The United Nations (UN) celebrated Chinese Language Day Wednesday with a series of activities in an effort to highlight the historical and cultural importance of each of its six official languages.
Dozens of UN staff members and diplomats from different countries gathered at a conference room in the UN headquarters to enjoy this gala, applauding the wonderful performances given by Chinese artists.
The date was chosen by the United Nations to pay tribute to Cang Jie, a mythical figure who is credited with having invented Chinese characters about 5,000 years ago.
A concert of traditional Chinese music by musicians from China Conservatory won applause from the audience. One piece of ancient Chinese music portrayed the magnificent moonlit scenery of a spring night with a soft and graceful melody, and the flowing variations of rhythm touched the hearts of the listeners.
"The music is very, very beautiful," said Michael Anzivina, a retired lawyer from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). "I may not quite understand it, but I enjoy myself."
"I have been to China twice with the UN, and I am learning Chinese now," he said, trying to say the word "lawyer" correctly in Chinese.
Martial arts are also an important part of Chinese culture. Performers of a martial arts group from China's Henan province impressed the viewers with incredible Kongfu.
A martial arts performance amused the audience by vividly imitating animals such as the monkey, snake and tiger. The performers also taught the audience some movements that promote physical health.
As part of the celebration, an exhibition of Chinese painting and calligraphy was held at the UN headquarters. Mu Jiashan, a Chinese artist living in the United States, exhibited his Chinese ink painting skills on the Grand Canyon in the United States.
"The American people still have limited knowledge about China," he said. "In appreciating the Chinese painting, I hope they would understand the harmonious spirit embraced by the Chinese people."
Deborah Fallows, author of the book "Dreaming in Chinese," gave a lecture about her experience of living in China and learning the Chinese language. During her three-year stay in China, she traveled almost all over the country and was amazed by the diverse cultures and dialects in different parts of China.
"One of the biggest lessons we learned from living in China was that we should not think of China as a big country with 1.3 billion people who are basically the same, but one big country with 1.3 billion individuals who are all different and strive for different things with different dreams, yet working together with the country," she told Xinhua.
At the ceremony celebrating Chinese Language Day, 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 is the world's most widely spoken language.
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.
Addressing the ceremony, Li Baodong, Chinese permanent representative to the United Nations, said that Chinese characters and the Chinese language have played an invaluable role in sharing the best of Chinese culture with the rest of the world.
"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.
This is the second time that the United Nations has celebrated Chinese Language Day, the first time being 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 Chinese people and is understood by an estimated 95 percent.
Last year, the UN Department of Public Information (DPI) introduced the Language Days to celebrate 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)