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China Daily Website

Confucius Institutes go beyond borders

Updated: 2012-12-03 07:39
By Qu Yingpu, Zhao Huanxin and Cheng Yingqi ( China Daily)

A global lesson in reaching out to make a world of difference

Confucius, the ancient Chinese teacher and philosopher, was renowned for many things, including extensive travels during the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC). It is little wonder that those affiliated with the institutes that have taken his name are similarly itinerant.

While Confucius preached moral codes and ways of governance, the Confucius Institutes help people break language barriers to better know each other - a mission that necessitates a great deal of travel.

One of the most noteworthy instances of this was an excursion to Japan in October. Relations between China and Japan have been festering following tensions over the Diaoyu Islands, a cluster of islets in the East China Sea.

Hundreds, maybe thousands, of Tokyo-bound trips had been cancelled, but not for the Confucius Institute Headquarters in Beijing, which sent a vice-director to the Japanese capital to meet teachers and volunteers from the Confucius Institutes in Japan.

"You wouldn't believe it - there were only six people flying on a big plane to Japan that day," said Xu Lin, director-general of the Confucius Institute Headquarters, known as Hanban.

"The more two countries' ties deteriorate over political issues, the more important it is for Confucius Institutes to play a role in helping preserve and strengthen the rapport between the people of the two nations," Xu said.

Since the founding of the first Confucius Institute in Seoul eight years ago, the development of these organizations has ballooned beyond all expectations, especially in developed countries.

According to Xu, the non-government organization is designed to teach foreigners Chinese and immerse them in oriental culture.

There are currently more than 400 Confucius Institutes in 108 countries and regions, and more than 500 Confucius Classrooms - with more than 600,000 registered students - across the globe, according to statistics released earlier this year.

In addition, 70 of the world's top 200 universities have opened their own Confucius Institutes.

"There are still more than 400 universities in 76 countries waiting on the candidate list for Confucius Institutes," she said.

Hanban is the international provider of teaching resources and services for Chinese language and culture.

Unlike other international education institutes, such as Alliance Francaise and the Goethe Institute, the Confucius Institute Headquarters closely cooperates with foreign universities and schools to improve their Mandarin teaching.

The universities and schools that would like to open Confucius Institutes have to meet certain requirements set by the headquarters, and submit applications.

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