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Center proves there's more to Brazil than samba and soccer

2014-07-18 09:01 China Daily Web Editor: Wang Fan

Increasing opportunities to work with educational institutions in Brazil are being pursued by the Center of Brazilian Culture at Peking University as China and the South American nation strengthen ties.  [Special coverage]

"We will send our first group of students to the University of Sao Paulo in January," said Hu Xudong, the center's deputy director.

"Cooperation and exchanges with other institutions, such as the University of Brasilia and the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, are also under way."

The center was established with the support of the Chinese and Brazilian governments, and was opened in 2004 by Brazil's then-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

It focuses on teaching the Brazilian form of Portuguese and showcasing Brazilian culture.

A Brazilian Portuguese course has been taken by 500 undergraduate students over the past 10 years.

"Many are studying international politics, economics or science majors but see a bright future in the China-Brazil relationship and would like to land a job in the field," said Hu.

"I think they are making a reasonable choice. Sino-Brazilian cooperation needs an increasing amount of talent, and those who have knowledge of fields such as international politics and economics and can speak Brazilian Portuguese will be snapped up like hot cakes."

Another course, Brazilian history and culture, often attracts hundreds of students.

"Many Chinese people, including students at Peking University, have very limited and stereotyped impressions of Brazil, and most only think about samba and soccer," Hu said.

"We are glad that we are opening the door to more of our students and letting them gain a wider and deeper knowledge about Brazil's unique history, racial diversity and multiculturalism."

The center organizes large-scale cultural events, including lectures, workshops, seminars and exhibitions covering subjects such as literature, music and films.

Hu is particularly proud that it introduced the Brazilian martial art of capoeira to China. Capoeira combines music, dance, gymnastics, acrobatics and spiritual practices and is popular in many countries.

The center held a one-month workshop, inviting five high-level Brazilian performers to teach students and staff. Almost 100 people took part.

"I never expected that because Chinese people had hardly heard of capoeira," said Hu.

The center also carries out research - more than 50 academic papers have been published in domestic or Brazilian academic journals.

In 2013, Huawei Technologies, following overtures from the Brazilian government, established a strategic partnership with the center and started providing financial support.

This meant the center was able to implement a project that staff had been hoping to undertake for years.

It involves inviting leading Brazilian scholars in the social sciences and humanities to stay at Peking University for two weeks and lecture on their country's culture.

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