Chinese Premier visits Shakespeare's Birthplace

Chinese Premier Wen starts UK visit with personal pilgrimage to Shakespeare's Birthplace

Premier Wen receives "rosemary for remembrance" from Shakespeare Aloud actor at Shakespeare's Birthplace

26 June 2011

On Sunday 26 June, His Excellency Mr Wen Jiabao, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, made a private visit to Shakespeare’s Birthplace.  Premier Wen, an avid Shakespeare enthusiast, chose to begin his three day visit to the UK, with a personal pilgrimage to the writer’s birthplace.

The Premier and his delegation were hosted at the Birthplace by Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, the Trust’s Director, Dr Diana Owen, and Honorary President, Professor Stanley Wells.  On arriving, the VIP party were told about the work of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, and its growing connections with China.  They were also shown items from the Trust’s library and archive including the 1623 First Folio, a 1603 map of China, Elizabeth I’s signature and Chinese translations of Shakespeare’s works.  During the visit, Mr Wen took time to sign the attraction's VIP visitors' book, leaving a two-page poetical inscription.

Premier Wen was then taken on a guided tour in Chinese of Shakespeare’s Birthplace.  In the Birthplace Gardens he enjoyed a performance of scenes from Hamlet, by the Trust’s Shakespeare Aloud! actors.  A highlight of the performance was the scene showing Ophelia’s grief and disintegration when she hands flowers to the royal household.  Premier Wen was given a sprig of “rosemary for remembrance”.  (Act IV, Scene 5)

Despite being scheduled to leave at 10.15am Premier Wen chose to stay on in the garden talking to Jeremy Hunt, Diana Owen, Stanley Wells and the press for an extra 25 minutes.  He spoke more about his enjoyment of Shakespeare and of how literature and culture can build bridges between nations. Mr Wen also said that this visit to Stratford would remain in his memory for a long time and that Stratford should be proud of their famous son who belonged not just to Stratford, but also to the world.

Premier Wen presented a gift to the Trust of a Chinese/English set of Shakespeare’s Complete Works and the Trust responded with a gift of a leather-bound copy of Shakespeare’s Sonnets.

Diana Owen, Director of the Trust said, “Around 400,000 people come from all over the world to Shakespeare's Birthplace each year and it is hoped that Mr Wen's visit may increase the already keen interest shown by visitors from China."

“The number of Chinese visitors to the Birthplace is growing all the time and obviously China is potentially a huge market for us. We are building relationships with centres for learning and literature in China and look forward to welcoming further Chinese participation here in Stratford.''

Please see links below for highlights of recent coverage:

The Telegraph

Sky News

BBC News

The Mirror

China Daily