One coin has two sides, so does the influence of Chinese popularity on the culture exchanges between China and the western world. The advantages can be summarized into three points.
Firstly, it is a good way for foreigners to know more about Chinese profound culture. Language, apart from acting as a tool for people to communicate with each other, also plays the role of spreading the culture and history. When Chinese is popular around the Western countries and an increasing number of foreigners learn Chinese very well, Chinese will also drive the spread of Chinese culture and history. Take Chinese characters for example.
It is taken as one of the most ancient words in the contemporary world. As a part of Chinese, its history can be traced back to Yin time. It is also a unique ideographic language system among the various language systems in the world. Not to say it is an exotic flower in the garden of Chinese culture. Plenty of foreigners think Chinese characters are full of mystery, because those who are accustomed to the round-looking letters will be interested in the square- looking and different kinds of Chinese characters.
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What’s more, the emergence of each Chinese character has a unique meaning. One who wants to understand its implications will inevitably link it with some Chinese culture. For example, there are 26 letters in the English alphabet; every single word is made by different arrangements and combinations of the 26 letters.
The meaning of the word just relies on the unconditional denotation thought by people and there will not be any story behind the meaning. However, the Chinese characters are not the same with English words. They are not created casually. Let’s compare the English word “sun” with the Chinese character “日”.
“Sun” consists of three letters, and the meaning of it may be just confined randomly after people created it. Yet it is different from the way ancient Englishmen created the “sun”: The Chinese character “日” had experienced a long time of evolution. The initial character “日” was a figure which was a dot surrounded by a circle.
It can be easily understood that the ancient Chinese created this character from the shape of the sun. That is, the dot represents the core of the sun, while the circle represents the lights sent out by the sun. After thousands of years of evolution, the figure comes into the Chinese character “日” which people write nowadays.
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There are many Chinese characters of this kind, such as “山”, “月”, “水”, to name just a few, which can be categorized into the hieroglyphics. People learn Chinese either because they love the Chinese characters or they love Chinese culture. No matter what kind of people they belong to, they will get in touch with some knowledge about Chinese characters during their study, such as the knowledge of the basic structural parts of Chinese characters and radicals by which characters are arranged in traditional Chinese dictionaries, the oracles as well as the development of Chinese characters.
At the same time, the culture and stories extended by the Chinese characters will show more Chinese culture to the foreigners. This point can be best exemplified by the writing of Chinese characters in the Olympic Village by many athletes during the Beijing Olympic Games, as the athletes get to know the four stationery treasures of Chinese study which include a writing brush, an ink stick, an ink stone and paper as well as something about the book of family names. Hence, learning Chinese is really a good way for foreigners to know more about Chinese culture.
Then, in order to let more foreigners know about Chinese culture and master the Chinese language as soon as possible, the establishment of the Confucius Institute meets these needs. The construction and development of each Confucius Institute is based on a local university or a community. On one hand, it provides Chinese language curriculums for undergraduates to know China’s development and changes through the illustrated paper and audio-visual information.
When introducing Chinese culture, it will inevitably introduce the Four Great Classical Novels. The historical stories in the Water Margin, the myth and legendary in the Journey to the West, the Chinese traditional customs, operas and food in the Dream of the Red Chamber and the ancient military stories in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms will enable foreigners to know Chinese history and culture from different aspects.
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On the other hand, in order to meet the needs of the local primary and secondary school students, the Confucius Institute trains Chinese teachers for local schools actively and sets bilingual courses to the students. Meanwhile, the Confucius Institute integrates into local community life and holds various cultural activities which promote the life standard of the local people.
It forms a harmonious and sustainable pattern among the Confucius Institute, the university and local primary and secondary schools and the local communities. It is not so much that the popularity of Chinese drives the emergence of the Confucius Institute as the Confucius Institute paves a way for foreigners to learn Chinese and appreciates the profound Chinese history and culture.