Lecture explores the heritage and development of Wu dialect

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Professor Ping Wang, from the School of Humanity at Soochow University, delivered a talk on the impact of the Wu Dialect on Suzhou, as part of the sixth lecture in a series organised by the Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University Museum.

He spoke about the Wu Dialect from the perspective of linguistics and its use in daily life. Wu is a group of linguistically similar and historically related varieties of Chinese primarily spoken in Zhejiang province, the municipality of Shanghai, and southern Jiangsu province.

Professor Wang (pictured below) gave an introduction to the history of Suzhou dialect, which is part of the Wu Dialect group, and shared with the audience a range of proverbs that used vivid metaphors and highlighted the beauty of the language.

Following Professor Wang’s lead, some members of the audience spontaneously imitated the pronunciation of some of the local Suzhou expressions, which caused much enjoyment amongst participants.

Professor Wang, who is also a representative of the Suzhou Intangible Cultural Heritage project ‘The Chant of Suzhou’, said: “Society keeps developing with social changes in language use. While some proverbs are not well-adapted to modern society, all proverbs are colorful and vivid and should be maintained as cultural heritage.”

During the lecture’s question and answer session, student Xicheng Wang, from Department of Mathematical Sciences at XJTLU, asked Professor Wang about the origin Wu Dialect, who explained that the dialect has changed and developed so scholars hold different views on whether the currently-spoken Wu Dialect reflects older versions.

“Ancient scholars preferred to use classical Chinese language in writing so it can be assumed that nowadays the language has legacies inherited from previous speakers, but not all characteristics have been retained,” he said.

Other students in the audience showed great interest in Suzhou dialect, as well as concern over its conservation. Professor Wang said he was ‘optimistic’ about the future of traditional culture, saying: “There are still many people who are enthusiastic about traditional culture and are willing to take action to protect it.”

During the lecture Professor Wang pointed out that the charm of Wu dialect is its close bond to Suzhou’s culture.

Artists, authors and scholars, who are widely recognised for their impact on Suzhou’s local culture, are invited to speak at the University as part of the XJTLU Museum cultural lecture series. They present lectures and activities on aspects of Suzhou culture for XJTLU students and staff in order to facilitate the cultural interaction.

Professor Wang a said the lecture series was a “positive” way to expose people to art.

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