UN hosts Chinese Language Day

Updated: 2014-04-18 11:40

By Jack Freifelder in New York (China Daily USA)

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The United Nations celebrated its 5th annual Chinese Language Day on Thursday with a series of activities aimed at highlighting the historical importance of Chinese language and culture.

The celebration, hosted by the UN in conjunction with its Language Days initiative, brought together close to 100 people at the UN's Dag Hammarskjold Library Auditorium.

Zhang Xuguang, a renowned calligrapher who serves as the vice-secretary general of the China Artists Association in Beijing, said the UN is the "biggest stage in the world" for promoting cross-cultural exchange.

"Chinese Language Day is a great opportunity to promote and show the culture of China, and as a result, the arts," Zhang said. "As a calligrapher, it is my duty and responsibility to spread Chinese culture and symbolism."

The UN first celebrated Chinese Language Day on Nov 12, 2010, but the event was moved to April beginning in 2011 to coincide with the tale of Cangjie - a legendary ancient Chinese figure credited with the invention of Chinese characters several thousand years ago.

Chinese Language Day featured a variety of events, including calligraphy writing workshops, traditional music performances and Chinese art demonstrations.

Zhang, who began learning calligraphy at a young age, said the art form is not as widespread as it once was, but "popularity is starting to pick back up".

"With the development of science and the modernization of writing, calligraphy is no longer a useful way to learn Chinese characters," he said. "But, the beauty and cultural appeal of calligraphy has increased in past years."

"Calligraphy in China is unique," he said. "For thousands of years, Chinese people have learned calligraphy as the way to learn their characters. It is one of the oldest aspects of Chinese culture."

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) launched the UN Language Days initiative in February 2010, as an endeavor to promote each of the intergovernmental organization's six official working languages.

However, UN Language Days is not the only offshoot of UNESCO's efforts.

UN hosts Chinese Language Day

International Mother Language Day, another worldwide appreciation event, is held annually in February to increase the understanding of cultural and linguistic diversity.

UNESCO is a specialized agency of the UN, and its purpose is to promote international collaboration through education, science and culture.

Zhang also conducts classes for UN members interested in or looking to learn the art of ancient Chinese calligraphy.

"This is the third time I'm here to spread Chinese culture, but especially calligraphy," Zhang said. "People need an emotional connection with China more and more, and I am a promoter of classic Chinese culture and language."

Chinese is now spoken by more than a billion people worldwide.


 UN hosts Chinese Language Day

Zhang Xuguang, vice-secretary-general of the China Artists Association in Beijing, poses for a photo next to an installation of his calligraphy work at the United Nations (UN) in New York on Thursday. Zhang, a renowned calligrapher, was in New York to attend the UN's annual Chinese Language Day event. Jack Freifelder / China Daily

(China Daily USA 04/18/2014 page2)