Shakespeare’s Birthplace and Shakespeare’s New Place will be re-created in the People’s Republic of China under an exclusive Co-operation Agreement signed today (28 September 2018) by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and Fuzhou Culture and Tourism Investment Company Ltd.
The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is the independent charity that cares for the world’s greatest Shakespeare heritage sites and collections in the playwright’s home town of Stratford-upon-Avon, England. It will provide its expert authority as consultant to the project to faithfully reproduce two of the famous Shakespeare family homes at San Weng, a new international heritage and cultural centre near Fuzhou City, Jiangxi Province, South China.
The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust will provide historical and contemporary data for the design and construction of the original houses, together with expert guidance on traditional building methods and materials, and support for exhibition content and presentation. It will have approval of all stages of design, build and interpretation.
Shakespeare’s Birthplace has been conserved since 1847, when the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust was founded. However, Shakespeare’s adult home at New Place has been lost to the UK since 1702 (see note 1 to editors). Its recreation in China will be informed by the Trust's archaeological exploration of the site (2009-2016) which produced an architectural model of the house that Shakespeare knew.
San Weng, (which translates as Three Masters) will celebrate three great literary figures of East and West – Shakespeare, Cervantes, and Tang Xianzu, the region’s own renowned playwright. It will also feature a ‘Stratford-upon-Avon’ quarter, styled on the Tudor architecture of the real market town in England. The new town is expected to open in 2020.
Peter Kyle, Chairman of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust said, “We are delighted to enter this agreement to assist the Fuzhou Municipal Government in realising their ambitious plans to bring Shakespeare’s family homes to life for visitors to San Weng. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has a unique remit, charged by Act of Parliament to preserve our greatest Shakespeare heritage assets, and to share them with the world. This innovative, two-way partnership will significantly advance our charitable objective to promote worldwide the enjoyment and understanding of Shakespeare’s works life and times. By providing our knowledge and expertise to help the Fuzhou team to create an authentic spirit of place, we will enable more of our ongoing work here in the UK to conserve, sustain and share the extraordinary Shakespeare legacy in our care. Millions of people who might never have the opportunity to visit our global Shakespeare centre in Stratford-upon-Avon will now have a chance to enrich their connection with Shakespeare in China.
“Shakespeare speaks to all humanity, transcending borders and barriers, and he is a powerful ambassador for the growing cultural, creative and tourism ties between the UK and China. We are grateful to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the British Consulate team in China, the British Council and the Chinese Embassy for their consistent support for this project.”
The Co-operation Agreement was signed by Philippa Rawlinson, Deputy Chief Executive of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, and Fu Wubiao, the General Manager of Fuzhou Culture and Tourism Investment Development Company, at a ceremony in Fuzhou on the eve of the city’s Tang Xianzu International Theatre Festival.
Philippa Rawlinson said, “Never before has the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust considered authorising the recreation of the iconic properties which have attracted millions of Shakespeare fans for centuries. The agreement follows two years of detailed consultation and reflects the shared commitment of both partners to ensuring that the replica houses will be as true to the originals as possible, rooted in the built heritage, and internationally-significant collections which make the Shakespeare family homes one of China’s favourite destinations in the UK. This exciting venture will create new opportunities to help more people get up close and personal with Shakespeare and a new centre for cultural and artistic exchanges.”
Nestled among the green hills, clear waters and hot springs of Linchuan District, San Weng will cover a total area of 220 acres, encompassing a theatre park, tourism and leisure zones. Shakespeare, Cervantes and Tang Xianzu were contemporaries of their age (coincidentally they all died in 1616), though they never met. As well as the Stratford quarter, there will be a Spanish Alcala quarter and an ancient Chinese village. Construction is underway and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust team will visit the site on 29 September.
Notes to Editors:
Note 1: Shakespeare's New Place was the first place of pilgrimage for literary fans, long before his Birthplace was saved for the nation in 1847. Purchased by Shakespeare in 1597 it was his home until his death there in 1616. His house was demolished in 1702 and replaced by another family home also known as New Place. The second house was in turn demolished by the Reverend Francis Gastrell in 1759, in the wake of disputes with the local authorities and his annoyance with visiting Shakespeare fans. In 2016 the site of Shakespeare’s New Place was transformed to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. It now features breathtaking contemporary sculptures, beautifully-restored gardens and an exhibition shining fresh light on the man behind the famous works.