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Ambassador of Seychelles Philippe Le Gall gives a speech in Beijing

Ambassador of Seychelles Philippe Le Gall gives a speech in Beijing ( The China Daily writes: “He is an ambassador from Seychelles who has written a novel on a young Chinese prince's path to Venice. The French-language book has been translated into Chinese. Mei Jia finds out where Philippe Le Gall got his inspiration.

When he was a young man, he was influenced by Jerome K. Jerome's literary sense of humor and by Cervantes' persistence in producing the epic Don Quixote at the ripe old age of 58. He also appreciated the works of Pearl S. Buck and Lao She.
But Philippe Le Gall became a career diplomat.

The first resident ambassador of Seychelles in China finds writing sets him apart from the other diplomats, who are more reticent about expressing themselves in the printed word. Le Gall believes his writing stimulates cultural exchanges that open doors and build bridges.

His latest novel, just released in September, is a tale of a young Chinese aristocrat. “The Path to Venice: The Journey of Young Prince Houpili to the West” was originally written in French and then translated into Chinese.

“We say if you come to China for one week, you feel you can write a book; for one month, an article; but for more than six months, you can pen nothing," Le Gall said.

“I'd like to prove that I still can, after being ambassador here for five years, even with the full understanding of the complexity and richness of Chinese culture."

Le Gall was involved in establishing the first Seychellois embassy in China in 2007 and has witnessed his country's growth as a holiday destination for Chinese tourists. The Mao-suited diplomat calls it the “Seychelles wave."

In 2011, Seychelles welcomed 2,000 Chinese tourists. This year, up to September, the figure has already doubled.

The ambassador uses cultural exchange to raise the visibility of his nation, “probably the nearest African country to China" - only four time zones away.
He has introduced honeymoon tours for young Chinese couples, held Sino-Seychelles culture weeks and published a collection of essays and short stories on comparative studies of the two countries' cultures.

Le Gall paints a picture of an idyllic archipelago whose residents share the Chinese ideals of harmony between man and nature, and respect for ancestral values.
“Seychelles and China share 36 years of exceptional friendship and cooperation. The first Chinese to settle in Seychelles reached our shores 150 years ago," he said.

“And the reasons why the first Chinese who landed in the 1860s decided to stay and be happy there are still valid today."

The ambassador says writing increases his understanding of China and also promotes his country to the world.

“China has been a global focus," he said.

“Through promoting Seychelles in China and via China, we're making our country go global, too."

Writing is also a way to break down restrictions, Le Gall added.

“I take it as a blessing as I have a duty of discretion as a diplomat. But, as a fiction writer, I enjoy total freedom and independence to express my thoughts," he said.
Scholar and French-language translator Fan Haoyi said: “The ambassador is a mature writer. His book of essays on the two countries' cultures has wide influence. And his novel shows strong literary influence from European classics and allows readers space for imagination."

Le Gall was born in France in 1954. Since childhood, China has fascinated him with its antiques and literature.

“Unlike now, when China is being a key player in international affairs and China stories appear more frequently in the news, I had limited access as a young and eager reader," he said.

By the time he was 12, Le Gall knew he would write books one day.

He first tested his literary skills 10 years ago in a competition organized for countries in the southwest of the Indian Ocean. His work, “The King's Garden,” was awarded best short story and the overall Indian Ocean Award for the best entry in a competition, which covered novels, short stories, poetry, and theater.

He has actually been in China several times since the late 1990s, and his fascination has only increased in tandem with his accumulated knowledge.

“It is not a dead or dying civilization but the only 5,000-year-old civilization still standing on its feet and getting more and more creative," he explained.

The ambassador has many hobbies, all forged in China. He collects Chinese paintings of cats exclusively - felines staring at birds, butterflies, crickets, mice, or bees.

“Cats are observers," he said.

“Like them, I pay particular attention to the way China develops and faces the numerous challenges related to development at such an unprecedented and incredibly large scale.

“There is such a sense of innovation nowadays in China that I feel privileged to be an observer, knowing that China has gone global in such a way and to such an extent that whatever happens here automatically has an impact elsewhere."

Le Gall says Beijing is one of the safest capitals and has a remarkable cultural heritage and a vivid artistic life. “And this is quite appreciated by expatriates," he said.

The hutong-dwelling ambassador savors the classical and contemporary culture here and says every detail reflects “the deeply culture-oriented nature of the Chinese people and their love for a very poetical form of beauty that combines harmony and balance, and a smooth and peaceful relation to the passing of time."

Food is another delight.

Le Gall collects honey from all parts of China. And he believes that within a decade “the wine list of the most renowned restaurants in Paris, Bordeaux, and Lyon will dare to propose the finest Chinese vintages."

“No need to add that I am a green tea drinker," he said.

“Maybe in another life I was a taxi driver in China, as I always carry my green tea container with me."

PHOTO: Ambassador of Seychelles Philippe Le Gall / Photo from China Daily


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