Here, Numerous Foreigners Fall in Love with ChinaHere, Numerous Foreigners Fall in Love with China
Back in Nov., 2004, the first Confucius Institute in the world was established in Seoul. So far, there have been 511 Confucius Institutes and 1073 Confucius Classrooms in 140 countries around the world. Students of all kinds amount to 2.1 million, and over 13 million people have participated in relevant cultural activities.
From the clear ocean of southeast Asia to the classic buildings in the UK, from the mysterious tropic grassland to the clangorous camel bells along the ancient Silk Road, Confucius Institutes have established a platform for communication and mutual learning between Chinese and foreign civilizations, and the magic Chinese characters have become the golden key of numerous “Chinese lovers” to understand the traditional Chinese culture.
“China is more beautiful than I thought”
Addis Ababa University of Ethiopia is a scenic school located on the former site of a royal palace. In recent years, the Confucius Institute has become a new attraction on the campus. Recruitment posters for Chinese-speaking students by Chinese-funded enterprises have filled the billboard at the gate. Chinese has become a new recipe for successful employment.
Since its establishment 3 years ago, the Confucius Institute at Addis Ababa University has become a new calling card of Chinese teaching in Ethiopia, and there are more students getting close to Chinese. Sisley, a sophomore student majoring in Chinese at Addis Ababa University, has a Chinese name “Weize” for himself. “I was determined to study Chinese when I was a child.” Weize said. His father was given the task to look after the goods for a Chinese company when he was young. After contact, he found that Chinese people are friendly and careful in work, which has left a favorable impression on him. There was another reason for him to study Chinese, and that is his love for Chinese films. “The Kungfu dream in films” influenced him deeply. So, he often went to market to seek for discs of Chinese TV dramas and films, among which, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was his favorite.
Of course, now he has a deeper understanding on the question “why learning Chinese?” “China has brought a lot of opportunities for Africa which makes our rapid development possible, so we must make friends with the Chinese people.” And he even asked, “Why don’t we study Chinese?” Weize said that he dreams of studying in China. Weize’s parents are every supportive during his Chinese-learning course.
Last summer holiday, Weize participated in the summer camp organized by the Confucius Institute, which brought him to Beijing and Tianjin. For him, the 15-day journey was like a dream. “China is more beautiful than I thought.” Weize visited the Great Wall and the Summer Palace. He was deeply attracted by the profound Chinese culture, which consolidated his resolution to go to China to study Chinese. He said that “I shall come back to China to realize the ‘Chinese Dream’ in my heart.”
Zhang Yilun, Weize’s teacher, stated that, “China is becoming stronger in economy, and the overseas needs for Chinese are increasing, so a better development in the future can be expected.” The teaching of Chinese is becoming more and more popular in Ethiopia, and there are more students who love China and Chinese like Weize.
Gao Lili, Director of Confucius Institute at Addis Ababa University noted that China and Ethiopia share profound traditional friendship. Learning Chinese will help Ethiopian students’ employment, so it is prevailing among them.
Pass on the love of Chinese culture to students
Brighton is a coastal city in southern UK. The city is not big, but unique in style: there are beaches, coconut trees, and sea breeze… All these sketch out the charm and beauty of the city which is known as the “gateway to the south of England”. What is more impressive is the Chinese teaching and people's love for Chinese culture here. “Brighton College is the first school in traditional English schools to incorporate Chinese into the curriculum.” Alan Bird, Deputy Headmaster excitedly told People’s Daily.
Under the introduction of Deputy Headmaster Bird, the journalist met Thomas, head of Chinese teaching in Brighton College, who is also a senior Chinese teacher, and audited one of his classes.
Thomas gave himself a Chinese name: Gao Feng, and he liked it very much. “It sounds awesome. This is the charm of Chinese. A single character may not seem like a big deal, but when two characters are combined together, it can generate deep artistic conception and an aesthetic feeling. The name sounds so good. It means high peaks, and is definitely like a Chinese name.” Thomas told the journalist in his fluent Chinese: “This name has a very beautiful tone. The four tones reflect the unique beauty of Chinese.”
In order to convey the beauty of Chinese tones to the students, Thomas created a set of learning methods to practice Chinese vocalization while playing Tai Chi. He said that although the four tones are beautiful, they are not easy to master. In order to teach students to effectively grasp the four tones, he created a set of “Tonal Tai Chi Calisthenics” combined with his understanding of the four tones. “When making a Yin sound, I ask the students to think themselves as a monk meditating in the mountain, and put themselves in the wind and clouds around them, and then naturally pronounce the mā (妈) sound; When making a Yang sound, I ask them to slightly pull away the wind floating in the mountain so that they can naturally pronounce the má (麻) sound…” Thomas posed various gestures when talking, which made people cannot help but laugh.
