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Confucius institutes propagate China and its culture

(China Daily)

09:04, September 26, 2011


A statue of the ancient Sage stands vigilant at the Confucius Temple, where rituals paying homage to scholarship are still being performed for the benefit of modern disciples and curious tourists. (Photo by Zou Hong / China Daily)

China's ancient sage is helping the country propagate its language and culture abroad. An institute named after Confucius is sowing the seeds of better understanding and better communication with the world, throughout the world. Mike Peters and Zhang Chunyan take a closer look at the Confucius Institute abroad.

Close your eyes and try to imagine Confucius as a young man. That may be a tough picture to conjure up since the most famous images of the iconic philosopher feature a wispy white beard and an age-lined face that reflects a long life of accumulated wisdom. A young Confucius? It's easier to imagine Santa Claus or Genghis Khan in short pants. But there's not a gray hair to be found on the face of Confucius today. His modern visage is young, usually twenty-something, and numbers in the thousands. They are the bright-eyed legion of Hanban, the nonprofit public agency that administers the Confucius Institute worldwide, adventurers as eager to see the world as China is to send them. The institute itself is young. Impressed with the experience of countries like Britain, France and Germany in promoting their national languages, China launched the Confucius Institute in 2004 to promote its mother tongue and culture around the world.

As China's economy and exchanges with the world see rapid growth, there has been a sharp increase in the demand for Chinese learning, says Wang Yongli, deputy director-general of Hanban. Committed to providing Chinese language and cultural teaching resources and services worldwide, he says, the Confucius Institute goes all out in meeting the demands of foreign learners and contributing to the development of multiculturalism.

The Ministry of Education estimated that 100 million people outside China will be learning Chinese by 2010. As of July 2011, 350 Confucius Institutes (university affiliated) and 430 Confucius Classrooms (at secondary schools) have been established in 103 countries and regions.

"The model has earned wide recognition," says Wang. "Now more than 260 universities or institutes worldwide are waiting for their applications for new Confucius Institutes to be approved."

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