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Harmony and coexistence: Speech contestants share stories of learning Chinese

By Kou Jie (People's Daily Online)    14:50, November 18, 2020

The final of the 2020 Oracle Bone Inscriptions Cup “Chinese Characters and Me” Speech Contest for International Students concluded on Nov. 17. (People's Daily Online/Weng Qiyu)

Young Masezerano Divine lives in a small village in Rwanda, a landlocked country in Africa, and has always been fascinated by Chinese martial arts. Born into a family with a humble income, her parents could not afford a TV, which meant she had to walk miles to her friends’ houses, just to get a glimpse of her beloved martial arts hero Jackie Chan on the screen.

"Sneaking out of our house to watch Jackie Chan became my favourite entertainment. Though mom punished me for it, it didn’t stop me from loving martial arts and Chinese culture. Eventually, she gave in and bought me a TV," said Divine.

In her fifth year of elementary school, Divine came second place in her exams, so her father rewarded her with DVDs of Jackie Chan’s movies. Since then, her love for martial arts bloomed, and she wanted nothing more than to learn Chinese and visit the country where martial arts were born.

Masezerano Divine

Now, her dream has come true. Years later, standing on the stage of the 2020 "Chinese Characters and Me" Speech Contest for International Students, hosted by the Chinese People’s Association For Friendship with Foreign Countries and organised by People’s Daily Online, Divine told the audience that learning Chinese has changed her life, and she wants to put her efforts into building a cultural bridge between China and Rwanda.

"Knowing Chinese has enabled me to observe the world from a different perspective. I have made many good Chinese friends, and living and studying in China is a wonderful experience that I shall never forget," said Divine.

Divine is not the only contestant who admires Chinese culture and come all the way to study and live in the country. Many young people from countries including Russia, the Czech Republic, Japan, South Korea and Nigeria also took part in the contest, sharing their stories of learning Chinese with the audience and how this beautiful language has changed their lives.

Love for Chinese language and culture

Lorenc Jan

28-year-old Lorenc Jan, who comes from the Czech Republic and currently studies at Beijing Foreign Studies University, told the audience how an unexpected encounter with Chinese characters ignited his love for the Chinese language.

"My parents always took me to a Chinese restaurant when I was little. The Chinese characters on their signboard intrigued me a lot. I asked the owner of the restaurant if the characters were some kind of pictorial design, and he told me proudly that they were Chinese characters," said Jan.

"The artistic way of writing Chinese characters and the philosophy concealed beneath their complicated structures have inspired me to study the Chinese language, which I believe is the key to deciphering the secrets of Chinese culture," said Jan.

Alinaline Cichocki

Echoing Jan, Alinaline Cichocki from Kenya noted that it was the Chinese heroine, Mulan, who inspired her to study Chinese, while the beauty of Chinese poetry and literature has also captured her heart.

"I heard the story of Mulan from my mom. She always tells me to become a brave and strong girl like Mulan, and she has made a good example for me," said Cichocki, who added that her mother gave up a lucrative job in the capital city to teach in a small town, following her heart and devoting herself to the career she loved.

"I think Mulan has inspired both mom and me. She told me it was a noble cause to educate not only her own daughter, but to share her knowledge with all kids. When I graduate, I also want to do the same, sharing my knowledge of China with people in my country," added Cichocki.

Both Jan and Cichocki believe that their knowledge of Chinese language and culture can serve as a bridge to connect China with their motherlands, helping the public from both sides to understand each other.

"When I finish my studies in China, I would like to set up my own cultural tourism company in Kenya, and help my people to enjoy the beauty of Chinese language and culture like I did. I also want to show my culture to the Chinese, so that we can understand each other better," said Cichocki.

Jan, on the other hand, decided to become a professor teaching Chinese at Czech universities, hoping that his efforts can reduce misunderstanding and prejudice between the two sides, while the two nations can further strengthen their ties in the future.

"China and Czech have very different cultures, but that doesn’t stop us from respecting and cooperating with each other. By teaching Czech people Chinese, a solid foundation will be made for people-to-people exchange between our nations," said Jan.

Harmony and coexistence

Under the theme of "harmony and coexistence," an idea that Chinese civilisation has emphasised for thousands of years, contestants shared their experience of helping each other during the pandemic, adding that global cooperation is needed to tackle the COVID-19 virus.

Phou Kiethseng

"When the pandemic happened, I was very worried. But my classmates and teachers have been supporting me and helping me, making me feel like I am home. Chinese cherish harmonious relations with their neighbours, a merit I think we should all take during the pandemic," said Phou Kiethseng, a Cambodian student studying IT engineering in central China’s Henan Province.

Jan had a similar experience when he was in China during the pandemic. "I have seen that during the pandemic people in China help and support each other. It is amazing that when problems occur, Chinese society sticks together and makes joint efforts to tackle these issues. I think we should all do the same," he said.

Kenne Michel Oliver

"Chinese always want to coexist with other cultures peacefully. COVID-19 is a global challenge for us all, and we should all work together to combat the virus. With cooperation and mutual understanding, we can build a better world," said Kenne Michel Oliver, a PhD candidate from Cameroon. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)
(Web editor: Liang Jun, Bianji)

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