April 6, 2015

On April 4th, the 14th Chinese Bridge-Chinese Proficiency Competition for Foreign College Students Preliminary Contest in the Southwest U.S. was held on the campus of the University of Arizona. The event was organized by the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in Los Angeles and hosted by the Confucius Institute at the University of Arizona. Eleven contestants from six Confucius Institutes in the Southwest U.S attended the competition. Consul for Education, Mr. Weiheng Chen, participated as a judge in the competition and watched with around 100 audience members.

April 4th marked the 70th anniversary of World War II. All the contestants and many audience members signed their name on a Peace Tree and affixed paper doves with great enthusiasm. Bo Chen, a UA Confucius Institute music teacher, gave a wonderful Sheng solo (in ancient China, the Sheng “flute” was a symbol of peace) at the beginning of the event, which followed the theme of World Peace.

The competition was organized into two skill-levels; intermediate and advanced groups. Contestants were evaluated on the basis of their delivery of an unprompted speech, their knowledge of Chinese culture and a talent show, all of which tested the limits of each contestant’s Chinese language capability and background knowledge of culture. This year, the theme of the obligatory speech was “My Chinese Dream,” and all the contestants expressed their affection and respect for Chinese language and culture by means of their presentations, responses to questions from the panel of judges and their performances during the talent segment. Kong Anning (Anthony Costantini), a contestant from the Confucius Institute at Arizona State University won the first prize in the intermediate group. Another talented contestant, Meng Ruian (Ryan McCloskey) won the first prize in the advanced group. In this year’s competition, awards for the Best Speech, the Best Talent and the Best Organizer were selected as well.

All of the contestants gave wonderful and impressive performances. Meng Jinghua (Cortland Montefiore) from the University of Arizona came to tears when he delivered his speech, saying “I love China. I want to go to China. I really want to stay in China. There is a Chinese heart inside of me.” The audience was profoundly stirred by Courtland’s words. Xiang Jiahao (Charles Herndon) related his own story of how traditional Chinese medicine saved two lives in his family; his father’s hepatitis and his own Lupus were both healed by means of traditional Chinese medicine, which encouraged Charles to study Chinese and introduce traditional Chinese medicine to more and more people around the world.  Chinese audience members felt proud of their amazing traditional medicine.

Shen Zhikai (Conner Gustafson) from the University of Southern California shared his own Chinese learning experiences as an American Chinese offspring. Shi Weiya (Olivia Steiger), from the University of Hawaii performed an Erhu solo, “Jasmine,” which won warm applause from the audience.

Consul Chen and CIUA’s American and Chinese directors presented the contestants their awards in a very cheerful and celebratory atmosphere. Returning for his second stint as a judge, Consul Chen remarked, “Compared with last year, this year’s competition was much better in terms of the number of contestants participating, their Chinese language level and their knowledge of China and its history and culture.”
From this we may conclude that Confucius Institutes play a critical role in Chinese language teaching and Chinese culture appreciation.