Over the 1000 year span of Polish history, generation after generation of Poles have developed and cultivated a complex cultural tradition, which became the essence of our national identity. Unique in its form and variety, the tradition was not only influenced by the surrounding Slavic or Germanic peoples, but also took huge inspiration from the Mediterranean region, Western Europe or even Middle and Far East. From the beginnings of the Polish state, i.e. since Poland was baptized in 966, Roman Catholic religion played a special role in Polish cultural tradition. Ethnic groups living in our country – Jews, Tatars and Kashubians – also had a huge impact on the mosaic of Polish culture.
Everyone loves a good celebration, and Poles are no different, and there are enough opportunities to celebrate in Poland, including both: religious holidays, such as Christmas (December 25), which Poles celebrate no less boisterously than the Chinese celebrate the Chinese New Year, Easter (moveable) or Corpus Christi (moveable), as well as public holidays, such as the Polish Independence Day, celebrated on November 11, Labor Day (May 1) or 3rd May National Holiday celebrating the declaration of the Constitution of 3 May 1791 – the first document of this type in all of Europe. We musn’t forget about St. Andrew’s Day, when we use melted wax to tell our fortune, or the First Day of Spring, when we drown an effigy of Marzanna to celebrate the end of winter.
Thanks to the literary Nobel prize winners, including Wisława Szymborska, Czesław Miłosz and Olga Tokarczuk, Poland gained the reputation of “a country of poets and writers”. Joseph Conrad, the world famous writer, also came from Poland. Chinese people have a particular interest in Polish literature thanks to the famous writer Lu Xun. He was the first to introduce Chinese readers to Polish romantic authors, including Adam Mickiewicz, Juliusz Słowacki and Zygmunt Krasiński. Not only did he mention them in “On the Power of Mara Poetry”, one of his most famous essays, but he personally translated their works into Chinese. Today, thanks to the commitment of successive generations of translators, Chinese readers can read a whole range of Polish literature, from essays by Ryszard Kapuściński, through the fantastic world of The Witcher, created by Andrzej Sapkowski, to the futuristic visions of Stanisław Lem.
Frederic Chopin, one of the world’s greatest composers and pianists, was born in Poland. The International Frederic Chopin’s Piano Competition, dedicated to his music, held in Warsaw every five years since 1927, is one of the most important musical competitions in the world. Krzysztof Penderecki, an outstanding composer and four-time Grammy Award winner, was also a Pole, just like other famous composers, such as Henryk Wieniawski, Stanisław Moniuszko, Władysław Szpilman and Karol Szymanowski. Polish musicians perform in the largest concert halls all around the world – including China. Chinese audiences have an abundance of performances of Polish artists to choose from – Polish classical and jazz musicians visit China every year, e.g, as part of the Jazz Po Polsku project.
Some say that “cinema loves Poland” and there is more to this statement than a mere grain of truth – the so-called Polish film school educated subsequent generations of great filmmakers, including directors, cinematographers, screenwriters and film producers. It is enough to mention figures such as Andrzej Wajda, winner of prestigious film awards, including an Oscar for lifetime achievement, and Krzysztof Kieślowski, known worldwide for the Decalogue (1989), The Double Life of Veronica (1991) and his most famous work Three Colors (1993-1994 ). Janusz Kamiński, Sławomir Idziak or Piotr Sobociński are just some of the representatives of the highly praised Polish school of cinematography. Krzysztof Piesiewicz, the screenwriter of Kieślowski’s films, nominated for an Oscar for the Best Original Script, has often visited China, conducting screenwriting workshops and meeting with Chinese fans of Kieślowski’s films. The Chinese are also familiar with the latest Polish film productions, including Loving Vincent, a co-production between Poland and the UK, directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, and Cold War, directed by Paweł Pawlikowski. Both of these films received a number of awards and distinctions, including Oscar nominations.
Theater lovers around the world know Poland from the Grotowski method and Kantor’s “death theater”. Spectacles of contemporary great Polish theater directors such as Grzegorz Jarzyna, Krzysztof Warlikowski, Jan Klata and Krystian Lupa have been performed many times in Chinese theaters. Krystian Lupa and Grzegorz Jarzyna even created plays with local actors. Lupa directed Mo Fei, a play based on a novel by Shi Tiesheng by the same name. Jarzyna, on the other hand, directed the play Two Swords, based on a short story by Lu Xun. Both productions were enthusiastically received by viewers and critics, winning many awards.
Among young people, Poland perhaps most famous for its video games, immensely popular not only in China but all around the world. Millions of players roamed the Witcher universe together with Geralt of Rivia in the CD Projekt RED game series, hid from freezing winds in the cities of Frostpunk by 11 bit studios, or run from zombies terrorizing the city of Harran in Techland’s Dying Light. In December 2019, Chinese gamers also had the unique opportunity to participate in the largest project organized by the Polish Institute in Beijing – a live concert of music from Polish video games: Polish Games – Creative Poland: The Concert.
We encourage everyone to learn more about Polish culture and the richness of its multi-generational tradition – both in Poland and China. We’ll do our best to make sure there’s an abundance of different cultural events for you to choose from.