China / Education

Interest growing in study of Persian language, history

By Zhao Xinying (China Daily) Updated: 2016-01-25 07:47

Persian, an ancient language of the Middle East and the official language of Iran, is being embraced by more people in recent years, Persian teachers and researchers said.

Shen Yiming, director of the Section of Persian Language and Literature at Peking University, said the program used to recruit students every four years, with only about 10 being enrolled each time.

"However, as more people are expressing interest and enthusiasm about the language, we decided to recruit every two years starting from 2018," Shen said.

"Iran is a country that has a long history and has attracted the attention of people from across the globe in recent years. Learning the Persian language will mean more opportunities and choices for Chinese students, both in the job market and the research field," she said.

According to Shen, more than 200 students have graduated in the specialty.

"Many were chased after and are now working at government departments, State-owned enterprises or institutions that are involved in China's cooperation with Persian-speaking countries," she said.

The language was taught in China as far back as the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907), according to Yu Guili, director of the Persian Teaching and Research Department at Beijing Foreign Studies University.

"At that time, a lot of people came to China from Persia, the old name of Iran, and Persian was one of the dominant languages used in daily life, as well as in religious and economic activities," she said, adding that the language is still very important for today's Muslims in China. Six of the 13 Islamic classics were written in Persian.

Shen said the language was universal along the ancient Silk Road - "a little similar to the status of English today".

Interest growing in study of Persian language, history

The first Persian specialty after the People's Republic of China was founded was established at Peking University in 1957. Its initial goal was to nurture talent to serve the increasingly close relationship between China and Persian-speaking countries, including Iran and Afghanistan.

Following Peking University, Shanghai International Studies University, Communication University of China, Beijing Foreign Studies University, University of International Business and Economics and Xi'an International Studies University also set up their own Persian specialties to meet the growing demand to learn the language, literature, history and culture, Shen said.

The one at BFSU was established in 2009. The first batch of 16 students who enrolled that year graduated in 2013, and the second batch of 15 students who enrolled in 2013 has just returned from a semester's study in Teheran, capital of Iran, Yu said.

Yu said they had built collaboration with higher education institutions in Iran, such as the University of Teheran, the oldest and largest university of the country, enabling students to spend a semester or a year, which is very helpful for improving their language skills and their understanding of Persian culture.

 Interest growing in study of Persian language, history

Persian majors at their graduation ceremony at Beijing Foreign Studies University in June 2013. Provided to China Daily

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