First lady takes in some Peking Opera

Updated: 2014-03-23 02:30

By Liu Wei (China Daily)

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United States first lady Michelle Obama took time out from her China itinerary to watch a Peking Opera drama about monkeys with US students and teachers at the Summer Palace in Beijing on Saturday.

Obama and her mother and two daughters arrived at the opera stage inside the 126-year-old garden around 2:40 pm.

The students, mostly sixth to eighth graders from Thomas Middle School and Southern Middle School in Chicago, all chose Chinese as their foreign language optional course in school.

Their summer trip to China was scheduled much earlier than their Chinese teacher Brenda Hsu knew that the first lady would also visit the Summer Palace on Saturday. Hsu tried to contact the White House 10 days ago to see if they could meet in Beijing, and it was confirmed on March 19, one day before the first lady arrived.

"We are very honored to meet the first lady here in Beijing, because she has been a very active supporter and promoter of education and cultural exchange," Hsu said.

Her student, 14-year-old Mason Grabowski started learning Chinese four years ago and believes it is the language of the future.

"Learning Chinese is a cool thing in school. It is good for business and job opportunities," he said. 'It is a hard language, but it is never too early to start learning it."

The students introduced themselves to Obama and talked about their courses in school.

Most students and teachers are aware of Obama”s Let”s Move campaign to solve the epidemic of childhood obesity and her devotion to education.

"She has been promoting important things and good values, and does a great job communicating with children," said Kathy Durand, a businesswoman from Chicago.

Durand joined the trip with her daughter, 13-year-old Claire, a student at Thomas Middle School. Claire was born in China and adopted by the Durand family when she was one year of age.

"We want her to learn as much about Chinese culture as possible and it is fun we learn it together," she said.