UCSB’s Confucius Institute, an international establishment to promote the study of Chinese language, culture, history, science, politics and economics, held its opening ceremony Monday in McCune Hall.
The Confucius Institute, one of about 400 installments located around the world, will operate out of HSSB 2220 in partnership with Shandong University in China. Representatives from the university, Shandong University, the City of Santa Barbara and the Consulate General of the Peoples Republic of China in Los Angeles were all present at the ceremony. The Institute is funded by the Office of Hanban, located in Beijing, China, with UCSB matching funds.
Religious Studies professor and Cultural Studies Director of the Confucius Institute Mayfair Yang said she began the process of starting the Confucius Institute in 2010.
“We are very happy to see that everything is finally in place,” Yang said.
Yang said the Confucius Institute would aid graduate students and faculty whose research involves Chinese Studies.
“Our Confucius Institute will place a special emphasis not only on language teaching, but on research,” Yang said. “We will put a lot of the Confucius Institute’s energies and funds into promoting China Studies on this campus.”
According to Yang, more than half of the university’s international students come from China, and the new Confucius Institute will facilitate interaction between Chinese and American students.
“We also hope to increase the synergy between International Students Studying at UCSB and our own students who have an interest in China,” Yang said. “We will try to hold social activities and scholarly lectures where we bring these two constituencies together.”
Yang said collaboration between countries like China and the United States is necessary in order to take on global issues such as climate change, terrorism and economic inequality.
“We have so many global problems that no country can solve,” said Yang. “We all have to come together and deal with our differences — graciously, politely, but persistently — and at the same time try to make stronger bridges so that we can understand each other better and ultimately work together to address these global issues.”
Consul General of the People’s Republic of China in Los Angeles Jian Liu said the Confucius Institute will teach students Chinese languages in order to facilitate communication between China and the U.S.
“Language is a bridge connecting different countries and peoples,” Liu said. “Confucius Institute has become this for promoting the beautiful Chinese language.”
Yang also spoke at the ceremony and said the Confucius Institute illustrates the university’s dedication to a global education.
“Today as we watch the Confucius Institute on campus, we are creating another opportunity for UC Santa Barbara to facilitate cultural exchange, expand our commitment to global education, and extend new learning and research options to our students,” Yang said. “We feel very, very honored to be able to sign this agreement with Shandong University.”
Chairman of the University Council for Shandong University Shouxin Li said the Confucius Institute on campus is distinct from others in the U.S. due to its academic collaboration with Shandong University in China.
“Although there are many Confucius Institutes located around the United States, I can assure you that the University of California, Santa Barbara Confucius Institute is unique because it is established through the cooperation between UCSB and Shandong University — a University near the hometown of Confucius,” Li said.
Executive Vice Chancellor David Marshall said he takes pride in the university’s strengths “in Chinese Language, history, living art, culture and society.”
“We really hope in partnership with Hanban and our distinguished colleagues at Shandong University to build on these strengths and advance study, education and research in these areas for many years to come,” Marshall said.
Santa Barbara Mayor pro tempore Gregg Hart said Santa Barbara has honored its Spanish history and is happy to see that it is now focusing on the knowledge of Chinese history.
“I’m very proud to say that we’ve come to a place where we’re going to respect both historical traditions,” Hart said.
Third-year physics major Matt Share, who is in his second year of studying Chinese, said he hopes the Confucius Institute will mean more Chinese language classes will be offered at the university.
“Right now, the intro Chinese language courses are offered in a one-year sequence, so if you want to take Chinese and you’re at a certain level, but you miss that course because of a course conflict, you have to wait a whole year,” said Share.
Second-year Chinese international student majoring in economics Xiaoke Ma performed at the ceremony on a Hulusi, a traditional instrument of the Yunnan province in southern China. She said the Confucius Institute would give her the opportunity to share her culture the campus community.
“I could let my foreign friends know what the Confucius Institute is and I could show them some of my music, like what I did today,” Ma said. “The way I speak, the way I think — it’s really different from what you guys [American students] think.”
Executive Vice Dean of the Advanced Institute of Confucian Studies at Shandong University and editor-in-chief of China’s Journal of Literature, History and Philosophy, Professor Xuedian Wang said the institute is representative of “a great opportunity to make a commitment” to cultural enrichment.
“I believe there is huge potential for our inter-cooperation,” Wang said, “So let’s work together.”