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Feature: Confucius Institute opens in Houston

2013-04-14 09:54 Xinhua     Web Editor: Su Jie comment

Houstonians can now feel the influence of the Chinese language and culture thanks to a new Confucius Institute set up in the fourth largest U.S. city.

Together with Beijing Jiaotong University, Texas Southern University (TSU) on Friday launched a Confucius Institute on its campus.

TSU became the first institution in the Greater Houston area to receive Chinese approval to establish a Confucius Institute aimed at promoting Chinese language and culture abroad.

"Language is ... a bridge that enables people to exchange and communicate with each other. And it also plays a unique role in promoting mutual understanding and friendship among peoples of the world," said Wang Yongli, deputy director-general of Hanban, the Confucius Institute headquarters.

At the opening ceremony of the institute, Wang said the Chinese language has become increasingly popular around the world with China's deepening exchanges and cooperation with the world.

"Over 50 million people from more than 100 countries are learning Chinese. There is an increase in schools at all levels that offer Chinese courses. The phenomenon of the China fever appeared in many regions," Wang said.

The huge demand for Chinese language-learning is why China supports the new initiative for the Confucius Institute program, he said.

The mission of the Confucius Institute is to, through language learning and culture introduction, help foreigners better understand China, Wang said.

"On the basis of understanding, we can build trust. On the basis of trust, we can establish more cooperation and exchanges. That's not only for the two countries, but also for the whole world in the long term," he added.

The China fever, as mentioned by Wang, was reflected by the warm welcome for the new Confucius Institute by TSU faculty and students.

China's typical red lanterns could be seen everywhere at the campus. The university, in the past two days, has been celebrating the opening with a Chinese dragon parade, performances, a film festival and a conference on China-related topics.

Both TSU President John M. Rudley and Roger Hart, director of TSU Confucius Institute, said they were "excited" about the official launch of the institute.

The opening formalizes the university's exchange with China, which had already existed in recent years, Rudley said.

Equipping students with knowledge and skills of the Chinese language will better prepare them for their future career, he said, adding that the new Confucius Institute will have an entrepreneur emphasis.

"The Confucius Institute will supply students with Chinese language teaching, and a broad range of courses in Chinese history, Chinese businesses and Chinese medicine," Hart said, adding that the institute will also provide students with exchange programs allowing them to travel to China.

"We hope our students, who know a little bit about China, can contribute to the enormous trade between China and Houston," Hart said.

TSU students also hailed the opening of the Confucius Institute. "The students at Texas Southern University are very excited about the experience we are going to be able to have with the Confucius Institute," said Brandon Andrews, president of the student association.

"We've seen that China is a world leader," Andrews said, stressing the importance of understanding the country's culture and language.

Andrews said he will take Confucius Institute courses and "learn as much as possible."

Cao Guoyong, chairman of the university council of Beijing Jiaotong University, promised joint efforts with TSU to build the new Confucius Institute into a center for language learning and culture research.

The Chinese consul general in Houston, Xu Erwen, said she believes the institute "will not only offer Chinese language courses to those who are interested in learning Chinese, but also serve as a platform for American people to better know and understand China."

"In doing so, it will surely play a significant role in enhancing friendship between the two peoples," she said.

The initial idea of the TSU Confucius Institute was conceived in 2010. In 2012, TSU signed an agreement in Beijing with the Chinese government on establishing a Confucius Institute at the university.

China opened the first non-profit Confucius Institute in 2004 to promote its language and culture abroad, as well as to promote cultural exchanges.

The number of Confucius Institutes has increased rapidly across the world. Statistics show that Hanban has so far opened 420 Confucius Institutes in 111 countries.

In the United State alone, there are 92 Confucius Institutes. The one at TSU is one of the several new institutes recently launched in the country.

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