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Wesleyan College opens Confucius Institute

By Hu Haidan in Macon, Georgia | China Daily | Updated: 2013-04-12 11:19

Wesleyan College opens Confucius Institute

Wesleyan College President Ruth Knox is presented a panda doll as a gift by Xu Lin, chief executive of Confucius Institute Headquarters, on Thursday in Macon, Georgia. Hu Haidan / China Daily

The longstanding connection between Wesleyan College and China, and especially their link to the legendary Soong Sisters, was highlighted at the dedication of a new branch of the Confucius Institute at the Macon, Georgia school.

College president Ruth Knox said Wesleyan tries to build on the lessons of the Soong Sisters, three prominent Chinese political figures, and particularly Soong Ching Ling, who graduated 100 years ago.

"For us, that means an ongoing and joyful celebration of the historic connection between Wesleyan College and China," she said. "That also means developing friendships that cross whatever barriers might otherwise obstruct the path."

Last spring, Confucius Institute Headquarters, also known as Hanban, began to discuss opening a Wesleyan branch of the organization. With the help of Hanban and Guangzhou University, Wesleyan in June 2012 was authorized to open its own Confucius Institute. Xu Lin, Hanban's director-general, said Wesleyan has a very special relationship with China because of the Soong Sisters, who are noted for exerting influence on both Chinese and international politics.

"When I was a little girl, I respected the three Soong Sisters so much," Xu said. "Opening a Confucius Institute here makes my dream come true."

The opening's timing was noteworthy because it coincided with the centennial of Soong Ching Ling's graduation from the school in 1913.

"The Soong sisters changed the world," Knox said. "They, like many other Wesleyan alumni, prove that well-educated women can become powerful women, working for the good of all."

With Thursday's ceremony, Wesleyan became the latest US campus to expand its ability to provide opportunities for China-US cultural exchange, and to spread Chinese language and culture abroad.

Wesleyan's Confucius Institute is the third to open this week. New York's Columbia University, an Ivy League school, expanded its partnership with Renmin University of China, and opened a Confucius Institute on Tuesday. George Washington University became the first District of Columbia higher education institution with one a day later. On Friday, a ribbon-cutting ceremony will dedicate a Confucius Institute at Colorado State University.

In addition, US schools have more than 300 "Confucius classrooms" operating as extracurricular activity.

Wesleyan College's Confucius Institute plans various programs to meet the different needs of youth and adults, including language classes, summer camps in China, Chinese language and cultural art classes, faculty exchanges with Guangzhou University and celebrating traditional Chinese holidays such as the Lunar New Year.

Knox said the Confucius Institute at Wesleyan should be part of the school's core program and not simply an auxiliary enterprise.

"We certainly intend for that to be the case here at Wesleyan, with the location of our Confucius Institute right at the front of our campus in the first building one sees - proving our dedication to that principle," Knox said.

The nonprofit Confucius Institute program was started by Hanban, which also stands for the Chinese National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language, in 2004 to promote Chinese language and culture in foreign countries. There are 92 university-level Confucius Institutes in the US, with 318 Confucius classrooms mainly in public schools.

Macon Mayor Robert Reichert said: "We are celebrating this long relationship that we had with China and looking forward to an increasingly close relationship."

Qu Shaobing, director general of the Guangzhou Education Bureau, called the Confucius Institute "a platform for cultural exchange between China and the US", as well as between Wesleyan College and Guangzhou.

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