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Spreading Chinese Culture through the Confucius Institute

Nowadays, more and more Confucius Institutes are being built in many countries around the world. There are increasing number of people attend to the Confucius Institute to study Chinese. In order to enrich Chinese language learners’ background knowledge, we will introduce some relevant knowledge about the Confucius Institute.

Even though the name is the “Confucius Institute”, westerners who come to learn Chinese in China should be aware of that the most important function is not to publicize the thoughts of Confucius, but to promote the Chinese teaching to foreigners. To make this question clearer, learners should know how the Confucius Institute produced.

The original background of Confucius Institute was a development plan formulated by the national leading group for teaching Chinese as a second foreign language. It was the development plan from 2003 to 2007 “Chinese Bridge Project” approved by the State Council in 2004. When you learn Chinese, you should know it is on this basis that the Confucius Institute came into being. The sponsor of the Confucius Institute is the national leading group for teaching Chinese as a second, which makes it is destined to carry the coloring of important Chinese teaching to foreigners.

Chen Ming, the representative people of New Confucianism and Professor of Beijing Normal University, said that he ever went to visit the Confucius Institute with his friends when they went abroad. However, he felt a little disappointed by the situation there. Foreign learners who study Mandarin Chinese may wonder why.

In his opinion, the Confucius Institute should be a place to spread culture and values. For instance, some good values like “仁者爱人(benevolence is to love people)” and “己所不欲勿施于人(do as you would be done by)” should be known by those who study in China. However, many of the Confucius Institutes are in the stage of teaching Chinese language and Taichi. Of course, they all belong to Chinese culture, but it is just knowledge but not doctrine.

Many people believe that Confucius Institute has always been in a good situation. It seems that where there is a Confucius Institute, the people there are happy and show great interest in it. However, the reality is obviously not like this. Most foreigners are not willing to learn Mandarin Chinese in the Confucius Institute.

For example, in 2007, the Globe and Mail if Canada reported that a recently declassified report by the Canada Security Intelligence Service said the opening of large amount of Confucius Institute is the careful application of so-called “soft power”. When students learn Chinese online free, they will get 145,000 search results by searching the key word “Canada Monitoring the Confucius Institute” in Google.

In April of this year, when the 53rd Confucius Institute was established in the United States, some media in America said that China is working in foreign cultural infiltration through channels like constructing the Confucius institutes. Teachers of Chinese learning programs may tell you that the response of Xu Lin, the secretary-general of the Confucius Institute Headquarter was “we have no intention of output Chinese values by building the Confucius Institute because it is different from Chinese traditional culture idea.

According to Professor Chen Ming, good values are shared by the whole human being. Even America can output their values to the world, why can’t we output our values? As a matter of fact, all good values can be widely spread. Actually, when you learn Mandarin, you will be told that not only the Confucius Institute, the overseas spread of Chinese culture often encounters the same problem. For example, TV channels were set abroad with a large scale, but the main audiences are mostly the overseas Chinese.

As Professor Chen Ming said, the cultural external communication needs not only the official power, but also needs more people to participate in it. It would be better to spread culture in the form of “supervised by the government and run by the non-governmental organizations”. Chinese teacher from summer program in China would tell you that the Confucius Institute stands for not only the Confucian school, but also the wholeChinese culture.

Therefore, some intellectuals who really care the Chinese culture should be involved to spread Chinese culture because they are more familiar with the professional knowledge. So it will promote the cultural transmission more smoothly. 

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