In order to stimulate students’ enthusiasm for learning, Thomas also sang songs and played the guitar at the same time, and he even incorporated the songs into his teaching. “Teaching language itself will involve a lot of things related to culture, so I will put the history, literature, art, film and other aspects into the class. For example, a few years ago, the song Little Apple was really hot. I took it into the class, and the students loved it very much. I try to use these unique teaching methods to teach students Chinese and pass on to them my love for China, Chinese and the Chinese culture.”
In fact, Brighton College is just a tip of the iceberg. Nowadays in the UK, more and more schools like Brighton College teach the Chinese language. It is worth mentioning that, with mature school mechanism, distinctive school characteristics, and outstanding cultural connotation, Chinese teaching in the UK is now leading Chinese teaching and cultural communication in Europe. Chinese is entering or even gradually blending into the British society; Chinese culture is spreading all over the UK, and Chinese symbols are increasingly shining beside the Thames River. In a sense, this is a vivid interpretation of the Chinese civilization walking into the world, isn’t it?
“Chinese opens a door for me to learn about the world”
“Hello, my name is Muhabat, a student from the Confucius Institute.” When this Kazakh girl started talking, her standard Chinese pronunciation amazed the journalist. After they got to know each other, the lively and cheerful Muhabat became even more talkative. .
“I have been dreaming of learning a foreign language and understanding a new culture from an early age. Now my dream has finally come true. Chinese opens a door for me to learn about the world.” Muhabat said excitedly when talking about her original intention of learning Chinese.
In 2015, Muhabat came to Yantai, Shandong Province to learn Chinese. “Since the moment I set foot on this land, I realized that I have made the right choice”, this lovely girl made no disguise of her good impression on China, “Fellow Chinese students who picked us up at the airport always wear a smile and even bring us a variety of delicious snacks, which was very considerate. Teachers also showed great concern for us. In addition to giving us lessons, they asked us about our everyday life. Hospitality, warmth and sincerity are first impressions Chinese people leave on me.”
“When I celebrated my first Spring Festival in China, I almost starved myself." Muhabat told the journalist affectionately. Before the Spring festival, her teacher specially reminded her and her fellow students of preparing some goods for use during the Spring Festival in advance, especially food. Muhabat and a few students who celebrated the Chinese New Year in China for the first time did not understand what the teacher said and did not took it seriously. On the New Year's Eve, they were surprised to find out that not only the stores inside their campus, but also neighboring shops, supermarkets and restaurants were all closed, suddenly leaving the whole city empty Just when they did not know what to do, the auntie in charge of the student dormitory came to them, “Boys and girls, you haven’t prepared food, have you?” She asked them with a smile, “Come on, come to my room to make and eat some dumplings.”
A few students and the auntie got together and cooked a nice dinner on the New Year's Eve,. “There were dumplings in various shapes made by us, fresh and tasty steamed fish and many other unnamable Chinese dishes, all of which were very delicious." They glutted themselves with delicacies while listening to the auntie’s narration of the Chinese tradition “eating dumplings when staying up to welcome the lunar new year on New Year’s Eve”. At the moment when the New Year bell rang, firecrackers suddenly resounded throughout the whole city and colorful fireworks brightened the night sky, “It was really wonderful!”
For Muhabat who was born on 1995, she has indeed learned a lot from studying in China. She not only got her language proficiency improved, but also learned many lessons. “In China, I learned to be grateful to parents," Muhabat said that learning the traditional Chinese culture, especially the culture of filial duty made her truly understand that parents are not easy.
“Let’s add contacts with each other on WeChat”, this post-95s girl made a very Chinese-style request before parting. It is not difficult to see that she is taking an active part in learning the lifestyle of young Chinese people. This little girl will perhaps be able to use the most popular language and ways in China to communicate with us when we meet her again.
Let more people get closer to China
In 1999, Qiao Jianzhen who studied language very well, started learning Portuguese. She fell head over heels with this language and its relevant culture, and decided to contribute to the communication between China and Portuguese-speaking countries with her learning.
Her dedication and enthusiasm was rewarded soon. In 2005, Qiao participated in compilation of the Portuguese version of Elite Chinese which is the first and only set of Chinese language textbooks designed for Brazilians in China so far. When Hebei University applied for establishing a Confucius Institute at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro in 2010, Qiao who masters Portuguese was invited to work as the Chinese Director. “I accepted this job without any hesitation,” she told People’s Daily that the five-year-long work experience in Brazil “has given me more opportunities to contribute to cultural exchanges between the two countries.”
When Qiao first came to Rio de Janeiro, what she was most not adaptable to was that Brazilians can hardly distinguish Asians. “They always greet me in Japanese,” she said. After a few years, with the development of China’s economy and increasing investment in Brazil from China, Brazilians know more about the Chinese people and have a growing demand for learning Chinese.
