Confucius Institute at Kathmandu University:A Bridge of Friendship through Language

[Source]    Asia Pacific Daily [Time]    2013-09-13 17:08:14 

Confucius Institute at Kathmandu University (CIKU) was jointly established by Hebei University of Economics & Business and Kathmandu University, on June 13th, 2007, aiming to promote Chinese language by providing the Chinese classes for all and spread Chinese culture by organizing cultural events. As the first and only Confucius Institute in Nepal, it has ever since been functioning as a bridge of friendship between China and Nepal. The Chinese teachers have tried their best to help the Nepali students to learn Chinese language and experience Chinese culture, enhancing mutual understanding between China and Nepal even as well as other SARRC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) countries.

I worked at CIKU from August 6th, 2010 to March 31st, 2013 and witnessed its rapid growth during this period.

Immediately after I arrived in Nepal, I engaged myself in the preparation of the South Asia-China Culture Forum. It was a two-day workshop organized by CIKU. In the workshop scholars from China and SARRC member states presented their respective papers advocating the culture, education, trade and also different facts about their country. After the meeting, I took the responsibility to edit all the papers into a book Proceedings of South Asia-China Culture Forum. In one of the scholars’ articles about the spread of Buddhist art, Tibetan Buddhist Art is listed along with “Buddhist Art in China”, “Buddhist Art in Bangladesh” etc. Very clearly the author has made a mistake about the status of Tibet as a part of China. Through email exchanges I discussed with him about this mistake and he expressed his thanks for my correction. In the final version, it is written like this, “As a part of China’s Buddhist art, Tibetan Buddhist art is considered sacred and religious….”. Also quite a few Nepali friends do not know much about the relationship between Chinese mainland and China’s Taiwan. I tried to explain the history of modern China to them. Taiwan Issue is the result of the Chinese Civil War between Communist Party of China (CPC) and Kuomintang (KMT), the Nationalist Party of China in late 1940s. KMT was defeated by CPC and retreated to Taiwan in 1949. But all the people across the Taiwan Straits claim that they belong to one China and that they are Chinese.

After the forum we made continuous efforts to establish Confucius Classrooms inside and outside the Kathmandu Valley. Nepal Academy of Tourism and Hotel Management (NATHM), Little Angels’ School, Shishu Sadan Higher Secondary School in Lumbini, and Sublime Higher Secondary School in Pokhara were selected as the candidate schools to set up Confucius Classrooms. During the Dashain festival vacation in 2010 we made field research in Lumbini and Pokhara. On the basis of field research in the four schools I prepared the detailed Chinese and English versions of application plans to establish Confucius Classrooms and submitted to the Headquarters of Confucius Institute in Beijing for approval.

On April 3rd, 2012, Madame Chen Zhili, vice-chairperson of National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s top legislature, inspected CIKU and awarded name plates for the four Confucius Classrooms under CIKU. Thus CIKU formed the school-running mode of “One Confucius Institute with four Confucius Classrooms and multiple teaching centers”. On the welcoming ceremony for Madame Chen Zhili’s delegation, Nepali students and their Chinese teachers together sang a song “ China and Nepal are good brothers” in Chinese and Nepalese language, which brought the atmosphere of friendship to a climax. Some of the delegation members were moved to tears.

Confucius Institute is seated at Kathmandu University School of Management (KUSOM) in Patan, providing the Chinese language elective courses for undergraduates and postgraduates, and the basic, intermediate and advanced Chinese training courses for the general public, as well as KU teachers and staff members. And on the main campus of Kathmandu University in Dhulikhel, CIKU offers the elective Chinese language courses for undergraduates and KU teachers and staff members. In addition, CIKU also provides Chinese language required courses for undergraduates in NATHM and King’s College, Chinese language classes for school children in Venus Public School near Boudhanath, Kathmandu. CIKU has also launched the Chinese language training courses for schoolchildren in Small Heaven School near Chitwan National Park. Until now more than 5,000 students at different levels have benefited from various CIKU courses.

Besides teaching Chinese language, CIKU also managed cultural events for the Nepali students to experience Chinese culture. Spring festival celebration is the most important. From February 3rd to 7th, 2012, Hebei University of Economics & Business Art Troupe made a tour performance in Lumbini, Pokhara, Kathmandu and Dhulikhel. The occasion of Kathmandu show coincidently was the Chinese Lantern Festival. Addressing the function, Chinese Ambassador to Nepal H.E. Yang Houlan greeted everyone a Happy Lantern Festival and praised “Confucius Institute has played a vital role in developing people to people relation and mutual cooperation between two countries.” Vice President Paramananda Jha also spoke highly of the work of Confucius Institute in Nepal and around the world for promoting Chinese art, culture, language. Eleven Nepali media including the leading English newspapers such as Rising Nepal, Kathmandu Post, and Republica, timely reported the tour performances.

