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Ukrainian scholar promotes Chinese history

By Zheng Caixiong in Guangzhou | China Daily | Updated: 2023-11-09 08:40

Grebnev speaks at a seminar in Zhuhai. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The Bamboo Slips of Tsinghua is a collection of slips from the Warring States Period (475-221 BC) collected by the prestigious Tsinghua University. The collection showcases the original appearance of pre-Qin texts in various aspects and is considered a major Chinese archaeological discovery.

To study the Bamboo Slips of Tsinghua, Grebnev spent a lot of time and energy interpreting the ancient texts on the slips and regularly met with team members to proofread each other's work to ensure the quality of the translations. "For me, showcasing ancient Chinese civilization in a foreign language means a greater responsibility and challenge," he said.

When studying ancient Chinese history, Grebnev tends to use comparative research methods. He thinks boundaries of historical research should not be limited to a race or country, but should start from the overall perspective of human development.

He regards historians as observers, recorders and disseminators of culture. As more and more cultural relics are excavated, the workload of historians will also increase in the future, he said.

Historians should not only have curiosity, but also perseverance, and they should ensure that they have enough time and energy to solve problems, he added.

To better understand ancient Chinese research conducted by foreign scholars, Grebnev studied Chinese, French, Japanese and German during his university years. Having also learned Ukrainian, Russian and English at a young age, he is fluent in seven languages.

Grebnev attended Peking University as part of a one-year exchange program during his university years. When he first arrived in Beijing just after the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, the atmosphere was lively, he said, adding that he also visited many other cities in China.

When deciding to come to China for his career development, he chose the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. He said the GBA is a convenient area for research cooperation, connecting academia on the mainland, in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and overseas.

Before coming to UIC, he spent two years teaching at other universities in China. He said his Chinese students at the time were more shy and less likely to express their opinions, but at UIC, the students are braver, sharing their thoughts more freely and interacting with teachers.

"I think this atmosphere would be more suitable for teachers with international backgrounds like me," he said.

Grebnev very much enjoys his work at UIC, as the college's liberal education integrates China and the West, connecting ancient and modern times. He said he is committed to nurturing students so that they can become "ambassadors" to spread excellent Chinese culture to the world.

Xie Yuchen, a UIC sophomore, said Grebnev is a great teacher.

"He is very knowledgeable … he can use some Western-style research methods to explain the content of our courses in class, including using formal criticism to prove the homology of Confucianism and Taoism, providing a richer research perspective for the dissemination of Chinese culture," she said.

As a foreign teacher proficient in Chinese history and culture, he has many ancient Chinese books in his office, almost all of which are classical Chinese versions, she added.

Zhang Peici, another UIC student, said Grebnev has the ability to simplify topics and make complex points easy to understand.

"He usually guides us to think and judge from the perspective of historical figures, allowing us to learn to understand the historical events being taught from different perspectives," she said.

"Meanwhile, he discovers our personal strengths and encourages us to bravely try, which also stimulates our strong interest in in-depth research on history and culture."

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