A Croatian theater director and his wife, who fell in love with the city of Xi'an – capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi province – moved there and are now promoting the ancient city's culture to the world.
Ivica Simic now teaches as a professor at Xi'an Eurasian University. He's also given back to Xi'an for its hospitality, in the form of works for the theater there.
A play he directed – called the Terracotta Boy – first staged in Xi'an in 2016.
The original children's drama tells the story of a terracotta lad looking for masks – with many Shaanxi local cultural and artistic elements interwoven into the plot, such as the famous terracotta warriors from the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC).
"The drama integrates and recreates Chinese culture and contemporary dramas, hoping to promote the innovation and internationalization of local children's drama through cross-border international children's drama works," Simic explained.
Simic and Xi'an city originally formed a bond in 2015. "At that time, a director of a theater here invited me to visit," he said.
"Although I only stayed in the city for two days, I was very impressed by this beautiful and ancient city and as soon as I returned to Croatia, I got my wife Vitomira Loncar to move to Xi'an to live together."
Since then, he has been involved in a lot of intangible cultural heritage projects and traditional dramas in Xi'an.
Simic says his ideas come from everywhere and anywhere – such as taking the metro or bus and visiting the Big Wild Goose Pagoda and the terracotta warriors. In effect, Xi'an has become an inexhaustible source for his creations.
At Xi'an Eurasian University, he is responsible for pre-school education and primary education courses, teaching drama knowledge and skills.
His wife Vitomira also teaches two courses at the university – intercultural communications and project management.
In addition to teaching, she has actively participated in international exchange activities. At the 3rd China-CEEC Cultural Cooperation Forum, as a representative of Croatia, she shared the life experience of Croatians in Xi'an, promoted the city's cultural environment and called on more people to come to China and Xi'an as tourists.
In 2017, in recognition of the couple's outstanding contributions to the development of Xi'an, the Xi'an municipal government awarded them the Xi'an Friendship Award.
Currently, the couple is learning Chinese, hoping that their proficiency will be higher and they will become good cultural messengers.
"We enjoy living on South Yanta Road in the city. The best concert hall, dance theater and museum in Xi'an are all within our 15-minute living circle," said Vitomira Loncar.
"It is believed that with the acceleration of the internationalization of local dramas, the international influence of Xi'an culture will be even greater and we are also willing to make a contribution," she added.