Chinese Craze, Affection for China in Latvia

[Source]    CNR [Time]    2018-10-11 16:30:33 

At the recently-concluded Summer Davos Forum 2018, Raimonds Vējonis, President of Latvia said, “Communication and exchanges between China and Latvia can lay a strong foundation for future development and achieve new development featuring balance and inclusiveness for the Belt and Road Initiative.”

Over the past five years since its initial development, the Belt and Road Initiative has linked China and Latvia with cooperation in culture, education and other fields, and the cultural exchanges between the two countries is accelerating. More and more Latvians are keen on Chinese culture.

College student Michelle from Latvia

At the Confucius Institute of the University of Latvia, journalists spotted 19 - year-old Michelle. The Latvian girl, a lover of Chinese culture, has been learning Chinese for two years. In June, she represented Latvia in the 17th Chinese Bridge - Chinese Proficiency Competition for Foreign College Students.

Peters Pildegovics being interviewed by journalists from CNR at the Confucius Institute

At the Institute, Chinese language and culture enthusiasts are in numbers. Their mentor, Professor Pildegovics, Foreign Director of Confucius Institute at Latvia University enjoys being called “Professor Bei”. According to him, “In 1949, when I was 12, my father showed me a piece of newspaper, saying that a new republic had emerged.”

At that time, the then young Bei was already fond of China, and began studying Chinese at Moscow University in the 1960s. In the next few decades, he commuted between Latvia and China.

Professor Bei may have had his first contact with China from newspaper, but today, relying on building the Belt and Road Initiative, Latvia is closer to China than ever. Latvia was the first Baltic country to sign a Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation within the Framework of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative. With the construction of the Belt and Road Initiative, Latvians have welcomed Chinese culture.

Silva Zvagina who works in aromatherapy industry

Silva Zvagina, a typical Latvian beauty, is in charge of the export of local traditional hand-made aromatherapy candles. She has exposed herself to Chinese culture in recent years and started fulfilling her own Chinese dream. She said, “We are now trying to enter the Chinese market. Chinese culture is extensive and profound. And there are also a lot of people who like aromatherapy. We can communicate more. I can have more business transactions with Chinese stores.”

Shang Quanyu, Chinese Director of the Confucius Institute

Silva Zvagina is only one of the earnest young Chinese learners. At the Confucius Institute of the University of Latvia, we feel a strong “Chinese craze” and affection for China. Professor Bei’s old friend, partner and Chinese Director of Confucius Institute, Mr. Shang Quanyu, said that the number of students in the Confucius Institute has now reached more than 800. In previous years, the figure was less than 100. The Confucius Institute’s influence in the region has quietly changed over the years.

Shang Quanyu said, “When we first came, we needed to exploit the market by ourselves. We played the cucurbit flute and carried the flag of the Confucius Institute aside on the streets. People asked what we were doing, and we introduced them to our cause. There were only two teaching sites in 2011. But now, there are 16, all directly under the Confucius Institute, and all spreading all over Latvia.

From 2 to 16, from the capital Riga to the whole country, it is more convenient for Latvians to learn Chinese than ever before.

Publications by Professor Bei

To help more Latvians learn Chinese, Professor Bei has compiled three dictionaries of Latvian and Chinese. Among the publications, the electronic version of Dictionary about Chinese & Latvian is coming out soon. Professor Bei said that China is his second homeland. “I go to China every year, however, there are still many more places to see. Last year, I went to Zhanjiang and Xi’an, I can speak a little Shanghainese, such as ‘I’m from Shanghai’ in the Shanghai dialect”

Communication and exchanges between China and Latvia will lay a strong foundation for the cooperation and development between the two countries. Professor Shang Quanyu has a deep understanding on this. He said, “People have been increasingly aware of the importance of learning Chinese and knowing about Chinese culture since the Belt and Road Initiative was put forward. The Confucius Institute is a facility to spread and carry forward Chinese culture. We do not only have students, but social elites as our learners. A 70-year-old learner took part in the Chinese Bridge Competition two years ago, and won a prize.”

Common language facilitates the culture exchanges between China and Latvia. Chinese culture is gradually rooted in Latvia, and has become thriving and prosperous.

To further expand the study and communication between Latvia and China, the Confucius Institute of the University of Latvia has been organizing summer camps every year since 2014. Students travel to many places like Beijing and Guangzhou to experience Chinese culture. Zaneta Ozolina, a professor of the university, told us that many young Latvians who love Chinese culture were making their dreams come true through Chinese government scholarships and Confucius Institute scholarships. “In the future, we will have more exchanges in fields like science and economy, and we will invite more Chinese universities to participate. These partnerships, which started with only one or two universities, will bloom like flowers in the future as more and more universities join in.”

Zaneta Ozolina, Professor of the University of Latvia

Cultural exchanges between China and Latvia are getting closer and closer. Professor Shang said honestly that the sense of responsibility gave them the impetus to move forward. He will work together with his Latvian colleagues to promote Chinese culture. Professor Shang said, “The exchanges between Latvia and China are expanding and the Chinese language and Chinese culture are becoming more and more popular. We are glad to be very dedicated to be cultural carriers.”

“Only friendships built on sincerity can last long.” The Belt and Road Initiative has promoted exchanges and cooperation between China and Latvia and is helping Latvians approach China and realize their dreams.

(Story by Liu Zhijun, Liu Qianru; photo by Liu Zhijun overseas investigation team of the 5th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative, CNR, Latvia, October 6th, 2018)

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