s foremost contemporary artists, came to the U.S. in the fall for a six-week visit which included multiple activities in New York and Boston.

Bass-baritone Daniel Ferro, a faculty member at the Juilliard School of Music, conducted three weeks of master classes at the Shanghai Conservatory. At the end of this session, Ferro’s handpicked students gave a recital attended by over 800 people.

The distinguished American Brass Quintet, the oldest ensemble of its kind in the United States, visited China in October at the invitation of the Chinese Ministry of Culture for two weeks of lectures and performances in Beijing and Shanghai.

Herman Wouk, author of The Winds of War and War and Remembrance, visited various Chinese universities, where he gave lectures on modern literature and held informal discussions with students. Virtuoso violist John Graham served a six-month teacher appointment at Beijing’s Central Conservatory of Music and appeared regularly as a soloist with many of the country’s best known chamber ensembles.

Yuan Tunsheng and Robert Gwathmey yuan Yunsheng Daniel Ferro
Yuan Yunsheng visiting
painter Robert Gwathmey.
Willem and Elaine de Kooning study a
painting by Yuan Yunsheng.
Daniel Ferro with voice student Zhang Jiayi during
master classes at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music.


I.M. Pei and Zhang Zhizhong Klaus Herdeg, Zhang, David Cohn
I.M. Pei welcomes Zhang Zhizong to
his Madison Avenue office.

Architects Klaus Herdeg, Zhang, and
David Cohn discuss student projects.

Wu Wenguang Terry King coaching a student
Wu Wenguang demonstrates his
virtuosity on the qin in Director
Chou Wen-chung's office.
Terry King of the Mirecourt Trio
coaching a student at the Central
Conservatory of Music

Theresa Reilly, a professor at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology and one of America’s leading experts on Chinese costume, taught for three weeks in Beijing at the Central Institute of Arts and Crafts.

Zhang Zhizhong, Chairman of the Architecture Department at the Nanjing Institute of Technology, spent eight weeks visiting the U.S. During this trip, he met with architects and planners in private firms and government agencies, visited and lectured at universities across the country, and toured historic districts and contemporary buildings of interest.

Wu Wenguang and Luo Jinging, both faculty members at the Conservatory of Chinese Music in Beijing, spent over four months in the U.S. in the fall. Their program included recitals and lecture-demonstrations, meetings with American composers and performing artists, and attendance at numerous concerts and rehearsals representing virtually every type of music performed in this country.

The Composers String Quartet, the Mirecourt Trio, and Grace Wong, principal harpist of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, all visited China for the first time under the Center’s auspices. China was the first stop of a tour that continued to Indonesia and the Philippines.

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Galway Kinnell and noted writer E.L. Doctorow met with Chinese poets, writers, critics, editors, and scholars specializing in American literature in Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai during a two-week visit.

Writers and Poets Al Qing and Galway Kinnell Doctorow and Kinnell
From left: Chen Mingxian, Zhu Ziqi,
Gao Ying, Doctorow, Ai Qing, Kinnell,
May Wu and Fan Baoci.
Ai Qing discusses his poetry
with Galway Kinnell.
Doctorow and Kinnell relax at the
Summer Palace outside Beijing.


PEN American Center Symposium
PEN American Center Symposium
Kenneth Koch
Kenneth Koch

Poet-playwright Kenneth Koch, a Professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia, spent a month in the spring teaching classes to students at Beijing’s Foreign Languages Institute and conducted seminars at Shanghai’s Fudan University.

A delegation of distinguished Chinese writers, headed by essayist Qin Mu, visited New York and participated in a literary symposium at the New York headquarters of the PEN American Center. China is a member of the international PEN, an association of poets, playwrights, essayists, editors, and novelists. The delegation spent two and a half weeks traveling through the U.S., meeting with writers, editors, literary scholars, and teachers of writing in various cities visit.

Pianists Joseph Bloch, Frederick Moyer, and Rudolf Firkusny; trombonist David Langlitz; strings professor Robert Klotman; and conductor Julius Hegyi spent periods of two to four weeks in China from the fall of 1984 through the spring of 1985.

Norris Houghton, renowned expert on Soviet theater and one of the co-founders of New York’s Phoenix Theater, spent five weeks in China during the fall at the invitation of the Shanghai Drama Institute and the Chinese Theater Association.

