Cultural and educational links between the UK and China have been strengthened following the announcement of a new partnership between a UK university and two Chinese cultural institutions.
Northumbria University, in Newcastle upon Tyne, is developing a new partnership with Yunnan Provincial Museum and Yunnan Art Gallery, both situated in the city of Kunming, in the province of Yunnan in South West China.
Over the coming years the three organisations will work together to establish new research collaborations, artist and collection exchange programmes and opportunities for academics and students in both cities.
The Yunnan Province of China is famous for its Buddhist culture and art, especially works from the Dali and Nanzhao Kingdoms, which spanned the 7th to the 13th centuries.
One of the outcomes of the new partnership will be the establishment of The International Research Centre for History and Culture of Nanzhao & Dali Kingdoms.
The Centre will bring together art experts from both countries to carry out research into important historical artefacts from the Yunnan region, building on existing knowledge and understanding of this important period.
The partnership is supported by Northumbria University alumnus Wee Teng Woon through his family foundation, the Woon Brothers Foundation, which was established with his three brothers. Wee Teng is a renowned art collector with particular expertise in Buddhist art and culture.
The Foundation actively supports various art prizes, scholarships and educational opportunities in the UK and overseas. It also promotes the conservation, research and exhibition of cultural artefacts, for a better understanding and appreciation of the art of humanity.
Through his strong links with Northumbria University, Mr Woon oversaw the opening of The Woon Gallery of Asian Art in 2018, situated on Northumbria’s campus in Newcastle city centre.
The gallery is home to one of the most important collections of Buddhist and Asian art in the UK, on long-term loan to Northumbria from Mr Woon’s personal collection.
Over the coming months and years, artwork from both the Northumbria University and Yunnan Provincial Museum collections will be shared between the two countries through The International Research Centre for History and Culture of Nanzhao & Dali Kingdoms.
There will also be an exchange programme between Northumbria University and Yunnan Art Gallery, with a focus on contemporary Chinese art and artists.
This will include a reciprocal artist in residence programme and joint exhibitions in Newcastle and Kunming, as well as collaborations with other UK museums and galleries.
Representatives from Northumbria University; Yunnan Provincial Department of Culture and Tourism, which manages the art gallery and museum; and the Woon Brothers Foundation will meet on Tuesday (26 November) to sign memorandums of understanding formalising the new partnerships.
Speaking ahead of the signing, Professor Andrew Wathey CBE, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of Northumbria University, said: “Northumbria is an international university. We have developed strong links with China in recent years, welcoming students from the country to study with us in the UK and also developing partnerships with Chinese universities, delivering collaborative teaching and research programmes.
“We are therefore delighted to strengthen further our links with China through these two exciting new cultural and educational partnerships in Yunnan.
“We are particularly pleased to be working alongside our alumnus Wee Teng Woon, whose passion for art has inspired these new opportunities for research and collaboration between Yunnan and Northumbria.”
Explaining the benefits the partnership will bring to the institutions involved, Mr Woon added: “These collaborations between Northumbria University and Yunnan institutions bring Chinese art and culture, both ancient and modern, to the UK, particularly the North East.
“They help to foster better understanding and build closer relationships between China and the UK.
“They are indeed ground-breaking developments in art, culture and education under the initiative of ‘One Belt One Road’ of President Xi. Our Woon Brothers Foundation is proud to have helped and give funding.”
Northumbria already has strong research and teaching links with a number of Chinese educational institutions, including Nanjing Institute of Technology, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Northwestern Polytechnical University.
This latest partnership ties in with China’s Belt and Road initiative, which aims to connect China with countries in Asia and Europe through infrastructure and cultural partnerships.
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