Monday 02 March 2015

HRH The Duke of Cambridge today officially launched the UK Season of the 2015 UK-China Year of Cultural Exchange in Beijing.

This first ever UK-China Year of Culture Exchange will be a showcase of innovative UK culture in China and Chinese culture in the UK. 

In an auspicious ceremony at the start of his first visit to China, HRH The Duke of Cambridge heralded the start of the UK season of the Year of Cultural Exchange by dotting the eye of a sculpture of Aardman Animation’s internationally acclaimed character, Shaun the Sheep.

At the start of the Year of the Sheep, the Duke’s gesture echoes the auspicious ceremony of dotting the lion’s eye in a traditional Chinese lion dance, bringing good fortune and happiness to this Year of Cultural Exchange. 

The United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Sajid Javid MP and independent Chinese artist, Xu Bing, also joined the ceremony.

The chosen sculptures are part of a unique art exhibition for the Year of Cultural Exchange, celebrating the UK's animation sector and partnerships with China. This initiative, by Aardman and Chinese partners UYoung Culture and Media Co, will feature 50 Shaun the Sheep sculptures with designs by British and Chinese artists in five cities across China.

HRH The Duke of Cambridge and Vice President Li Yuanchao will later witness the signing of a formal agreement marking the start of the Year of Cultural Exchange.

The Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP and Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport in the United Kingdom said:

"We are incredibly proud of our creative industries, they are one of our biggest success stories and a tremendous driver of economic growth. The Year of Cultural Exchange will be a wonderful celebration of UK and Chinese creative talent, and will help forge new business relationships between our two nations."

The Year will be an innovative showcase of great UK culture in China and Chinese culture in the UK. The UK season will see a carefully curated series of contemporary, adventurous, multi-disciplinary and innovative works, with digital media at the heart. For China, it is the first Chinese state-level cultural festival to be held in a Western European country which will also highlight China’s modern cultural creativity. The year will inspire and support creative talent in the UK and China, stimulating increased collaboration between artists and creative organisations in both countries.   

The Shaun the Sheep exhibition forms part of Animate UK - a wider animation programme within the UK-China Year of Culture Exchange. Animate UK will celebrate the best of UK animation – also including the premiere of Aardman’s Shaun the Sheep feature film in China.

Aardman’s Co-Founder and Executive Chairman David Sproxton said:

“We are delighted that in China’s New Year of the Sheep, our own world famous sheep ‘Shaun’ will have a small part to play in celebrating this year of cultural exchange between the UK and China. It’s fitting that Shaun the Sheep which is made in the UK by a highly talented group of creatives is going to be embraced by an equally talented range of Chinese designers and artists.”

Wang Guoyu, Senior General Manager of Consumer Products at Uyoung Culture and Media said:

“On the occasion of today’s dotting ceremony, Aardman and Uyoung have joined with International Copyright Exchange, to launch a series of art and creativity themed Shaun the Sheep charity initiatives supported by Beijing Cultural Development Foundation and an exhibition tour. These will enable more Chinese artists, fashion designers and celebrities, as well as the general public, to actively participate in our activities.”

The UK Prime Minister’s visit to China in December 2013 (during which the UK-China Cultural Agreement was renewed), the High Level UK-China People to People Dialogue in Beijing in April 2014 and the UK-China Summit in June 2014 all demonstrate the growing strength of UK-China relations, with creativity and cultural exchange at the heart of developments. The UK-China Year of Cultural Exchange provides a unique opportunity to further deepen and strengthen the UK’s strong relationship with China across the arts and creative industries.

The Creative Industries contribute 5.0 per cent of the UK Economy (2013), growing 10 per cent year on year. By 2016 – China’s own ambition is that its cultural industries will account for a similar figure, as one of China’s ‘five pillars of growth’. As well as celebrating creative excellence and partnership, culture means business too: the Year provides an excellent platform to develop UK-China business ties in the creative industries.

Starting most immediately, this programme gets off to a flying start with the GREAT Festival of Creativity in Shanghai from 2-4 March, showing UK innovation at its very best in sectors such as fashion, luxury retail, health, technology, education and entertainment and demonstrating the UK’s track record in bringing competitive advantage through commercial creativity.

The impact of the UK-China Year of Cultural Exchange will extend far beyond 2015 itself. The Year will create a lasting legacy in the culture and arts for the UK and China, enabling creative talent in the UK and China to flourish over the long term, and for the UK-China relationship in culture and creativity to thrive.


Notes to Editor


密码(PASSWORD): ukchina

2015 UK-China Year of Cultural Exchange partners

The UK season of the 2015 UK-China Year of Cultural Exchange is generously supported by a number of partners.

Founder Sponsor: IELTS
Strategic Communications Partner: BBDO
Strategic Media Partners: China Daily, Phoenix Media, Modern Media Group, Tencent and Youku.

For more information on the 2015 UK-China Year of Cultural Exchange, please contact us. 


