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Confucius Institute building bridges between cultures

release date :2013-08-29 10:10:29  |   [ close window ]ViewCount:

Author: News Center of BIT Zhao Lin

     YoubinYuo ushers his guests into his office, past a reception area adorned with bright red Chinese lanterns and a portrait of the famous teacher and philosopher for which this institute is named. It has been a little over a year since the Confucius Institute at the University of Saskatchewan opened, and Yuo, its director, reports its success so far.

    Demand for the institute’s adult Chinese language courses both on and off campus is growing, and a partnership with Saskatoon Public Schools will see Chinese classes offered in Brunskill and Greystone Heights schools in the coming year. Yuo explained the institute has also started a social club on campus and engaged with the local Chinese Cultural Association in Saskatoon.

    “We co-hosted a Chinese New Year celebration at TCU Place that drew more than 600 people,” Yuo said, “When we reported this event to headquarters, they agreed it was exciting. So many local people participating – this cultural exchange – it is exactly what we are trying to do.”

    Yuo’s passion for sharing Chinese culture began with his son’s playmate in Botley, a village just outside Oxford where he was finishing his postdoctoral work.

    “Before New Year’s Day, I wrote a New Year’s card to the family,” he said. “The next day they came to my gate and they were very happy, and the boy says ’Allen’ – that’s my English name – you can even write Japanese!’”

    Yuo was surprised, and explained the characters were Chinese, not Japanese, but he understood the confusion.
“They know cartoons from Japan, toys from Japan, and motor cars from Japan, so they connect everything – like the characters – with Japanese products. So they recognize Chinese as Japanese.”

   Yuo and some of his like-minded colleagues at Oxford University decided to help fill the cultural void by forming a non-profit association to teach Chinese language and culture. The initiative, which continued after he finished his studies, made him an ideal candidate to work with the Confucius Institute.

    The local institute is a co-operative effort of the U of S and the Beijing Institute of Technology (BIT), and sanctioned by the Confucius Institute in Beijing. Under the partnership, salaries and program expenses are paid by BIT and the Confucius Institute, while the U of S, as the host institution, provides office and classroom space and administrative support.

    First established in 2004 by the Chinese government’s Office of Chinese Language Council International (Hanban), the mission of the Confucius Institute is to promote understanding and friendship among China and other cultures.

    Yuo explained that the institute here builds upon existing ties between China and the U of S, both on the institutional level and personal level. The U of S has relationships with more than 30 Chinese academic institutions, with the BIT being a flagship partner. More than 40 U of S faculty in a wide variety of fields have roots in China, and regularly recruit Chinese graduate students to study here.

    " A Confucius Institute is not an ordinary part or department of a university, although it’s inside a university,” Yuosaid. “It’s just a platform for universities to cooperate in Chinese language teaching and cultural exchange. For universities, they (CI headquarters) want you to expand cooperation between the two universities in scientific research, teaching, and maybe staff training.”

    Yuo himself served as assistant dean of humanities and social sciences at BIT before taking up his director’s post at the Confucius Institute here. A specialist in the philosophy of science, he hopes to collaborate with U of S colleagues, adding to existing links between researchers and scholars in medicine, engineering, and social sciences.

    " I want to have more opportunities to converse with local philosophers and maybe we can set up an exchange with BIT staff,” he said. “I don’t yet know what is possible, but I would like see in the very near future what we can do.”

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