Andrew Fowler (second from left) enjoys an activity showcasing Zhuang traditions in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region in September. (CHINA DAILY)
Finalist in global language competition eager to spread positive message.
Andrew Fowler, a fourth-year student from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, described his recent experience in China as an unexpected and incredible surprise.
His participation in the 22nd "Chinese Bridge" Chinese Proficiency Competition for Foreign College Students brought him to China, where he joined over 150 young people from 124 countries who competed for the global championship on Sept 2 in Nanning, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.
Initially unsure of the scale of the competition, Fowler never imagined he would make it to the finals and have the opportunity to explore China. The event marked the first offline gathering of the competition in China since the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Before the competition began, contestants enjoyed a three-week summer camp in Beijing, and the cities of Baise and Guilin in Guangxi. Fowler said he cherished the time he spent in the picturesque countryside of Guangxi, where he had the chance to immerse himself in the local culture, interact with ethnic minorities, and sample various delicacies.
He said the knowledge he had acquired through documentaries and literature about ethnic minorities in Southwest China was enhanced by witnessing firsthand the thriving culture in their communities.
"The villagers greeted us and organized beautiful ceremonies where the Zhuang people and the Yao people danced, wearing their traditional regalia. They showed us their textiles and basketry, and we had the chance to hear their languages.
"On top of that, the chance to see the beautiful nature in Guilin that inspired so many old Chinese painters was very special," he said.
The United States student said he was moved by the richness of their traditions and their commitment to preserving their languages and arts and crafts. "A lot of people outside of China wouldn't even know this is a part of China, because they don't think of the ethnic minorities in the southwest. Seeing such a beautiful part of China where the cultural traditions and languages of its ethnic minorities are thriving was very moving to me," Fowler added.
As one of the finalists in the global competition, Fowler was also involved in a "Chinese Culture Experience Day" at Guangxi University, participating in lectures, symposiums and campus tours.