Breaking through the stereotypes

07:54, September 26, 2010      

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Chinese and Japanese students on the PUKU program learn paper cutting from famous artist Sun Erlin (second from the right in front) in Beijing. Photo: Courtesy of Liu Boyang

Five years ago when Liu Boyang was a student at Harbin No.2 High School in Heilongjiang Province, he encouraged the boycotting of Japanese goods by pasting 50 posters around the campus. Five years later, as an astronomy senior at Peking University (PKU), he has made friends with many Japanese after visiting the country and accompanying them on their trips to China.

Liu's attitude to Japan changed after the First Cross Culture Communication Exchange Between Peking University and Kyoto University (PUKU) held from August 21 to September 11. The first 10 days were spent in Kyoto, Japan, and the last 10 in Beijing.

The program was organized by PKU's Association of Chinese and Japanese Communication. About 33 students from the two universities participated in the program, according to Zhang Fengyi, the program's president and a law junior at PKU.

Participants were divided into three groups: tradition, agriculture and envi-ronment.

In Kyoto, the team visited places of historical interest such as the Pure Water Temple, one of the most famous temples in Japan, and tried on kimonos. The tradition group learned about Japa-nese tea ceremonies and making Sushi. The agriculture group visited a farm on outskirts of the city. The environment team visited Takana, a Japanese steel company.

In Beijing, the teams visited the Confucius Temple and the Summer Palace, tried on Hanfu (traditional Chinese costume) and made dumplings. The tradition group learned Chinese calligraphy and shadow boxing, while the agriculture team visited Yuhuang village nearby Beijing, and the environment team toured the Foton Electric Car Factory.

Common ground

During the activities, both Chinese and Japanese students found more common ground than differences.

"I have made connections with many foreign students through international activities, and compared to the relations with other nations, I feel we have the least differences with Chinese students," said Kuribayashi Fumiko, Japanese team leader of the tradition group.

Liu, leader of the Chinese tradition group, agreed with Kuribayashi, saying there were many similar aspects to their cultural background and appearance.

"The main thing is that we are college students in an era of globalization," said Liu.

Before the activity, the Chinese and Japanese in the group admitted they held some prejudices against each other. But afterwards it had dissipated.

"Through the program, my impression changed," said Hasegawa Kawai, an economics junior at the Kyoto University.

"I met people who are engaged in traditional culture. I think Chinese people are proud of their traditional culture."

Strengths and weaknesses

Language was their biggest obstacle when communicating. Since there were few people in the team who could speak both Chinese and Japanese, in most cases, they used English.

Generally speaking, the Chinese members' English was better, while the strong point on the Japanese side was teamwork.

"The Chinese were more emotional and sometimes self-centered, while the Japanese showed more consideration for others," Liu said.

"The Chinese shortcoming was to be less cooperative in discussions. They have great confidence in their own opinion, and sometimes disregarded us," Matsu Yusaku told the Global Times.

Everyone involved agreed more face-to-face communication was needed between Chinese and Japanese youth.

Both sides said information in their media was unreliable.

"Japanese and Chinese youth are easily influenced by the media information and this creates unnecessary prejudice," said Hasegawa.

She suggested more exchange programs would benefit both sides.

"The Chinese show blind patriotism, while the Japanese lack understanding toward China, and both sides need more down-to-earth contact," said Shen Xuxian, a Japanese literature junior from PKU.

"A platform for equal dialogue is what we need most."

Source: Global Times(By Wen Ya)


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