MADRID, Dec. 19 (Xinhua) -- The Cervantes Institute in Madrid on Wednesday wrapped up its "Year of Diego de Pantoja", a commemoration marking the very start of Spain-China cultural exchange, a leading institution director told Xinhua.
"It has been a very important year because it has allowed us to remember someone (Diego de Pantoja) who has remained in the shadows," and who "means a lot to our history," Garcia Montero said.
Diego de Pantoja was the first Spaniard to enter the Forbidden City of Beijing -- the Chinese capital's cultural landmark, and the first to forge cultural links between the two countries.
Pantoja was considered the introducer of Christianity to China and the only Spaniard who managed to access the court of Emperor Wan Li of the Ming dynasty, in the Forbidden City, where he used to teach the emperor to play the clavichord.
He was a mathematician, poet, and most importantly, a great promoter of Spanish culture in China until he died in Macao in 1618, Montero said.
"He knew the language and civilization of the two countries and worked as a bridge, through his letters to allow for mutual understanding," Montero added.
Throughout the year, a number of activities including symposiums, conferences, concerts and exhibitions have been organized to honor him, a Jesuit who left his footprints in China as early as 1597.
Headquartered in Madrid, the Cervantes institute is a Spanish public institution whose main objectives are the promotion and teaching of the Spanish language along with its culture and that of Latin America.
Chinese ambassador to Spain Lyu Fan attended the event and said that the celebration of the 400th anniversary was framed in a "good year" for the "excellent relations" of both countries.
Noting that a historic high number of Chinese students have registered for Spanish learning, he stressed the importance of the institute for the promotion of Spanish in China as well as the future bilateral ties.