Classical Chinese tests necessary

(China Daily)
Updated: 2009-12-01 08:00
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There has been a suggestion recently that tests in classical Chinese language are unnecessary. The reasons are: First, classical Chinese has almost completely vanished from daily written and verbal communication. Second, the tests signal a cultural regression and may lead to chaos in daily language usage. Third, students now are overloaded, and hence we should drop the unnecessary burden on their shoulders.

But has classical Chinese been really completely removed by the modern language? In effect, old Chinese sayings, proverbs and verses are still very fashionable in society. Words in classical Chinese can be seen at many tourist attractions. If we don't know classical Chinese, how can we understand and enjoy them?

There is a joke about a tourist attraction of the former residence of Hua Tuo, an ancient Chinese physician. A plaque there reads "Zai Xian Hua Tuo "(Seeing Hua Tuo again), but the guide who was ignorant of classical Chinese interpreted it as "Zai Jian Hua Tuo" which means "Goodbye Hua Tuo "!

Premier Wen Jiabao is very good at using verses and other famous classical Chinese sayings, which contain much ancient wisdom. That's one of the reasons why Premier Wen's talks always make me think.

In my personal experience, classical Chinese is sometimes more effective in expressing my thoughts. Old idioms, proverbs and verses have been used for hundreds or thousands of years. These are regarded as the epitome of our ancestors' wisdom. As Rome was not built in a day, what we have today is based on thousands of years of accumulation. How can we get rid of classical Chinese that evolved in tandem with thousands of years of civilization? As our ancestors have accumulated so much spiritual wealth for us, shouldn't we take advantage of it? Without this background, who are we?

Since 1978, we have learnt a lot from the outside world. Meanwhile, foreigners cannot seem to get enough of China. It seems that they are keen to learn our culture and wisdom. In recent years, the thoughts of ancient Chinese masters have been widely used in business management and education by some foreigners. And their works have been translated into many foreign languages, and offered to a large number of foreign readers. But some say we have no time to study our ancestors' thoughts since we are overloaded!

Nowadays, there is a craze for learning English in our society. It seems that everyone is striving to pass English language tests. Some colleges even stipulate that students cannot obtain degrees without passing English tests.

We can require students to learn English. But why not classical Chinese as well? Why don't we learn classical language to enrich our spiritual needs?

In my point to view, classical Chinese and foreign languages are of equal importance. Classical Chinese culture and language should be popularized, and classical Chinese tests are necessary.


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