Cultural Exchange

Foreigners Fell in Love with Chinese Culture and People

The other day, a Bulgarian group of 13 members of different trades -- legal professor,  head of kindergarten, principal of private school, etc. -- participated in a Chinese culture study program held by the Confucius Institute Headquarters (Hanban).

The Bulgarian director at the Confucius Institute of Veliko Turnovo University, Ms. Iskra Mandova, was among those who made this trip possible. Ms. Mandova, after 6 years in office, expressed her wish, “I want the members to see China with their eyes. I firmly believe that after experiencing the fast-developing China, they will be more in favor of Chinese education.”

“I didn’t expect China was changing so fast”

Most of the group members visited China for the first time, and ‘China’s speed’ impressed them most.

One of the Members, Nick Genchev (transliteration) with a publishing house, told our reporter, “Being in China myself, I now know why people say ‘only those who haven’t been to China speak ill of it’. ”

“Every single day here I see attractive scenery.” As the trip was about to end, Genchev looked back his stay here, claiming that he “fall in live with Chinese culture and the people here”, and that he hoped to visit China again.

Gloria Zakova (transliteration), a teacher at the law school of Sofia University, also set foot on China for the first time. “When in Bulgaria, I didn’t know China is making such amazing progress. You have many convenient inventions such as mobile payment.” She considered it a precious opportunity to have a close look at modern China, “When I go back home, I want to share my stories here with my students and tell them that it is the successful political institution that enables China’s high speed development.”

Sassou Petrov (transliteration), Zakova’s colleague who works as the dean of the law school, is also a group member. Unlike Zakova, this is his 4th trip to China. “Every time, there is something new, because China is growing very fast.” He cited his visit at the Beijing Planing Exhibition Hall to support his point, “Here, you can see the evolution of the city, its transportation system, and so on.”

Petrov has been to Beijing, Shanghai, Xiamen, Guangzhou and other places. While interested in Chinese history enough to read much about it, he also keeps an eye on China’s progress. “I’ve read the Bulgarian translation of Xi Jingping's essays on the Chinese dream of the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. To me, the Chinese dream is the mission and target of the development of modern China. It’s really impressive.”says Petrov.

“Chinese becomes the most popular foreign language at school”

Auge Yaramova (transliteration) of the Gorseev School (transliteration) started to cooperate with the Confucius Institute of Veliko Turnovo University back in Bulgaria. “One of our teachers is from the Confucius Institute. Thanks to the institute, our Chinese lessons go on very well. ” Says Yaramova, adding that “our first-graders have already pasted the HSK test of Level 1.”

The Gorseev School was founded in 2015 out of the will of Yaramova’s husband. “He is in the financial sector. When he smelled the fast development of China and the popularity of Chinese, he proposed to set up a Chinese school where Chinese would be the first foreign language. The school would equip the students with the abilities to embrace more job opportunities.” Recollected Yaramova.

By far, there are 8 classes at the school. The youngest student is no more than 5 years old. 10 Chinese classes per week are included in the primary curriculum, and 18 for secondary one. “Parents send their children here for our Chinese lessons.” Yaramova hoped to see her students studying in China and then becoming a link for bilateral communication.

Laya Mativa (transliteration), deputy mayor of Targovishte, also sensed the ‘Chinese fever’.

“We cooperate frequently with the Confucius Institute at Veliko Turnovo University. They are the strong base for our Chinese class. Now, we have Chinese class at 3 kindergartens and 1 middle school. Preschool kids depend on their parents to choose a foreign language, and that’s where you see more and more parents are turning to Chinese.” According to Mativa, their municipal government also facilitates Chinese education in many ways, including the provision of accommodation for Chinese teachers.

What Mandova has witnessed substantiates the opinions above, “In the past, English is the most popular first foreign language at school. But now, it’s Chinese.”

Statistics from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Science of Bulgaria shows that there are now over 20 primary and secondary schools that include Chinese into their curriculum, and the number of Chinese learners at school has recently reached almost 800.

“We learn both Chinese and Chinese culture”

To the study group members, language always comes along with culture. That is why promoting Chinese culture also matters. The goal of the Gorseev School is to provide lessons on Chinese and Chinese culture, HSK-related courses, and study programs in China.

Yaramova was proud of their Chinese cultural activities on some traditional Chinese festivals. On the Spring Festival and the Mid-Autumn Festival, for example, there will be activities like students making dumplings and moon-cakes together. “In class, there are activities like paper-cutting and calligraphy, so that our Chinese language learners can learn the culture as well.”

The City of Targovishte shares the same idea. Those characteristic Chinese cultural activities they hold are popular among the local. “If the event is big enough, it will even attract all citizens.” Says Mativa, “Cultural events have become a window of Bulgaria to China.”

Genchev learns Chinese culture from Bulgarian Chinese, “They are diligent and kind. That’s also how I understand ancient Chinese philosophy.”

He believes that, while China strikes the world as an ancient civilization with long history and profound culture, the world should also notice China’s rapid development within such a short time. His publishing house plans to issue an ‘encyclopedia’ on Chinese culture, art, poetry, so on and so forth. “This follows the trend that our people want to know more about China. Culture should be perceived as a whole. But now, people may know more about historic Chinese than modern one. That’s one void the publishing house is trying to fill.” said Genchev.