World / China-Egypt

An Egyptian professor's 'Chinese dream'

(Xinhua) Updated: 2016-01-23 14:06

BEIJING - "When I walk along with two others, they may serve as my teachers," ancient Chinese educator and philosopher Confucius said.

It was one of the favorite quotes for Egyptian scholar Muhsin Farjani.

As a Chinese language professor with Ain Shams University in Cairo, Farjani has dedicated the last two decades to the translation of ancient Chinese literature into Arabic. Chinese academics were often taken aback when they found he was able to recite Confucius in near-perfect Mandarin.

During his visit to Egypt, President Xi Jinping met Farjani and nine other people who were awarded for their outstanding contributions to the Sino-Arab friendship in Cairo.

Farjani, 56, has translated the "Analects of Confucius," "Tao Te Ching," the universal Taoist textbook written by Lao Tze, and "Shi Jing," or the Book of Songs, which is China's oldest collection of poetry and songs.

Classical Chinese, which all these books were written in, is even difficult for Chinese to understand, and many will have to use dictionaries to understand.

Although he had been accepted as a student of Egyptian cultural relics at Cairo University, Farjani changed his mind and chose to study Chinese language at Ain Shams in 1977 when he found it available there.

"Being Egyptian, of course I had a great interest in my own ancient culture," Farjani said.

Yet, he explained, he found that he was even more fascinated by Chinese culture, and traced this back to a biography he had read while still a child about the last emperor Puyi.

Farjani has translated more than ten Chinese classics into Arabic, and has now begun to work on contemporary Chinese literature, including the novels of Nobel Laureate Mo Yan.

"Lately there has been growing interest in contemporary works, especially after Mo won the Nobel prize in 2012," he said. "I hope through Mo's works the Arab world will better understand China."

When he was a child, Farjani spent several years in rural Egypt, and can see parallels with his experience and Mo's descriptions of rural life in China.

"Egypt and China are both developing nations, with people leaving their rural homes for cities," he said, adding that a love of the land was shared by both cultures.

He said it was regrettable that many in the Arab world were unaware of the changes taking place in China.

"I hope that what I am doing will go someway to changing this," he said.

Farjani believes that literature could bring the peoples of the Arab nations and China closer together.

"I would like to see closer bonds between China and Egypt and the Arab world as a whole, while writers and artists from both sides could learn from each other, just like Confucius said."

"This is my Chinese dream," he said.

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