Found in translation

By Mei Jia | China Daily | Updated: 2017-01-04 08:52

Dong talked to people and traveled to develop an understanding of how the country operates and how people live.

"If I saw a movie with beautiful scenery, I would visit the locations and see what the locals had to say," he says.

He made many friends.

In his spare time, he'd go out and enjoy French culture-exhibitions, shows, museums and cafes. He loved seeing some of the rare exhibits of ancient Chinese calligraphy housed in France.

A trained calligraphy master from childhood, he occasionally found his brushes could help him supplement his tuition fees. His time in Paris enriched his mastery of the art.

"I was homesick, and I found comfort in something I had done from childhood," he says.

Inspired by French interest in the Chinese characters he wrote, he became more absorbed in Chinese civilization and began to delve into it.

"Later, I realized, I'd always impressed the French people I met and talked to. It was because I was talking about things that felt familiar to them and also things they didn't know," he says.

"What's more, I talk in a language they understand and in manner that says 'we're equal and we're mutually respectful friends'."

In 2001, inspired by his mentor's personal experiences, Dong returned to Peking University as a professor.

"I didn't want to miss the core changes of the place of my cultural origin, like an outsider," he says.

"Kundera's motherland is within the same European cultural regime as France. But mine is not. China is different. It's evolving and becoming stronger, and it will make more connections with the rest of the world. I need to be back," he adds.

Dong teaches, translates and researches. He cooperated with the French embassy to launch the Fu Lei Prize in 2009.

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