Moreover, along with the popularization of these two words “China” and “Chinese”, Confucius Institute also attracts more attention. In the Confucius Institute at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, students cover all ages including the elders and children and people from all walks of life. Qiao said delightfully that service staff of many hotels and top-tier restaurants in Rio de Janeiro are proud of speaking a few Chinese now.
Over the past five years, it is the sincerity and kindness of Brazilians, as well as their love for Chinese and China that support Qiao to spread Chinese alone far away from her homeland. In a part-time class, there was a retired journalist who was 83 years old when he went to the Confucius Institute in 2012. He told Qiao that he had no chance to know China, this mysterious country, in the first half of his life, and he hoped to compensate for the regret through studying in the Confucius Institute. In 2014, this special student began to apply for Master’s degree in Eastern philosophy in 85 years old. Half a year later, he complied his learning outcomes in the first semester into a volume, signed his name, and sent it to the Confucius Institute by himself, with “To Qiao Jianzhen, Director of the Confucius Institute at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, I dedicate this volume in token of affection and gratitude because she leads me to the Chinese culture.” in the title page. When thinking of this story, Qiao is much moved. “At that time, my eyes were filled with tears. It is those students who make me touched and inspire me to keep on moving, and I believe my little effort may help them fulfill big dreams.”
Every Spring Festival and Chinese Lantern Festival, Qiao would organize students to watch relevant documentaries and teaches them to cut papers, write couplets, and make dumplings in order to let Brazilians feel the atmosphere of family reunions in Chinese festivals and the cultural tradition of treasuring harmony from many aspects. “I believe cultural elements behind festivals help more and more Brazilians know China, and enhance their desire for a close contact with China. That is exactly the meaning of my work.” She said.
A Bridge Connecting the History and the Future
The Chao Phraya River flows into the Gulf of Siam. The sea breeze of Andaman blows eastward, and whiffs the tricolor flag on the temples with golden roofs ranging neatly in Siam. This is Thailand, the “Land of Smiles”.
In this beautiful country, a group of volunteers actively work in the first line of spreading Chinese language and culture. They just graduated from university and came to the Confucius Institute at Chulalongkorn University, Thailand with full enthusiasm. When asked why they came to Thailand alone, the answer from Lai was kind of touching. He said: “I can still well remember that in my third college year, I met a group of children from Thailand as a teacher. We spent three months together, which was a short time in the whole life, but their beautiful smiles are still lingering in my heart. Since then, I’ve made up my mind to come here.”
Initiated by Princess Sirindhorn, the Confucius Institute at Chulalongkorn University was established in 2007 under the joint efforts of Peking University and Chulalongkorn University, the two most prestigious universities in two countries.,It has won the honor of “Global Advanced Confucius Institute” twice.
Influenced by Princess Sirindhorn, an increasing number of Thai citizens want to learn Chinese and know about the Chinese culture. Shortly after the establishment of the Confucius Institute, Chinese lessons were opened in the Secretary Hall of the Palace, which can provide a chance for the staff to learn Chinese and the Chinese culture. As for now, the Chinese lessons have been offered for three times. Among the learners, there are senior citizens in their sixties or seventies and youngsters who just find their professions. All the students share the same great passion in learning Chinese.
Ji Yuhuan, a journalist of Bangkok Post, used to be a Chinese offspring who could not speak Chinese, but she had great enthusiasm in learning mandarin. After two training sessions, Ji can discuss something about China with her teachers in Chinese. In her eyes, Chinese learning is like a bridge, which connects the history and the future.
When you set foot on Thailand, at the immigration hall of the airport, you may hear the immigration officials say “请看镜头(Please look at the camera)” or “您好，欢迎您来到泰国(Greetings, Welcome to Thailand)” in Chinese. Please don’t be surprised, because the Confucius Institute at Chulalongkorn University regularly offers Chinese lessons for the immigration officials of Bangkok International Airport, and this official who help you go through immigration procedures must be a student of the Chinese lessons offered by the Confucius Institute at Chulalongkorn University.
A simple greeting can make Chinese tourists who come to this “Land of Smiles” feel amiable, which also makes the two peoples closer to each other. All these are owed to the dedication of volunteers of Confucius Institute at Chulalongkorn University, as they have left their sweat and smiles in this beautiful land.
Picture ①: Students of Confucius Institutes at Addis Ababa University are experiencing traditional Chinese festival culture. Photo by Li Zhiwei
Picture ②: In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Qiao Jianzhen and her students at Confucius Institute on the playground. Photo by Qiao Jianzhen
Picture ③: The Summer Chinese School of Confucius Institute at Chulalongkorn University is quite popular among local youngsters. Photo by Yang Ou
Picture ④: Confucius Institute Headquarters/Hanban located at Deshengmenwai Street, Xicheng District, Beijing. Photo by People’s Daily
(People’s Daily, Feb.7th, 2017, Page 23 Story by Huang Peizhao, Li Zhiwei, Yan Huan, Yang Ou, Xie Yahong, Zhou Hanbo, Han Xi)