The George Washington University celebrated the opening of the Confucius Institute, a center to promote Chinese language and cultural studies on campus, on April 10. President Steven Knapp and several education officials from China inaugurated the institute with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, followed by a reception at the Colonials Club in the Charles E. Smith Center.
Headquartered at the Office of Chinese Language International (known as Hanban), Confucius Institutes are international centers designed to promote cultural exchanges between China and other countries. George Washington University is one of approximately 90 American colleges to open a Confucius Institute, and has partnered with Nanjing University in Jiangsu, China. GW will host Nanjing University faculty members and graduate students to administer the institute’s operations.
Xu Lin, the director general at Hanban, and Hong Yinxing, the chancellor of Nanjing University, joined Dr. Knapp in the ribbon cutting, held in front of the recently renovated Confucius Institute building at 2147 F Street. Dr. Knapp then led a group of Nanjing University officials and Hanban dignitaries on a tour of the new space.
After the tour, more than 120 attendees gathered for the reception, which began with senior Andrew Chester reciting a poem in Chinese. Columbian College of Arts and Sciences Dean Peg Barratt and Dr. Knapp provided opening remarks.
“This will bring together two cultures to create and exchange knowledge in language and education,” Dr. Knapp said. “We can also hope that going beyond that focus, we’ll have an opportunity to develop a relationship with Nanjing University. We look forward to seeing that relationship blossom in a number of fields, including science, technology and mathematics, as well as the study of our two cultures and international histories.”
Ms. Xu and Mr. Hong took to the stage to express their excitement about working with the George Washington University. Ms. Xu called the event “too beautiful” for words.
“It’s my expectation that we’ll use the Confucius Institute at the George Washington University as a platform for further collaboration in vital areas,” Mr. Hong said through a translator. “I’d like to wish a complete success to the Confucius Institute of the George Washington University and to the most important thing: an everlasting friendship between George Washington University and Nanjing University.”
Dr. Knapp, Mr. Hong and Ms. Xu then unveiled the official Confucius Institute plaque, which will be placed outside the new building. To thank Mr. Hong and Ms. Xu for their help launching the institute, Dr. Knapp and Provost Steven Lerman presented them with two commemorative crystals engraved with their names.
Final remarks came from Susan Stevenson, deputy assistant secretary for public diplomacy in the State Department’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and senior Julian Panero, who participated as an emcee throughout the program. The reception closed with a toast to the new institute.
Senior Ian Everhart, a Chinese and economics major, has been studying Chinese for three years. He said the reception illustrated GW’s commitment to international relationships.
“GW has one of the best Chinese departments in the D.C. region, and I hope this will encourage a better understanding of China, since that’s one of the key relationships for the U.S. going into the next few decades,” he said.