LEARNING French, the so-called language of love, is increasingly popular among Chinese young people, and the French language and culture are being promoted in the regional Croisements Festival through July 3 (some events running longer).
Various arts, literature, music, theater, cinema and gastronomy events are organized by Alliance Francaise in Shanghai, Hangzhou and Nanjing.
This is the festival's eighth year. It is the biggest French cultural festival abroad and the biggest foreign cultural festival on the Chinese mainland.
Liu Yuan, purchasing supervisor at a real estate company, studied French for two years at Alliance Fran?aise de Shanghai. "It has nothing to do with my job. I am just hooked on French culture and language. It is pleasing to the ear and sounds very elegant," she says.
Liu went to France for the first time in 2009 to savor the culture and art, especially the works of impressionist Claude Monet. Last year she visited Giverny, known as the location of the artist's garden and home. "This time I went anywhere without a translator," she says.
"French culture is quite present in Shanghai, and we feel that the Shanghainese have a very positive image of French culture: They like French food, wine, fashion, literature, arts and cinema," says Marion Bertagna, cultural attache at the French Consulate General in Shanghai.
The Croisements Festival cooperates with local arts scenes and many French expatriates are involved. Bertagna says it can be difficult to introduce new forms of art such as new circus and contemporary music that locals are not familiar with.
"However, we believe that the Chinese public's tastes are evolving quickly and they tend to ask for more variety in culture," she says. "Many educational activities will be held throughout the festival to help beginners and others appreciate French culture."
One of the highlights is "You Gee Ti," a contemporary dance collaboration between a French choreographer and Taiwanese dancers.
The "From Gesture to Language" exhibition is an eclectic showcase of contemporary engraving artwork from the Louvre and masterpieces from around the world, including some by contemporary Chinese artists.
The festival has collaborated for years with the Shanghai International Film Festival and this year will offer a wide range of French cinema.
Also, four influential French writers will visit Shanghai, including novelist and screenwriter Philippe Djian.