About UK creative industries

Figures published in January 2015 reveal that UK’s Creative Industries - which includes the film, television and music industries - are now worth £76.9 billion per year to the UK economy. This equates to £8.8m per hour, or £146,000 every single minute. The value of services exported by the Creative Industries was £17.3bn in 2012 - 8.8 per cent of total UK service exports. The UK’s Creative Industries also accounted for 1.71m jobs in 2013, 5.6 per cent of total UK jobs.

About the dotting of eyes and three sheep

Dotting the eyes of the lion at the end of a traditional Chinese Lion Dance brings fortune and happiness to those celebrating. This playful twist of dotting the eyes of the sheep at thestart of the Year of the Sheep marks the launch of the Shaun the Sheep exhibition and the start of the UK season of the UK-China Year of Cultural Exchange

The three sheep at the event echo the Chinese idiom ‘san yang kai tai’ which literally translates to ‘three sheep bring good fortune’ but with the broader meaning that ‘with the advent of spring begins prosperity’ – an appropriate saying for the start of the Chinese New Year and the start of the UK Season of the Year of Cultural Exchange.

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and build trust between them worldwide.

We work in more than 100 countries and our 7,000 staff – including 2,000 teachers – work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year by teaching English, sharing the arts and delivering education and society programmes.

We are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter. A core publically-funded grant provides less than 25 per cent of our turnover which last year was £781 million. The rest of our revenues are earned from services which customers around the world pay for, through education and development contracts and from partnerships with public and private organisations. All our work is in pursuit of our charitable purpose and supports prosperity and security for the UK and globally.

We operate as the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy in Beijing and Cultural and Education Section of the British Consulate-General in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chongqing. Our Exams work across China operates as a Wholly Foreign Owned Enterprise.


UK Now ( is a new arts and culture platform from the British Council offering original and new experiences, opportunities and insights.

Across theatre, dance, visual arts, literature, architecture, design, film, music, fashion, creative skills, arts and technology it leads a creative dialogue connecting UK arts and culture with China.

UK Now is a voice to support the best creative talent and champion new ways of presenting contemporary and traditional culture.

In 2015, UK Now is also the key platform for the 2015 UK-China Year of Cultural Exchange.

About Aardman

Aardman, based in Bristol (UK) co-founded and run by Peter Lord and David Sproxton, is a world leader in animation. It produces feature films, series advertising and digital entertainment for both the domestic and international market. Their multi-award winning productions are novel, entertaining, brilliantly characterised and full of charm that reflects the unique talent, energy and personal commitment of the very special people who make up the Aardman team. The studio’s work is often imitated and yet the company continues to lead the field producing a rare brand of visually stunning and amusing independent and commercials productions.

About Uyoung Culture and Media

UYoung Culture & Media is a children’s and family entertainment company founded in 2000 in Beijing. Shaun the Sheep is one of the brands that they promote in China. They are dedicated to becoming a top player in the market. 

About Shaun the Sheep

Shaun the Sheep, Aardman’s family favourite TV series, is recognised the world over for its slapstick humour, distinctive look and strong, quirky characters and enjoyed across multiple media platforms. First appearing in Nick Park’s 1995 Academy Award winning Wallace & Gromit film ‘A Close Shave’, Shaun then went on to star in his own series which launched on BBC One in 2007.  Now in its fourth season, Shaun the Sheep is currently broadcast in 170 territories around the world and is an internationally celebrated icon with over 5 million fans on Facebook. In 2014 Shaun the Sheep was voted the nations favourite Children's BBC Television character of all time in a Radio Times poll. The first Shaun the Sheep feature film produced in partnership with STUDIOCANAL, launched in February 2015. 

About Xu Bing

Xu Bing was born in Chongqing, China in 1955. In 1977 he entered the printmaking department of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, where he completed his bachelor’s degree in 1981 and stayed on as an instructor. In 1990, on the invitation of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he moved to the United States. Since 2007, he has been living and working in both Beijing and New York. He is former Vice President of the Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing and he is now independent artist. Xu Bing is most well-known for his printmaking skills, his installation pieces and his creative use of language, words and text and how they affect our understanding of the world.

Xu Bing has exhibited very widely internationally including: MoMA, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York; Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington DC; the Spencer Museum of Art, Kansas, MASS MoCA, Massachusetts; The V&A Museum and the British Museum in London, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Australia; the Joan Miro Foundation, Spain; National Gallery of Prague, the 45th and 51st Venice Biennales; the Biennale of Sydney and the Johannesburg Biennale. Recognition: 2015 - U.S. Department of State Medal of Arts award; 2010 - Doctorate of Humane Letters, Columbia University; 2006 – Lifetime Achievement Award, Southern Graphics Council; 2004 – First Artes Mundi International Visual Art Prize in Wales; 2003 - Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize; 1999 - MacArthur Fellowship.