Minister of Culture Lung Ying-tai (龍應台) co-hosted the Taiwan-France Cultural Award ceremony in Paris on Monday, honoring three people who have enhanced cultural exchanges between Taiwan and Europe.
The winners were French sinologists Angel Pino and his wife, Isabelle Rabut, and Philippe Paquet, a Belgian expert on cross-strait issues.
The award was jointly set up in 1996 by the ministry’s predecessor, the former council for cultural affairs, and France’s Academy of Moral and Political Sciences.
In her address, Lung touted the cultural ideals shared by the two countries. Despite political changes since its inception in 1635, the French academy has maintained a core focus on “language, literature and culture,” Lung said.
Similarly, Taiwan is the place within the Chinese-speaking world that attaches the greatest importance to language, literature and culture, she said, which is why it was no coincidence that the works of Gao Xingjian (高行健), Chinese winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2000, were published exclusively in Taiwan.
Lung described the award’s historical significance as “commitment to language, sincerity toward literature and faith in culture” along with the pursuit of core values.
She added that for more than six decades, from the Chinese Civil War to the Cold War, Taiwan has been like a tightrope walker, with culture the balancing pole carried by the country to keep its balance for survival. During that time, Taiwan has developed a bona fide civil society and a culture with attributes unique in the Chinese world, and it has generated an ideal blend of traditional Chinese culture and the values of modern democracy, she said.
However, for that culture to be recognized, it had to be made visible, said Xavier Darcos, the academy’s perpetual secretary.
The purpose of setting up the award was to enable France and Europe to learn more about Taiwan and its culture, and the establishment of the Taiwan Cultural Center and Taiwan-France Cultural Foundation also contributed to the cause.
“We are happy that the profile has finally come after 17 years,” Darcos said.
In introducing Pino and Rabut, Darcos praised them for adopting a progressive approach toward raising French awareness of Taiwanese history. For example, a biography of Soong Mayling (宋美齡), also known as Madame Chiang Kai-shek, authored by Paquet, analyzed in detail an important part of Taiwan’s history, he said.
The three winners pledged to dedicate themselves further to raising Taiwan’s profile in Europe.
Pino and Rabut, who are working on an anthology of Taiwanese short stories and novels, said a “Taiwanese literature fever” has developed in French higher-education circles, especially among doctoral students.
They said it was a trend they were happy about because of the rich themes and language found in Taiwanese writing.
Their only ambition, they said, is to “play the role of one of the original planters of Taiwanese literature seeds that are bound to bloom and bear fruit in France some day.”
Paquet said that winning the award has only strengthened his curiosity about Taiwan and he vowed to continue his research.