Top News

Thirst for knowledge bridges cultural gap

By Li Xing (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-04-20 06:42
Large Medium Small

SEATTLE: Sun Hongwen, a software engineer who has worked in the city for five years, took her position on the sidewalk between 5th Avenue and University Street a little after 10:00 am on Tuesday local time.

"I am very excited because President Hu Jintao was once Party chief of my province," said Sun, who came to the United States from Guizhou in Southwest China eight years ago.

Holding a small national flag, Sun joined hundreds of local Chinese-Americans, Chinese students and scholars to welcome Hu outside the Fairmont Olympic Hotel, in the downtown area of the city, where the president and the Chinese delegation were staying.

"I stole a few hours away from work; I just wanted to be here to see if I'd get a chance to see President Hu," Sun told China Daily, adding that she met Hu in the late 1980s when he visited Guizhou University where she was a student.

The mass of flags and banners attracted the attention of many local residents.

But even without the drums and festivities, many said increased exchanges have brought China closer to the United States than ever before.

"I've always very much admired Chinese culture, especially ancient Chinese culture. There is a beautiful history there. I think it inevitably has an impact on Americans," said Seattleite David Pandette.

"Things imported from China are everywhere. You cannot avoid it, everything from clothing to electronics, Chinese products are everywhere in America. You cannot buy something that is not Chinese," he said.

Anne Talley, who is going to graduate school for a degree in secondary school education, brought her ward a young Chinese girl aged three who was adopted as a baby by American parents to the roadside by the Fairmont Hotel. Talley said she had been working as the girl's nanny for four months and had already learned quite a lot about Chinese culture.

"Her parents are trying to make it a big part of her life," Talley said. "She is learning a lot of the language."

Her parents also took her to join the Chinese Lunar New Year parade and sent little red envelopes to all their friends.

"I have learned a few Chinese words here and there; I also listen to children's tapes, especially the songs," she said.

Mark Emmert, president of the University of Washington, takes pride in the fact that his university, which launched its Eastern and Oriental studies programme in 1909, has developed extensive ties with China, especially with Sichuan University.

Since 2000, groups of students and professors from his university have made trips into the remote Yangjuan Village in Yanyuan County, the Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture.

"The village has served as a classroom, laboratory and temporary home for our students," Emmert wrote in an e-mail to China Daily. "The University of Washington students have had the remarkable opportunity to interact with residents of Yangjuan alongside Sichuan University students."

He said Chinese and American students joined hands and conducted research in a number of fields, including botanical surveys, public health, agronomy, and GPS mapping.

Besides fulfilling their studies and completing research projects, the most important lessons learned have been those that come from sharing cultures, views, and friendships across continents, Emmert wrote.

"For our students, the opportunity to engage Chinese citizens and Chinese students in common interests and shared academic work transforms their understanding of the world and their own place within it," he said.

(China Daily 04/20/2006 page2)