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Knowledge of Chinese culture fosters Sino-European relations: Confucius Institute chief

By Marzia De Giuli, Song Jian (Xinhua)

12:01, June 10, 2013

BOLOGNA, Italy, June 9 (Xinhua) -- The Confucius Institute has become an established venue to bring the Chinese language and culture closer to Europe, Xu Lin, Director-General of Chinese Language Council or Hanban and chief of the institute, told Xinhua in a recent interview.

Among the various continents where more than 420 Confucius Institutes and more than 590 Confucius Classrooms have been set up, Europe has proved the most receptive, Xu said on the sidelines of the Joint Conference of Confucius Institutes in Europe held in Italy's Bologna from Friday to Sunday.

"Europe has a particularly profound relationship with China which dates back to ancient cultural exchanges," she said citing scholars who have made the history of the Sino-European dialogue such as Italian Marco Polo and Matteo Ricci, the latter known in China as Li Madou.

As a non-profit public institution, the Confucius Institute links up with worldwide universities, colleges and secondary schools providing teachers and materials for their Chinese education at different levels.

The conference, held in the first higher-learning institute established in the Western world in 1088, gathered the heads of 72 Confucius Institutes and Confucius Classrooms from all over Europe. The Old Continent can be considered "mature" for the institution's development, Xu said.

"All countries show soaring demand for Chinese language study and understanding. We are confident that by 2020 the number of overseas Chinese learners will have surpassed that of overseas French learners," the Confucius Institute head highlighted.

In order to achieve such a "great goal," the institution aims at pursuing the best quality for every new Confucius Institute or Confucius Classroom starting from improving the academic level of its professional teachers, Xu said.

It should be fundamental, for example, that all teachers deepen their knowledge of the cultures and languages of the foreign countries their institutes belong to and collaborate with the local communities based on their actual needs, she noted.

For this reason, Xu added, "indigenous development" is at top of the agenda of the ambitious plan: by 2015, the number of qualified teachers in the institutes around the world is expected to reach 50,000 of which China-sent and locally recruited teachers will account for 20,000 and 30,000 respectively.

Xu insisted that there is no single model that suits everyone: a large variety of programs, from art exhibitions to music and sports activities, are offered by the institutes according to the different grade of China's knowledge at the local level.

In fact cultural exchange, which is the core of mutual trust and common growth, is based on communication, Xu noted. "There is nothing that cannot be shared," she stressed.

The finding that "so many countries across the world not only welcome, but consider the Confucius Institute as part of their own educational systems" was a confirmation that "the Confucius Institute has already become a major platform for Sino-foreign cultural relations," she said.

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