Feature: American students experiencing Chinese tradition, culture

(Xinhua) 11:02, January 23, 2024

CHICAGO, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- Ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year, 55 U.S. students and their teachers from the Niles North High School in the northern suburbs of Chicago came to the Chinese Consulate General in Chicago on Friday for an in-person experience of Chinese tradition and culture, and celebration of the Chinese Year of the Dragon.

Despite the chilly weather outside, the hall of the consulate general, decorated with Chinese knots and firecracker pendants, was full of warmth. After watching erhu, guzheng and martial arts performances, students gave their Chinese New Year greetings by reciting a self-edited "Wish You All a Happy New Year" and singing "Gong Xi Gong Xi."

Students tried their hands on Chinese movable-type printing -- the world's earliest printing arts; and on musical instruments such as erhu and guzheng, Chinese yo-yo, and writing the Chinese character "happiness."

Every student received a blank face mask, on which they were supposed to paint Beijing Opera facial makeup. Nevertheless, amid laughter, many of them ended up with either a Zorro mask or a Hello Kitty face.

Stefan Kant was a 9th grader. Doing projects on different architecture and natural landscape of China triggered his interest in China, and he chose to study Chinese a year ago.

"I just studied the Great Wall of China for my social studies assignment this year ... I'm really hoping and planning to (go to China) later on in life," Kant told Xinhua.

Eleventh-grader Gilberto Ortiz, speaking Spanish and a little French, said that "I want to try something that is very different."

"I know it's (China) a very big country ... It would be amazing for me to travel over there," Ortiz said.

"I chose to learn Chinese because I really want to learn more about the culture and just exposed myself to other cultures that are different from where I live," 9th-grader Kara Sung told Xinhua, adding China is a "beautiful country with a lot of cultural traditions."

Niles Township High Schools, including Niles North High School and Niles West High School, started its Chinese language program in 2007, according to Todd Bowen, director of world languages at Niles North and Niles West high schools. "Students have the opportunity to study all 4 years."

There are 182 students in the two schools who are now learning Chinese.

Bowen has been to China once, spending 10 days in Beijing and traveling around in Hunan Province. "It changes all the way that you think about things," Bowen said.

Limin Dove, a Chinese teacher at the high school, echoed Bowen's words.

Niles Township High Schools became sister schools with the Fuzhou No. 1 Middle School in China's southeastern Fujian Province in 2019. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the two schools had to interact online.

"I hope one day I can bring my students to see what China is, not what they read about in books and watch on TVs," Dove said.

China is ready to invite 50,000 young Americans to China on exchange and study programs in the next five years, Chinese Consul General in Chicago Zhao Jian said. He welcomed the students to visit China through the program.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


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