Sri Lankan president keen on cultural exchange with China

Updated: 2011-08-12 08:15

By Chen Jia (China Daily)

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Sri Lankan president keen on cultural exchange with China

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa (left) offers a present to Chen Yulu, president of the Beijing Foreign Studies University, during a visit to the university on Thursday. [Wu Zhiyi / China Daily] 

BEIJING - Sri Lankan president vowed to promote youth cultural exchanges with China, and five Chinese college students will leave for Sri Lanka in September to study the Sinhala language for half a year.

"It is a little surprising that Chinese students speak Sinhala language so well, and I hope to see your Chinese kungfu performance in Sri Lanka soon," Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa told He Yan, a freshman of the Beijing Foreign Studies University, on Thursday in Beijing.

"The language study and cultural exchange would promote the friendship between two ancient civilizations," he said.

He comforted the 19-year-old whose kungfu performance was temporarily canceled due to the president's tight tour schedule in the campus of the Beijing Foreign Studies University on Thursday morning.

Beijing Foreign Studies University, the only university with long-term Sinhala language studies in China, gave Rajapaksa an honorary doctoral degree and invited him to be the director of the newly built Sri Lanka Academic Center on Thursday.

Rajapaksa was invited as the chief guest at a special ceremony held at the university to mark its 70th anniversary and the university's Sinhala Language Studies Unit's 50th anniversary.

The Sinhala Language Studies Unit is part of the Asia-Africa School at the university. Seventeen languages including Sinhala are taught at the Asia-Africa school.

At present, 14 Chinese students are studying for the first degree in Sinhala language while three others are studying for a master's degree in Sinhala, said a press release by the president's media division.

Students will have facilities to study Sinhala language and culture and engage in related research activities at the Sri Lanka Academic Centre.

"It is not a difficult language for me. Sinhala language was my first choice on my application form for the national college entrance exam," Wen Jiangong, a student of Beijing Foreign Studies University, told China Daily on Thursday.

He dressed up in a sarong, the traditional clothing of Sri Lanka, and sang a song in the Sinhala language for the president on Thursday.

"It is so exciting to perform for the president, and I hope to be a diplomat in the future," he said.

In his imagination, Sri Lanka should be a "beautiful tropical country with many fruit trees".

"I will talk about a more real Sri Lanka when I go there in September," he said.

"We enroll freshmen for Sinhala language studies every four years," Jiang Xiaoxiao, a teacher of Sinhala language of the Beijing Foreign Studies University, told China Daily on Thursday.

Rajapaksa, who is on a four-day visit to China, met with Premier Wen Jiabao on Thursday afternoon.

Rajapaksa will attend the opening ceremony of the 26th Summer Universiade on Friday in the southern city of Shenzhen.