Wizard Merlin offers magical link with China
A POTENTIALLY lucrative economic and cultural twinning link between Carmarthen and China is being established thanks to an unlikely source — Merlin the wizard.
It has been revealed that the Asian nation's fascination with mythical characters led community leaders in Xiangyang, a city in northwest China, to seek to forge tourism links with the town.
And it was revealed that China's growing love of all things Merlin has played a key role in bringing the two communities together.
The recent BBC series Merlin helped interest in the wizard rocket across China after it was broadcast on TV.
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The twinning committee in Xiangyang then researched Merlin, which led them to West Wales and Carmarthen.
Plans to establish a twinning agreement moved a step close this week when the assistant chief executive of Carmarthenshire Council, Chris Burns, flew to Xiangyang to attend a festival.
Speaking ahead of the visit, Mr Burns said: "They are keen to talk about opportunities for the future such as business co-operation, tourism, cultural exchanges and exchanges by young people in school and college.
"Because of the large numbers of Chinese tourists now visiting the UK we hope that this will be an opportunity to attract visitors to the area which will benefit local hotels, restaurants and visitor attractions.
"Trinity St David University will also be represented on the visit and hopes to develop its links and relations with academic institutions in the area."
The festival will celebrate China's historical figure Zhuge Liang, who draws parallels with Carmarthen's mythical Merlin, who was adviser to King Arthur.
Similarly Liang was an adviser to the emperor.
Mr Burns added: "The festival will feature some stories from legend including that of Merlin."
Reaction to the twinning has been positive among people in Carmarthen.
Among them is Chinese-born Soong Ma, who owns the Sai Wu Chinese restaurant in Water Street.
Mr Ma has lived in Carmarthen for almost 50 years but originally comes from Guang Zhou in China.
He said: "I think the twinning will be interesting, especially with a city so large. I am not that familiar with Xiangyang but if strong links can be made between Carmarthen and it then it could be good."