After nearly two months of careful planning, the Confucius Institute at the University of Arizona (CIUA) successfully hosted the 16th Chinese Bridge - Chinese Proficiency Preliminary Competition in the Southwest U.S. for Foreign College Students on April 29th. It was organized by the Consulate General of P.R. China in Los Angeles (CGLA). The top 9 contestants were selected by the five Confucius Institutes in the region to participate in the competition in the advanced and intermediate groups. CGLA Counselor Dr. Dong Yuan and Consul Dr. Haiying Chai watched the exciting competition with nearly 100 Chinese enthusiasts in the audience.
An Erhu and Dulcimer duet by a CIUA instructor and a student kicked off the competition. Right after the exciting performance, the CIUA director Dr. Zhao Chen welcomed everyone and Counselor Dr. Dong talked about how learning Chinese would not only benefit the competitors, but also promote mutual understanding and deep friendship between China, the United States, and the whole world. He encouraged every participant to learn Chinese and look forward to their friends discovering the beauty of Chinese.
The competition committee invited professors from the East Asian Studies Department at the University of Arizona and the local senior Chinese teachers and scholars to be a part of the jury. The contestants were required to make a speech in Chinese, answer questions about Chinese national conditions and culture, and perform a Chinese related talent. The speeches had to be about the theme of this year's contest "dream to light the future". In addition, they needed to answer the judges’ questions after their speeches, which really proved their level of Chinese proficiency.
During the competition, Manuel Muratalla, from the Confucius Institute at California State University in Long Beach, talked about he was welcomed with open arms in China. The stranger who helped him get his tickets and took him to eat Chengdu snacks. "The Chinese people are very hospitable; they treat me like their family.” Because he loves Chinese martial arts, he performed great Wing Chun boxing for the talent portion.
Anthony Burtman who took part in the last year's intermediate group was promoted to this year's advanced group. He spoke about his experience from learning Chinese to falling in love with Traditional Chinese Medicine, which attracted the judges’ questions about Chinese medicine. His erhu show entitled "The Racing Horse" demonstrated his superb skills. It was so incredible it won the applause of the entire audience.
Ryan Featherston, who spent nine months in Beijing, talked about the cultural differences between China and the United States. He brought up examples like his host brother's birthday and how you give the birthday cake to the elders first, then everyone younger and finally the birthday person. Also, he talked about the culture shock of Chinese filial piety, which is the respect given to one’s elders. He aspires to become a Sino-US cultural exchange ambassador to be able to spread the Chinese culture and traditions to the rest of the world.
Multiple performances caught the attention of the audience. First was the poem Anh Nguyen, from the Confucius Institute at the University of Hawii in Manoa, recited. In addition, the Chinese folk dance “Sun Drum” by Martha P Alvarado from the Confucius Institute at the University of New Mexico (University of Texas at El Paso). Also, the Chinese Rap and Calligraphy demo by Joshua Fortune Wesson from CIUA. Lastly, the beautiful song called “The Little Love Song” sung by Samantha Sanders from the Confucius Institute of the Arizona State University.
After two and a half hours of intense competition, Ryan Featherston and Samantha Sanders of the Confucius Institute at Arizona State University won the advanced and intermediate championships. In the pleasant atmosphere, Counselor Yuan Dong and consul Haiying Chai and the directors of CIUA presented awards to all the contestants. Afterwards, Counselor Yuan Dong said "Thank you to CIUA for planning a wonderful event, and thank you to the participants for their wonderful presentations. Everyone was fantastic! I hope they will participate in the Sino-US cultural exchanges."
Professor Zhao Wei, CIUA Chinese director from the cooperative university, Shaanxi Normal University talked about how "This competition was carefully prepared and was different from the previous years. This year’s theme focused on tradition and history and increasing the understanding of modern China. Some of the topics included high-speed rail, WeChat, Nobel Prize, the Oscar Lifetime Achievement Award winner, bridging the United States students’ understanding of modern China." Compared to last year, the competition in the advanced group was just as good; the competition was fierce. It showed that the oversea Chinese teaching effect is remarkable as high-level students continue to emerge from the programs."