（Painting the richness of Chinese culture）
Red Peony Academy opens the door to ancient traditions, Zhuan Ti reports.
In response to the central government's call to promote Chinese culture around the world, Ningbo established the Red PeonyAcademy of Chinese Painting and Calligraphy as an international forum for culture, education and exchanges.
The academy provides a compelling chance for foreigners in Ningbo to experience traditional Chinese culture by learning topaint peonies.
"Your inner feelings cannot be fully described by words, but the brush can express the truth - that life is full of poetry," saidJiang Hongsheng, director of the academy.
The academy is effective in "enchanting foreigners with traditional Chinese culture in two hours", said Jiang.
The academy uses its strengths in foreign languages, education, traditional Chinese culture and internationalcommunications.
Jiang starts the classes with the first stroke in painting a peony and explains to his students in English throughout theprocess.
The academy's efforts to promote Chinese culture and art using "the national flower" have received positive responses fromstudents.
"Learning painting is much easier than the Chinese language as a way to step into China, and it has become essential in mylife to do it regularly," said Gabriela Eguino from Bolivia, who teaches in a local school.
A British teacher, who teaches at the University of Nottingham Ningbo, said he enjoyed learning to paint peonies at theacademy.
"During my very first visit to China, I learned the amazing oriental art and it allowed me to spend a fantastic time in the country,"he wrote in a letter to the academy. "I will come back to China to learn more about its long history and rich culture."
A Canadian teacher said the greatest dividend from her stay in China was learning to paint traditional Chinese peonies.
She prepared for each of her four children a painting of peonies both to remember her days in China and express her bestwishes to them.
"A piece of my heart is left in China," she wrote to the academy after returning to Canada.
In October 2014, the city's foreign affairs office invited a group of journalists from France, Lithuania, Slovenia, Macedonia andSouth Korea to join in the experience.
The journalists enjoyed learning to paint and expressed their willingness to introduce the art as a symbol of Chinese cultureto people in their own countries.
Foreign students' passion for the traditional art has even resulted in special shows.
In 2014, two exhibitions were held in Ningbo to display 65 painting and calligraphy works sent by former students of theacademy from more than 20 countries, including Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and India.
The academy also fostered a group of international volunteers among its students who are willing to be envoys of Chineseculture.
After studying with the academy for more than a year, Gillian Patankar from Australia can now paint beautiful red peonies. Sheeven gave her framed paintings of the flower to local villagers in Ningbo.
Patankar gradually took on the responsibility of helping beginners at the academy. Now her students can also paint peonies.
She also assisted in planning classes, then took her artist tools with her during three trips back to Australia and startedclasses to teach local children Chinese painting and calligraphy.
"I have a great desire to use Chinese painting and calligraphy to express my inner creativity and make something that isbeautiful and joyful," said Patankar.
A group of students from nine countries decided to promote traditional Chinese art in the international community afterexperiencing it at the academy last summer.
"Now I have changed my attitude towards China," said a woman from Germany soon after trying traditional Chinese paintingat the academy for the first time.
The students even started a page on an international social network where they posted self-produced videos and photos toshare their own experiences, offering more foreigners the charms of Chinese culture.
International students also experience other aspects of traditional Chinese culture at the academy.
Patankar recalled in one of her books that she enjoyed the chance to experience the local culture, history and lifestyle inNingbo, a scenic city with a long history.
"The experiences we had at the Red Peony created bridges for friendship. We look forward to more enjoyable times aheadand more chances to share cross-cultural experiences with many people in Ningbo and across China," she wrote.
David Holmes, an English teacher who taught at the University of Nottingham Ningbo, also gained a deeper understanding ofChinese culture with the guidance of the academy.
After an organized visit to a museum on women's lives in Ninghai county, Holmes wrote in an article that "a Chinese bride is awoman to be envied".
"A great deal of fuss and money is thrown away on British brides, but the pomp and ceremony which attend her to the altar arenothing compared with that witnessed in Imperial China," he wrote.
A former teacher at the Ningbo Institute of Technology, which is affiliated with Zhejiang University, studies painting andcalligraphy at the academy every week.
The Ukrainian said in a letter that he is eager to share Chinese culture and its rich heritage with his family.
"Chinese souvenirs made by machines are not important. They can be found anywhere around the world now," he explained.
"But through learning Chinese calligraphy and painting, I can take these unique artistic gems back home and keep them aslong-lasting spiritual wealth."