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Wit and wealth in 2020: Cardiff Confucius Institute sees in Year of the Rat

3 April 2020

Girl playing Chinese instrument

According to the Chinese Zodiac, 2020 is the Year of the Rat.

The rat is the first animal of the 12-year cycle which, according to ancient myth, were selected by means of a race commanded by the Jade Emperor.  The competition involved crossing a torrential river, so the rat hitched a ride of the back of the ox; pushed the cat in the water; then jumped in front of all the other animals for a victorious first place. The rat is therefore associated with wit, alertness and vitality, as well as being seen as a sign of wealth and surplus.

Chinese dragon and her baby

To celebrate the start of Chinese New Year, the team at Cardiff Confucius Institute put on a series of events across South and North Wales. The proceedings literally kicked off at Canton Library at the start of January, with martial arts Master Cheng Zhang’s first weekly Tai Chi session. On 17 January, Llansannor Primary held the first of two Language Days where pupils learned basic Mandarin. Students from Woodlands special education school had the chance to do the same on 22 January, as well as make dumplings; a traditional family activity during Chinese New Year; paint face masks and try paper-cutting.

Cardiff Confucius Institute tutors and volunteers at Chinese New Year

Later on in January, the tutors put on a special ‘Chinese Corner’ at Cardiff University’s School of Modern Languages. This event was an introduction to Chinese New Year, centred on what people in China actually do at this time of year and the reasons for them doing it. The event was extremely well-attended and included lantern-making and riddle-guessing. Both activities go back to ancient times, the second being when advisors to the Emperor gave suggestions in the forms of riddles just in case they didn’t go down too well!

Chinese tutor and child

Cardiff Confucius Institute also ran two more Chinese Corners during the New Year period; a lecture entitled ‘The Etymology of Chinese Characters’ and another called ‘Lifestyle in Modern China’. The Institute regularly holds these events at the university, giving students the opportunity to learn more about both traditional and modern China.

At the end of the month, tutors and student volunteers headed to the Red Dragon Centre for a day of hands-on Chinese activities. Children particularly enjoyed paper-cutting and making lanterns, and people of all ages had the chance to learn the Chinese version of their names and write it in Chinese characters during calligraphy sessions.

February saw a number of other cultural celebrations in South Wales, including large-scale events such as the one in Llandaff library hub. This attracted around 500 people, and included a tea ceremony, traditional costumes, Kung Fu and performances on Chinese instruments. The institute also held activities in schools including Nottage Primary and St Cyres, and Sully Primary even ran a whole week of them! Additionally, the tutors and volunteers were involved in a ‘Pupil Language Ambassador Day’ held by Routes Cymru, and ran a ‘Lantern Day’ at Cardiff University’s Business School. This is an annual event held in collaboration with the Business School, with the idea being to help Chinese students feel at home in Wales.

Chinese tea ceremony

In Ysgol Eirias, the revelries began in early February with ‘Colourful China’, a lantern festival featuring fifth-grade students from local primary schools: Ysgol Cystennin; Ysgol Pen y Bryn; Ysgol Saint Joseph; and Ysgol Nant y Groes. The pupils had the opportunity to make name bookmarks, play games and taste Chinese snacks. Year 7 students at Ysgol Eirias also performed the ancient Chinese poem ‘Tomorrow Song’.

Our tutors in North Wales also led a variety of activities celebrating the new year. Ysgol Aberconwy enjoyed sessions ranging from cookery to language-learning, and pupils were able to try their hands at Chinese art by making lanterns, an enormous dragon, and painting plates in a traditional blue and white style.

Children Chinese New Year

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