China is known worldwide for its rich and well-preserved culture which dates back to thousands of years, from Tang to Qing and more dynasties. Despite the evolution into modern China, it has managed to hold on to its traditions and culture and passing them from generation to generation and to the ‘wai guo ren’ (foreign people) who have managed to experience old China in the new contemporary China.
Today we talk of modern China open to the world and as such witnessed the influx of foreign faces from all parts of the world. Higher learning institutions have recorded an increased number of foreign enrolments hence the need for more people to people cultural exchange programs.
Beijing Institute of Graphic Communication which is a higher learning institutution based in the Daxing district of Beijing has a number of foreign students. Among the subjects taught is Chinese language which covers culture and all its aspects like food, language, calligraphy, architecture, clothing and others. In order for more interaction with the real world of Chinese culture, the school organizes field trips and one of the trips took students to Dongtao in Beijing.
Chinese culture has many branches and at Dongtao students were privileged to meet great masters of different expertise. Mr Dong Ning took the students around and explained about Chinese pottery and porcelain culture. Porcelain is also called ‘fine-china’ and its features include delicate texture, pleasing colours and refined sculpture. It is one of the earliest artworks to be introduced to the world via the Silk Road. Mr Dong Ning gave a detailed introduction to Chinese porcelain culture and its history . He is the founder of Dong Tao cultural center. It was a great interactive tour and one former student of Chinese Language Linah said, “ I learnt a lot. Chinese culture is great and the important aspect mentioned by Mr Dong Ning about sharing and caring for family was really important.” Students got the chance to practice pottery making and produced really fine works.
Students also interacted with Mr Wang Li Peng who taught them basic ‘seal cutting’. Chinese seal cutting is a combination of calligraphy and carving. Chinese seal cutting together with calligraphy, painting and poetry were one of the essential skills of ancient scholars. A red seal on calligraphy or artwork represents a signature. Mr Wang Li Peng taught the students beginner skills in seal cutting. It was interesting to see how students exhibited great potential as they produced clear and well-carved seals. Mr Wang Li Peng is a natural teacher and his patients with students made learning easy and engaging.
The third aspect which students were already familiar with was calligraphy. Also called shufa, Chinese calligraphy is one of the oldest aspects of Chinese culture. Its main purpose is to convey thoughts and showcasing abstract beauty lines and rhythms. There is a Chinese saying that says, “the way characters are written is a portrait of the person who writes them.” Mr Cui Jing in his swift and eloquent hand movement showed just how much of an expert he was. His demonstration was so clear and students found it so easy to follow. Calligraphy is one of the main activities BIGC students partake on some during Chinese Language studies.
The cultural exchange activity was very successful and future programs were announced catering for more aspects like music and dance cultural events. Jason one of the international student from Liberia was really appreciative of day. He said, “ It was a great day for me. What I saw here was great mastery work and some of the things we do have them back home in Africa. Chinese culture is well preserved and that is commendable. I look forward to more trips in a quest to learn more about the culture of the people I now live with, that is Chinese people.”