‘Chinese Bridge’ competition ignites passion for the language, culture and values of China
One World, One Family
Published: Jun 25, 2023 10:08 PM
Photo: VCG

Participants pose for a photo at the 22nd "Chinese Bridge" Chinese Proficiency Competition at the University College London in London on June 23, 2023.  Photo: VCG

The finals of the Chinese Bridge Competition were successfully held in London on Friday. The competition, with the theme of "One World, One Family," attracted participants from Chinese departments, related disciplines, language centers and Confucius Institutes across the UK. 

Hosted by the UK Representative Office of the Center for Language Education and Cooperation with the support of the Education Office of the Chinese Embassy in the UK, the competition featured a variety of activities, including speeches, a cultural knowledge quiz, self-made videos, Chinese talent performances and an impromptu Q&A session. 

Broader perspective

Innovating on the competition format in 2023, the London finals featured a total of 18 finalists. Among them, 10 participants represented Chinese-major students, while eight participants represented the students who were not pursuing Chinese as a major. These talented individuals vied for the top three positions within their respective groups, and contended for four individual awards: Best Talent, Best Creativity, Best Oratory and Best Knowledge.

Sol Stappard from the University of Manchester claimed the champion title in the Chinese-major group, while Sebastian Louis Jackson, a physics student from Heriot-Watt University, emerged victorious in the non-major category of the competition.

Stappard shared his thoughts on his two-year learning journey. "I have gained an appreciation for the wisdom, values, and ways of thinking of the Chinese people," he said. "For example, phrases like 'know yourself, know your enemy, and you shall not be defeated' from Sun Tzu's The Art of War and the concept of a harmonious society depicted in The Book of Rites. It has not only enriched my knowledge but also provided me with a broader perspective to understand the world."

Through immersing himself in the beauty of tea culture and traditional Chinese clothing, Stappard has cultivated a profound appreciation for cultural diversity. These experiences have not only deepened his understanding of different cultures but also ignited a strong desire to forge friendship and establish meaningful connections with individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds.

"I had concerns that the prolonged pandemic, which lasted over three years, might adversely affect Chinese language learning. However, it is evident that the overall society in the UK, including students, parents, and schools, has an increasing demand for interactions with China, a longing for Chinese culture, and a growing need for Chinese language learning," Chen Tongdu,  head of the UK Hanban office, told the Global Times. 

After the competition notice was issued earlier in 2023, it received enthusiastic responses and active registrations from students and teachers at universities throughout the UK. The preliminary rounds, organized by participating institutions across the UK, took place from April 1 to May 5, with nearly 100 participants from over 15 universities.

Throughout the six-hour event on Friday, both online and offline interactions were key as organizers conducted livestreams on social media platforms and witnessed the participation of schools that eagerly watched and voted for their favorites.

Chen told the Global Times that a hierarchical structure for Chinese language learning has been established in the UK, including universities, Confucius Institutes, independent schools and state schools. The Chinese Bridge competitions have formed a relay team comprising universities, secondary schools and primary schools, which greatly helps promote Chinese language learning, Chen explained. 

This 2023 iteration of the competition at the university level showcased an impressive number of non-major contestants who displayed remarkable proficiency. "This accomplishment has left us with a sense of purpose and affirmation that we are making meaningful progress in the right direction," said Chen.

Global platform

Every year, contestants from the UK advance to the global top 30 and have won global championships, runners-up, European championships, Asian championships, as well as various first, second and third prizes and individual awards. Over 50 participants from the UK Regional Finals have been selected to compete in China, achieving remarkable results over the past few years.

Since its establishment in 2002, the Chinese Bridge Chinese Proficiency Competition has garnered the participation of over 800,000 individuals from 126 countries and regions in its preliminary rounds held overseas. Furthermore, more than 4,200 exceptional contestants have had the opportunity to travel to China for the global semifinals and finals.

As a prestigious event hosted by the Center for Language Education and Cooperation under the Ministry of Education of China, this competition has not only served as a platform for showcasing the accomplishments of international Chinese promotion, but also acted as a bridge for cultural exchanges between China and other nations. It has become a significant window, through which people worldwide can gain insight into the advancements made in promoting the Chinese language and fostering understanding between different cultures.