Chinese Calligraphy in Kindergarten, Tea Fragrance along the Danube
——Story of Confucius Institute at University of Novi Sad

[Source]    Guangming Daily [Time]    2017-09-28 16:11:59 

Petrovic and a Chinese volunteer showing tea art to guests from Serbia and countries in Central and Eastern Europe

The Confucius Institute at the University of Novi Sad, which is the second Confucius Institute in Serbia, is co-established by Zhejiang A & F University in China and School of Philosophy of Novi Sad University.

In 2013, the two universities decided to establish this institute and finished the construction in 2014, and since then the Confucius Institute has moved forward under the guideline of the Belt and Road Initiative and with the purpose of “Disseminating Chinese voice and telling Chinese stories well” as the core, said Chen Hui, Director of the Confucius Institute at the University of Novi Sad.

For the past three years, while introducing Chinese language courses on the campus, the Confucius Institute shared those courses with people living in other areas in Serbia. In Vojvodina province, the Confucius Institute set up a total of 16 teaching sites serving students in kindergartens, elementary, middle schools, and universities. The courses cover Chinese language, culture, history, folk arts and etc., which were well-designed in accordance with students’ ages and psychological features.

For example, kindergarten’s teaching objective was based on traditional Chinese cultural games through which local children could be motivated and intrigued to learn Chinese culture. When “playing” a Chinese writing brush, children start to learn traditional Chinese painting and art of Chinese calligraphy; through singing Chinese songs, they gradually practice pronunciation of Chinese; through listening to Chinese stories, they will understand traditional Chinese culture unconsciously. In elementary and middle school, with students’ cognition gradually improved, courses were extended from culture to Chinese language. Driven by their own interests in Chinese language and culture, students began to acquire some Chinese words and sentences, laying a solid foundation for their future study in Chinese language.

In the meantime, students were also encouraged to pass Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (HSK) to apply for Hanban’s scholarship and finally participate in Chinese language learning summer camp in China. This activity greatly inspired Serbian students to learn Chinese language. In 2016, the first summer camp enrolled 20 Serbian teenagers and they shared their experience in China with their classmates and friends back in Serbia. Pictures and videos taken by those students in China presented others a prosperous and fast-growing China as well as the profound Chinese culture. People attached more and more importance to Chinese language and culture learning in elementary and middle schools in Serbia.

In college, the Confucius Institute at the University of Novi Sad offered professional Chinese language learning courses while providing traditional Chinese culture classes to meet learning demands of different students. The Institute’s excellent performance in Chinese language teaching enabled students to win many special awards in Chinese Bridge Competitions and go to China to compete with other contestants on behalf of Serbia. Many students expressed their hope of working in China or introducing Chinese culture in Serbia some day.

It should be noted that Zhejiang A&F University had a tea art major which was scarce in China. Teachers and volunteers of the university provided tea art as the representative item when promoting Chinese culture in the institute, receiving a warm welcome from local students. The combination of tea art theory and practice helped students fully understand the origin and development of Chinese tea culture as well as the process of tea art performance. Students were impressed by quintessence of traditional Chinese culture manifested in tea art teaching.

Petrovic, a schoolgirl of the University of Novi Sad, is studying for a master's degree in Serbian Language and Literature. At first, Petrovic knew little about China and its culture. Four years ago, she signed up for Chinese tea art courses out of curiosity. From then on, she began to realize that Chinese tea and tea art were far more interesting than she had expected. Through teacher’s specified explanation and tea exhibition, she began to know the long history and deep meaning of Chinese tea culture, as well as understand cultural tradition and life wisdom of Chinese people. After one semester, Petrovic had a new understanding of China and Chinese people, and felt curious about and eager for Chinese culture. In the next four years, Petrovic attended all culture courses as well as every tea art course in the Confucius Institute. Petrovic said that she loved Chinese culture, especially Chinese tea and tea art. Every time she learned Chinese tea art, she would have a more profound understanding and experience of Chinese tea culture. Petrovic and Wang Xiaolin, a voluntary teacher of the Confucius Institute at the University of Novi Sad jointly performed Chinese tea art for Chinese and foreign guests during the 5th China-CEEC Education Policy Dialogue on September 21st this year. Petrovic’s proficient tea skills won rounds of applause.

There are many Chinese culture loyal fans like Petrovic in the Confucius Institute. Through unremitting efforts of Chinese director and teachers in the institute, the dissemination of Chinese culture yielded fruitful results in Serbia. Impressed by the vivid and interesting traditional Chinese culture courses, Serbian students started to be familiar, friendly and engaged with China. With the affection to Chinese culture, they played an active role in the promotion of Chinese culture, at last served as the envoys of cultural exchanges between China and Serbia.

(Story and photos by Zhao Jiazheng, Guangming Daily, page 12, September 23rd , 2017)