Confucius Institute to hold first event, celebrate Chinese culture

September 28, 2009 | Events, UToday
By Jon Strunk

webconfucious_institute-logo2The newly formed Confucius Institute at The University of Toledo will hold its first event, a Mid-Autumn Festival Celebration, Tuesday, Sept. 29, from 7 to 9 p.m. in Doermann Theater.

The traditional Chinese celebration will be co-sponsored by the Chinese Student Associate and include performances by faculty artists Dr. Michael Boyd (piano) and Amy Chang (cello), Toledo’s Masterworks Chorale, the Toledo International Youth Orchestra, a three-man Chinese yo-yo team, and local high school students. The program also will include traditional dancing, singing, martial arts expositions and more.

Aige Guo, interim director of the Office of Global Initiatives, said the event is a fitting way to kick off the new program.

“Participating in something like the Mid-Autumn Festival Celebration and being part of a traditional Chinese gathering is a wonderful way to share culture and spread understanding and appreciation,” Guo said. “And that’s what the Confucius Institute is all about.”

The Confucius Institute is an international network of organizations with the common goal of promoting the understanding of Chinese language and culture and helping pave the way for more meaningful cultural exchanges with the Chinese people.

Lee Heritage, interim senior associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and chair of the board of directors for UT’s Confucius Institute, said the program is an essential next step in furthering UT’s relationship with China.

“There are hundreds of Confucius Institutes around the world working to eliminate language barriers and increase understanding of Chinese language and culture,” Heritage said. “That’s something UT has been working to build and encourage for some time.”

In 2007, UT President Lloyd Jacobs signed a memorandum of understanding with Yanshan University in Qinhuangdao, China, starting an ongoing association that has since provided the greater UT community with free, native-speaker-taught Chinese language classes, study abroad opportunities for students, and access to the resources of one of China’s biggest universities.

“China has a tremendous influence on our world — not only economically, but culturally,” Heritage said. “Interest in learning Chinese language and culture is increasing, and now that we have the Confucius Institute at UT, we can use more resources to help meet those interests in a variety of ways.”

With the help of $150,000 from the Chinese government to start the Confucius Institute, UT is doing just that.

“We’ve used the institute to broaden our relationship with Yanshan University and strengthen some of the programs we already have in place,” Heritage said. “We’ve increased the number of visiting Chinese teachers, and we’re starting to offer more services and events celebrating Chinese culture.”

The Confucius Institute also has expanded the reach of that work into the community. The visiting Yanshan University professors have gone to several area high schools and middle schools, providing the students with an initial cultural exposure and introductory language lessons.

In addition to cultural activities and language courses, the Confucius Institute offers consultations for Chinese students who are having difficulty adjusting to and learning in English.

“The professors we have from Yanshan University are here to teach the community about the Chinese language and culture, but we’re also using them in the opposite way,” Guo said. “They’re able to help Chinese-speaking students get past English barriers that they may have encountered themselves.”

The opening ceremony for the Confucius Institute scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 29, at 11:30 a.m. on Centennial Mall has been postponed; it will be rescheduled later this semester. Free egg rolls, cookies and soda will still be available on the mall, along with information booths about the Confucius Institute and the Chinese Student Union.

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