"Chinese characters and the Chinese language have played an invaluable role as a carrier in bringing the best of the Chinese culture to the whole world," Li Baodong, the Chinese permanent representative to the United Nations, said Wednesday.
Li made the remarks as he was speaking to a ceremony at the UN headquarters in New York on Wednesday evening to celebrate the Chinese Language Day.
"Today, we see more and more exchanges between China and other countries and among their peoples," Li said. "A growing number of Chinese are learning foreign languages, and the enthusiasm of people from other countries about the Chinese language is also on the rise."
"Learning and understanding each other's language no doubt contribute to the exchanges and integration of different civilizations, and will go a long way toward promoting world peace, cooperation and prosperity," he said.
"The celebration of the Chinese Language Day in the United Nations will open a new window of opportunity and provide a new platform for people to learn more about the Chinese language and its culture," he said.
The United Nations on Wednesday celebrated the Chinese Language Day as part of the world body's continuing efforts to highlight the historical and cultural significance of each of its six official languages.
A series of activities, including workshops for writing Chinese calligraphy, a martial arts demonstration, performances of Chinese traditional music and folk dancing and a formal reception, will take place at the UN Headquarters in New York to mark the Day.
Today's date was chosen to pay tribute to Cang Jie, a mythical figure who is presumed to have invented Chinese characters about 5,000 years ago.
Also speaking at the ceremony, Kiyo Akasaka, UN under-secretary-general for communications and public information, said that the Chinese language is one of the oldest languages in the world and spoken by the most people in the globe.
Chinese is also one of the six official languages of the United Nations, Akasaka said, adding that he was pleased to see the growing enthusiasm of the UN staff about languages.
This is the second time that the United Nations celebrated the Chinese Language Day, the first one was marked last year.
The Chinese language has archaeological records dating back at least 4,000 years and is now spoken by more than a billion people. The language has several thousand dialects, but Mandarin is spoken by the majority of the people of China and understood by an estimated 95 percent.
Last year, the UN Department of Public Information (DPI) introduced Days to mark the six official languages -- Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish -- as part of wider efforts to promote multilingualism and cultural diversity at the world body.
(Xinhua News Agency April 21, 2011)