Chinese Language Day festivities at UN
UNITED NATIONS — “If you can speak Chinese and can write Chinese characters, you can get to know China better,” Stephen A. Orlins, an expert on US-China relations, said on Thursday.
Joining UN staff members celebrating the Chinese Language Day, Orlins, who is president of the National Committee on US-China Relations, made the remarks in Chinese at the UN headquarters in New York.
The UN Chinese Language Day has been observed annually on April 20 since 2010 to celebrate the language’s overall contribution to the world and to encourage more people to take it up.
This year’s celebration includes a calligraphy exhibition by Pang Zhonghua, a well-known pioneer of hardnib calligraphy in China, martial arts performances and a showcase of cultural customs of the Qiang ethnic group mainly living in China’s southwestern province of Sichuan.
The event also provided UN staff members with an opportunity to try Chinese calligraphy with traditional brush, ink and paper.
Martijn Dalhuijsen, a UN staff member who has been learning Chinese for four years, wrote the two characters of the word “China” on a piece of xuan paper, a specially made soft paper used for painting and calligraphy.
Dalhuijsen, who is from the Netherlands, said he has learned traditional Chinese calligraphy through the UN’s Chinese language program, and gained a better under- standing of Chinese culture in the process.
When he began learning calligraphy, he rushed to write with brush and ink, but his teacher taught him to calm down and meditate for a while before starting to write, Dalhuijsen recalled.
With “peace in (the) heart,” the characters can be written more beautifully, he said.
“I have learned much better to appreciate both the meaning and the etymology of the characters,” Dalhuijsen said of the importance of writing Chinese in the correct stroke order.
The chosen date for the Chinese Language Day is related to a legend of Chinese characters, too.
Every year, the celebration is held roughly at the same time in April around guyu, which literally means “rain of millet,” referring to the sixth of the 24 solar terms created by ancient Chinese to carry out agricultural activities. Chinese people celebrate the day in honor of Cang Jie, a mythical figure who is presumed to have invented Chinese characters about 5,000 years ago.
Legend has it that when Cang Jie created the characters, the deities and ghosts cried and it rained millets.
Nowadays, the Chinese language is the most spoken language around the world. More than 1 billion people speak it as their mother tongue, which means one person in six in the world communicates using Chinese.
Guests enjoy a calligraphy show at United Nations Chinese Language Day celebration in Geneva, Switzerland, on April 19.