Canadian couple donates unique panels of Chinese cartoons to Chinese embassy
By Christopher Guly
Three decades ago, retired Canadian professors Yves and Cynthia Bled undertook a unique project to compile editorial cartoons from Chinese newspaper People's Daily with the goal of helping Canadians better understand China based on how the Chinese view themselves and the issues they face.
Their efforts resulted in the birth of a 1985 book, Understanding China Through Cartoons, written by Jamaican-born Ms. Bled, who taught economics at the University of Ottawa. The book features 356 cartoons from issues of the People's Daily in 1982 divided into such themes as the "social impact of foreign influences" on fashion, literary works and cinema, and a series of panels that were part of an exhibition that traveled across Canada.
On June 10, the Bleds officially donated the exhibition panels to the Chinese embassy at a ceremony hosted by outgoing Ambassador Lu Shaye.
"Professors Yves and Cynthia Bled are old friends of the Chinese people," said Lu, who will be moving to Paris next month to serve as China's senior envoy to France. "To promote knowledge about China among Canadians, they founded the Society for a Better Understanding of China in the early 1970s, which today is known as the Canada-China Friendship Society."
The married couple decided to gift the embassy with the panels as a legacy to their "admiration for Chinese culture and the role of China in the world - a role which dates back thousands of year, but which now is blossoming again," said French-born, 90-year-old Mr. Bled, a cultural anthropologist who speaks Mandarin, in an interview.
"China is unique in the world. No other nation has been able to maintain its cultural growth for thousands of years," he said.
The timing of the Bleds' cartoon-contribution to the embassy comes a year before Canada and China will mark the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations established since 1970.
In 1971, Canada and China opened embassies in each other's country. Two years later, Pierre Trudeau, father of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, became the first Canadian prime minister to make an official visit to the People's Republic of China.
"Over the past half-century, our bilateral relations have had ups and downs," and the bilateral relationship is at a "difficult time," Lu told the crowd at the embassy reception on Monday.
"But on all accounts," he said, "communication [has been] the best way to promote mutual understanding and trust. We need more people of vision like Professors Yves and Cynthia Bled as well as more institutions like the Canada-China Friendship Society."
In addition to the cartoon panel donation, the Bleds also gave the embassy a collection of indigenous art from the northwest Pacific coast of the Canadian province of British Columbia to highlight the culture of a "great civilization" from within Canada, said Mr. Bled, who has visited China several times and also taught at the University of Ottawa.
Video produced and directed by Christopher Guly based in Ottawa, Canada