By Wafaa Ezzat
On the evening of August 4th, the final round and closing ceremony of the 17th “Chinese Bridge” was wrapped up in the beautiful Changsha capital of Hunan province. After a month of fierce competition with over 152 contestants from 118 countries around the world, the Russian contestant Ruslan Ustinov was crowned the proud champion of the 17th “Chinese Bridge” Competition.
Organized by the Confucius Institute Headquarter (Hanban), the office of Chinese language council international and the Hunan provincial government, the “Chinese Bridge”– Chinese Proficiency Competition for international College Students is a large-scale annual event, and is well-known in cultural and educational exchanges worldwide. Over the past 17 years, the Chinese Bridge has become a significant platform for college students across the world to study Chinese language, and it also serves as a bridge to promote the cultural exchanges between China and the outside world.
The theme for this year’s competition was “One World, One Family” which is highly relevant to this nation and echoes the Chinese traditional value of harmony and peace; as China has always held the belief that the whole world is one big family. The “Chinese Bridge” competition has become a grand gathering for the growing number of Chinese language enthusiasts, where we can see a large number of young talented contestants from the east to the west sharing their experience in learning Chinese language and expressing their passion towards the culture. This competition offers a magnificent chance to all contestants from all over the world to explore and gain a deeper understanding of China and merge with other cultures as well.
In addition to testing language proficiency, the competition test knowledge of China, cultural skills and understanding. There is huge scope to demonstrate cultural skills and understanding through e.g. Kongfu, Taichi, calligraphy, music, paper-cutting etc. As well as Grand First, Second and Third prizes there are a number of special awards for individuals such as Best Presentation, Best Performance, Best Eloquence, Best Tutor etc.
After going through some intense competition rounds, five contestants stood out and got qualified to attend the final round of the competition. Each of these contestants is considered a representative of their own continent. Indonesian contestant Vivi representing Asia, Nigerian Anthony Ekwensi representing Africa, Russian contestant Ruslan Ustinov representing Europe, American contestant John Klump Jr. representing the Americas, and Australian contestant Theodore Stapleton representing Oceania, were the five finalists. The contestants had to go through three parts, namely, keynote speeches, questions and answers, and Chinese cultural talent show.
The diversity of performances and level of language proficiency skills were exceptional, with performances ranging from emotional dramatic acting to fun energetic singing and dancing. All the contestants brought their own style and flair to the competition. All of the finalists demonstrated a high level of understanding Chinese Mandarin, extensive knowledge of Chinese culture and history, as well as exhibited their creativity in their use and knowledge of the language.
The contestants might come from different cultural backgrounds, but they are united by the same interest in the Chinese language and culture. “I’ve always been fond of Chinese language and culture but what I find it fascinating the most is Chinese art such as, paper cutting, calligraphy, Chinese opera, etc. well, my passion toward Chinese language started from high school I used to listen to so many Chinese songs but I never understood the meaning behind the lyrics, so I used to look up the words in the dictionary, therefore after my graduation I’ve made my decision to study Chinese without thinking” said the Indonesian contestant in a fluent Chinese.
“Hmmm…I guess I fell in love with Chinese Culture through kung-Fu movies, I remember watching Chinese kung-Fu movies for hours when I was a kid. Movies starred by Bruce Lee, Jet Lee and Jackie Chan were quite popular back home. I thought the movies were very interesting and captivating and I was impressed by China’s vitality. That was the first interaction between me and Chinese language and culture which left a deep impression on me till I grew up and decided to study Chinese” said the Nigerian contestant recalling some of his childhood memories.
“People…I find Chinese people the most interesting part of the culture. I’m saying that from my own experience in China, I’m very grateful to the friends I made in China. I think people are the most capable of changing somebody’s perspective toward a certain culture; they also help you to deeply appreciate the culture in many different ways. To be honest, Australia used to be lagging in learning foreign languages especially Asian ones, but now they are slowly bringing it into schools. Chinese government’s scholarships have also helped in encouraging a lot of students to learn the language and that’s how I actually learned my Chinese” he said with a grin.
“I met some amazing young contestants from all over the world, we shared so much laughter, shared so many tears. We had a special a bond that grew stronger every day. It’d be very hard to say goodbye. I truly cherish every moment of this competition as you don’t get to stand on such a huge stage everyday and compete against some of the greatest Chinese learners out there. This competition showed me a side of Chinese people that I’ve never seen before; I genuinely admire their work ethics. When I got to know the Chinese better, I realized that the more valuable they are, the more modest they behave” said the American contestant.
“I was born and raised somewhere near China, and as I was surrounded by people who spoke Chinese in a very young age, I decided to major in Chinese language and literature. China has always fascinated me; I was fascinated by their wisdom and their way of thinking, and by their rapid development in almost every industry and sector. China is developing at the same speed as the country’s “express delivery”. Therefore, my dream is taking china’s express back to Russia; I want to introduce the made in China products not just to Russia but to the whole world as well” said the winner of the 17th “Chinese Bridge” Competition.
All contestants admit that the Chinese language is very difficult to study but satisfaction is infinite because it is the gateway to the Chinese spirit which is unique and to the Chinese culture which seems to fascinate them. The success of this year’s competition is a continuation of the past years of “Chinese Bridge”, which opens a window for all people around the world to understand Chinese language and culture. “One World, One Family” embodied the common wishes of all countries for a world where the beauty of different civilizations is shared and equally appreciated.