In the year 2012 CIKU organized cultural events on most traditional and modern festivals such as the Dragon Boat Festival, the Double Seventh Festival (the Chinese version of Valentin’s Day), Chinese Teachers’ Day, Confucius Birthday, Mid- Autumn Festival, National Day and Dashain Festival.

With an aim to familiarize Nepali students with the assistance China has provided, CIKU managed a tour of five Chinese-aided projects in the capital on March 18th, 2012. After visiting Birendra International Convention Centre (BICC), Civil Service Hospital of Nepal, National Ayurveda Research and Training Centre(NATRC), Dashrath Stadium, Shooting Range for the 8th South Asian Games and National Swimming Complex, many students were excited and knew better about the friendship between China and Nepal as for many of them it was their first visit to these places and most of them have never heard that China had provided such a huge assistance to Nepal.

On July 16th, 2013 CIKU put on a special event of cultural performances to celebrate her fifth anniversary. Addressing the function, Minister for Education Dina Nath Sharma stressed on strengthening relations between Nepal and China not only at the state level, but also at institutional and people to people levels. “Confucius Institutes have not only been helping Nepalis learn Chinese language and culture, but also passing Nepalese culture and language to China,” he said. In order to facilitate the understanding of Chinese programs, CIKU teachers translated all the lyrics and explanation of each of the programs, and played PPT slide show while the song or the dance was being performed on the stage. As the last program of the event, young Nepali girl students performed a Chinese song “We are one family” with sign language. Again, the atmosphere of friendship was brought to a climax.

To set up a platform for better understanding and closer contact between the scholarship winners and Confucius Institute, CIKU established Alumni Association of Confucius Institute Scholarship Winners from CIKU on July 26th, 2013. I told the scholarship winners that they are the seeds of friendship between China and Nepal, and hope that they will do their best to promote the Sino-Nepal friendship.

CIKU launched the unprecedented Chinese Teachers’ Day celebration in Nepal history on September 8th, 2012, seeking the promotion of the Chinese language in Nepal. On the occasion, I introduced countries like India, USA, Britain and Australia have included Chinese language in their curricula, “ as immediate neighbors, it would be very useful for Nepalis to learn Chinese”, and “ it is the right time for Confucius Institute at Kathmandu University (CIKU), which has been providing various level Chinese language courses for the past five years, to propose to introduce Chinese as a foreign language in the curriculum of Nepalese schools and universities as a formal degree course.” At the programme, Secretary at the Ministry of Education Suresh Man Shrestha said that learning Chinese could benefit Nepalis. Kathmandu Post reported this programme with the title “Call for place for Chinese language in Nepali courses”.

To promote better Chinese language teaching in Nepal, CIKU launched a three-day local Chinese language teachers training workshop from January 12th to 14th, 2013. As the first workshop for the local Chinese language teachers in Nepal, the Chinese native teachers shared their experience in teaching Chinese phonetics, vocabulary and grammar and introduced three text books.” Local Chinese language teachers said that such training were very helpful and beneficial for them.

On March 2nd, 2013, CIKU inaugurated the three-month-long Chinese language workshop organized for Nepali media in Kathmandu. Speaking at the opening ceremony, Chief Secretary Lila Mani Paudel stressed on the need for learning language for promoting bilateral political, economic and cultural relations between Nepal and China, saying that the Chinese language workshop would help fulfill the language gap which had created difficulty in exchanging feelings of the people between the two friendly neighbors. Madame Wang Li Xin, deputy chief of mission at the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu, stressed that knowledge of Nepali and Chinese will help promote bilateral ties and praised CIKU’s efforts in Chinese language and culture spreading in Nepal. 35 senior journalists from various national media participated in the three-month-long workshop.

CIKU’s rapid growth has been applauded both in China and Nepal. When she inspected CIKU, Madame Chen Zhili, vice-chairperson of National People’s Congress (NPC), pointed out that CIKU plays a great role in bridging China and Nepal for a deepening development and offers an enabling platform for students of both countries to learn from each other, share language and culture. The then Prime Minister Dr. Baburam Bhattarai wrote a special congratulatory message to congratulate CIKU for her 5th anniversary, saying that “the institute has been tremendously contributing in promoting cultural relations between our two ancient civilizations.” Nepal Ministry of Education awarded me the National Education Award on September 9th, 2012, National Education Day of Nepal. Up to now it is the first time for a foreigner to get the award.

The beautiful memory about Nepal deserves to be cherished for the rest of my life. And CIKU will surely continue to spare no efforts in functioning as the platform for friendly exchanges and the bridge of friendship between China and Nepal.

By Zhang Shubin


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