UN hosts Chi­nese Lan­guage Day

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSSAMERICA - BY JACK FREIFELDER in New York jack­freifelder@chindai­lyusa.com

The United Na­tions cel­e­brated its 5th an­nual Chi­nese Lan­guage Day on Thurs­day with a se­ries of ac­tiv­i­ties aimed at high­light­ing the his­tor­i­cal im­por­tance of Chi­nese lan­guage and cul­ture.

The cel­e­bra­tion, hosted by the UN in con­junc­tion with its Lan­guage Days ini­tia­tive, brought to­gether close to 100 people at the UN’s Dag Ham­marskjold Li­brary Au­di­to­rium.

Zhang Xu g u ang , a renowned cal­lig­ra­pher who serves as the vice-sec­re­tary gen­eral of the China Artists As­so­ci­a­tion in Bei­jing, said the UN is the “big­gest stage in the world” for pro­mot­ing cross­cul­tural ex­change.

“Chi­nese Lan­guage Day is a great op­por­tu­nity to pro­mote and show the cul­ture of China, and as a re­sult, the arts,” Zhang said. “As a cal­lig­ra­pher, it is my duty and re­spon­si­bil­ity to spread Chi­nese cul­ture and sym­bol­ism.”

The UN first cel­e­brated Chi­nese Lan­guage Day on Nov 12, 2010, but the event was moved to April be­gin­ning in 2011 to co­in­cide with the tale of Cangjie — a leg­endary an­cient Chi­nese fig­ure cred­ited with the in­ven­tion of Chi­nese char­ac­ters sev­eral thou­sand years ago.

Chi­nese Lan­guage Day fea­tured a va­ri­ety of events, in­clud­ing cal­lig­ra­phy writ­ing work­shops, tra­di­tional mu­sic per­for­mances and Chi­nese art demon­stra­tions.

Zhang, who be­gan learn­ing cal­lig­ra­phy at a young age, said the art form is not as wide­spread as it once was, but “pop­u­lar­ity is start­ing to pick back up”.

“With the de­vel­op­ment of sci­ence and the mod­ern­iza­tion of writ­ing, cal­lig­ra­phy is no longer a use­ful way to learn Chi­nese char­ac­ters,” he said. “But, the beauty and cul­tural ap­peal of cal­lig­ra­phy has in­creased in past years.”

“Cal­lig­ra­phy in China is unique,” he said. “For thou­sands of years, Chi­nese people have learned cal­lig­ra­phy as the way to learn their char­ac­ters. It is one of the old­est as­pects of Chi­nese cul­ture.”

The United Na­tions Ed­u­ca­tional, Sci­en­tific and Cul­tural Or­ga­ni­za­tion (UNESCO) launched the UN Lan­guage Days ini­tia­tive in Fe­bru­ary 2010, as an en­deavor to pro­mote each of the in­ter­gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tion’s six of­fi­cial work­ing lan­guages.

How­ever, UN Lan­guage Days is not the only off­shoot of UNESCO’s ef­forts.

In­ter­na­tional Mother Lan­guage Day, an­other world­wide ap­pre­ci­a­tion event, is held an­nu­ally in Fe­bru­ary to in­crease the un­der­stand­ing of cul­tural and lin­guis­tic di­ver­sity.

UNESCO is a spe­cial­ized agency of the UN, and its pur­pose is to pro­mote in­ter­na­tional col­lab­o­ra­tion through ed­u­ca­tion, sci­ence and cul­ture.

Zhang also con­ducts classes for UN mem­bers in­ter­ested in or look­ing to learn the art of an­cient Chi­nese cal­lig­ra­phy.

“This is the third time I’m here to spread Chi­nese cul­ture, but es­pe­cially cal­lig­ra­phy,” Zhang said. “People need an emo­tional con­nec­tion with China more and more, and I am a pro­moter of clas­sic Chi­nese cul­ture and lan­guage.”

Chi­nese is now spo­ken by more than a bil­lion people world­wide.

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JACK FREIFELDER / CHINA DAILY

Zhang Xuguang, vice-sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the China Artists As­so­ci­a­tion in Bei­jing, poses for a photo next to an in­stal­la­tion of his cal­lig­ra­phy work at the United Na­tions (UN) in New York on Thurs­day. Zhang, a renowned cal­lig­ra­pher, was in New York to at­tend the UN’s an­nual Chi­nese Lan­guage Day event.

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