Joseph Blich David Langlitz
Joseph Bloch teaching a student at the
Central Conservatory of Music.
David Langlitz conducting a master class
at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music.
Rudolf Firkusny Julius Hegyi
Rudolf Firkusny coaching a student at the
Shanghai Conservatory of Music.
Julius Hegyi in front of Shanghai
Symphony publicity.


Two artists from Shanghai, Shen Ruojian, Vice Chairman of the Shanghai branch of the Chinese Artists’ Association, and Meng Guang, a revered professor to a generation of artists at the Shanghai University School of Fine Arts, spent four weeks during October and November in the U.S.

Chinese children go to the US to dance
Fifty-six Chinese children come to the U.S. to dance with Jacques d'Amboise.

In March, a delegation from the Chinese Dancers’ Association spent a week in New York, where they attended dance classes, rehearsals, and performances at a variety of dance schools.

In May, fifty-six Chinese children arrived for a three-week visit to New York, where they joined 1,500 American schoolchildren in a performance at Madison Square Garden. Jacques D’amboise a former principal dancer with the New York City Ballet, had previously auditioned and rehearsed the children in Beijing.

After a year and a half of negotiations with China by the Center, the National Theatre of the Deaf toured Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Nanjing, and Hangzhou for three weeks in April and May. It was the first Chinese tour by a Western theater company.

Authors Hortense Calisher and Curtis Harnack traveled to Beijing, Xi’an, Shanghai, and Hangzhou as guests of the Chinese Writers’ Association.


National Theater for the Deaf tours China National Theater for the Deaf visits the Great Wall

National Theater for the Deaf actor Shanny Mow
leads a workshop at the Nanjing School for the
Deaf in China.

The National Theater for the Deaf
at the Great Wall.

Balanchine method
Suki Schorer instructs a member of the Central Ballet in Balanchine technique.

June 14 marked the culmination of a year-long project to bring the choreography of the late George Balanchine to China. On that date, the Central Ballet of China danced Serenade, one of Balanchine’s most lyrical dances that reflects both his Russian heritage and his American balletic influence.

May 8 and 9 marked the Beijing premieres of The Music Man, a Broadway musical, and The Fantasticks, an off-Broadway hit, which were seen by audiences in China for the first time and received with wide acclaim. Both were performed with Chinese casts and were a collaboration of a variety of organizations.

Yang Dajing, cellist and manager of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, spent a one-year residency at the Albany Symphony Orchestra starting in July, where he learned about orchestral management.


Julliard Orchestra
Members of the Juilliard Orchestra visiting the Great Wall.

In June, the 112-member Juilliard Orchestra made its first tour of Asia. The highly professional group, comprised of students aged 17 to 29, traveled to Japan, Hong Kong, and China and performed at concerts in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou.








In April, the first of three teams of elementary school teachers came to the U.S. to participate in the O’Neill Teachers Exchange. This exchange was designed to extend the Center’s arts education work beyond research and theory to include practitioners. The goal of the exchange was to provide teachers from each country with an opportunity to observe and participate in each other’s classes and then to return home and become “master teachers.”

A conference of Chinese composers from both Taiwan and Mainland China was held at Columbia University in August. Twenty composers participated in these meetings, which were designed to end an almost forty-year estrangement and seen as part of a broader project to increase communication in the arts.

During this year, the Center helped a variety of American musicians go to China for stays of up to two months, including, pianist Joseph Bloch, clarinetist Fred Ormand, bassoonist Philip Gottling, and pianist Zernon Fishbein. While there, they taught classes and performed.

A delegation of arts educators from Beijing invited to the U.S. by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts toured various cities where they visited schools and cultural institutions, and attended musical performances.


In February, Chinese composer Qu Xiaosong arrived in New York for a six-month stay to observe and study contemporary American music. During this trip, he met with composers, performers, scholars, and ethnomusicologists.

In the spring, the Shanghai International Festival of Scenic Arts was held with the participation of set, lighting, and costume designers from both Western and Asian countries. The American delegation was led by Center Advisory Council member Ming Cho Lee.

Due to the violence by the People’s Army against the pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in June of 1989, the Center canceled all China exchanges for the remainder of 1989 and 1990. Much of its efforts during that period were devoted to planning the first Pacific Musical Festival and its accompanying conference which took place in 1990. During the 1990s, the Center’s focus shifted to developing a multi-year, multi-faceted project in China’s Yunnan Province for the continuation and development of the arts of minority nationalities.