By Victor Gotevbe, Editor-in-Chief; Menkiti Buchi Bernie, Features Editor; Gift Robinson, Content Writer.
There have been several festivities globally marking the beginning of a new year on the traditional Chinese calendar. Confucius institute(CI) at University of Lagos (Unilag) was not left out in the celebration of the Spring Festival and Lantern Festival in an event held on Tuesday at the Main Auditorium of Unilag, which brought together Diplomats, Government officials, the University Community and the Media.
The Spring Festival is the Chinese New Year known as Chun Jie, the most important festival in China while the Lantern Festival falls on the 15th day of the 1st lunar month, Lanterns of various shapes and sizes are hung up on the streets which attract countless visitors.
The celebration began with the singing of both the Nigerian and the Chinese National Anthems and was followed with recognition of guests. The audience was thrilled with Lion Dance performance by Huaxing Art Troupe. Next was a congratulatory new year Chinese song done by students of Jextoban Secondary school.
The Chinese Deputy Consul General, Guan Zhongqi in his opening remarks noted that this is the first year that Nigeria formally joined the family of the Belt and Road Initiative. He stated that China is ready to elevate the partnership between both countries to a new level for greater benefits. Mr. Zhongqi also expressed his appreciation to the Confucius Institute for the great work it has done in helping many Nigerian brands to learn Mandarin and understand the Chinese culture. His gratitude was also given to the Vice Chancellor of the University, Prof. Ogundipe, the Director of CI, Prof. Chimdi Maduagwu and all the people who have supported CI.
Speaking at the event, The Chinese Director of the Confucius Institute, Unilag, Professor Wang Yongjing stated that the Spring festival is the Chinese people’s identity and that irrespective of one’s background as a Chinese, rich or poor, old or young and or how far he or she stays away from home, it is expected that at the Festival, everyone could go back to their families or their parents.
However, the member of the institute are present at the event to celebrate the new year because of the people and their work in CI, UNILAG and the interest of Nigerians in Chinese language and culture.
Prof. Wang further stated, “our students are ready to learn the Chinese language and the Chinese culture following our activities the last ten years. Since 2009, we have been helping many students. Every year we send many CI’s Chinese language students to China to get the scholarship. And annually, we take 20 students and 10 principals to visit China. And we hold yearly a lot of cultural events like today. The purpose is to help the people who are interested in learning the language or about the Chinese people especially Modern China.”
Last year (2018), over 6000 students studied Chinese language at UNILAG campus and other campuses across the country according to Prof. Wang. She mentioned that over 30 events have been held and that more will be organized this year. Some of them will be on various Chinese Traditional and Contemporary Chinese so that students can learn the Chinese language or culture better. Professor Wang added that the Institute is hopeful more of their students will be employed by local Chinese enterprises in Lagos, Abuja and other parts of the country. She disclosed that the Institute does only teach Chinese language but also Taiji (martial arts), Chinese dancing and Chinese cooking.
The Deputy Vice Chancellor, Professor Folasade Ogunsola welcomed and thanked everyone present. She specially thanked CI for putting together the event and while she expressed her appreciation for the cordial relationship between UNILAG and CI. She then extended her best wishes to the Chinese Government for another new year.
The Nigerian Director of CI, Unilag, Professor Chimdi Maduagwu, welcomed all to the celebration which he described as a confluence of culture and idea. He remarked that this year’s celebration is particularly important to the Institute for one big reason having operated in the institution for a decade. He quoted a popular saying that is famous all over the world that many people do not even know the origin: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a step.
“People do not know the origin but it was said by the Chinese sage, Confucius. This journey started and had a very small beginning at the University of Lagos but today the institute has made its mark both within the University community and the entire country of Nigeria. We are delighted to say that we can see our product. The Institute has been able to help Nigerians and neighboring countries learn Chinese language and culture. We have affected up to 10,000 people in our teaching of Chinese language and culture at the institute and still teaching much.”
He revealed this year’s occasion marks the beginning of series of events that CI will hold to commemorate the 10 years of teaching of Chinese language and culture at Unilag. He ended his speech with an advance notice inviting all to designate the month of October for the grand finale of the celebration.
The event ended with other activities such as the Lantern Riddles, the Tai Chi & poetry reading spring flower moon night by CI’s teachers and students; a Chinese song titled : Sweet Honey performed by the Nigerian Navy Centre of Education and Training Technology; quiz; physical display of dumplings by CI students; musical fashion show depicting China and Nigeria’s bond, among others.