Opinion / Fu Jing

In cultural reversal, European royals turn to Chinese

By Fu Jing (China Daily) Updated: 2016-07-26 07:57

In cultural reversal, European royals turn to Chinese

Kungfu lovers perform martial art at a square during an activity held by Palacky University in Prague of Czech on Sept 24, 2014, to celebrate the Day of the Confucius Institute which falls on Sept 27. [Photo/Xinhua]

The Dutch seem pleased with a recent announcement that King Willem-Alexander's daughter Amalia, the 13-year-old heir to the throne, will learn Chinese during the upcoming school semester. Some have even called it the royal family's "smartest investment" given the deepening relationship between China and the Netherlands.

The Dutch royalty is not alone in embracing the Chinese language. In neighboring Belgium, Princess Elisabeth, the first child of King Philippe born in 2001, was already studying Chinese in a Dutch-medium school in Brussels. When King Philippe acceded to the throne in 2013, the princess became the duchess of Brabant, a title reserved for the heir apparent, which means she could become a Chinese-speaking queen of a European country.

In fact, the older generations of royal families in Europe have had an interest in Chinese culture for long. Although Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, who celebrated her 90th birthday this year, doesn't speak Chinese, she has enormous interest in Chinese philosophy, especially Taoism.

This month, the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, partly supported by Britain's Royal Family, established the Academy of Sinology with the aim of encouraging doctorate students to study ancient Chinese religions, texts, language and history.

The Danish monarchy, too, has shown keen interest in Chinese language and culture. Apart from Danish, French and English, the royal family's website has been using Chinese since 2014. Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands and King Philippe of Belgium have already visited China after Xi Jinping became China's top leader. And in return, Xi has visited the Netherlands, Belgium and Britain.

Studying Chinese is becoming popular across Europe. When I was interviewing parliamentarians in Greece during the country's sovereign debt crisis, one of them even arranged for his 16-year-old daughter, who was learning Chinese at the time, to be present during our conversation.

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