People who have wanted to try their hand at martial arts or dabble in the Chinese language soon will have their chance thanks to a series of new courses offered by the Confucius Institute at the University of Arizona, or CIUA, this semester.
The non-credit classes, which include courses in traditional Chinese music, language, martial arts and tai chi, are open to all members of the UA and greater Tucson communities. They will be taught by visiting scholars from China.
Classes begin in late January and early February. Registration, course schedules and fee information are available on the UA Outreach College website. Pre-registration is required.
The UA Confucius Institute was formed in 2008 in collaboration with the Office of Chinese Language Council International, or Hanban. It is one of 400 Confucius Institutes in the world and one of 80 in the United States, dedicated to promoting Chinese language and culture.
Since its creation, CIUA has focused largely on developing curriculum to prepare professors in China to teach in the U.S. It is now expanding its work to also bring Chinese cultural education to the local community, focusing specifically on Chinese language, Chinese health and medicine, and Chinese performing arts.
“Our goal is to bring the China experience to Tucson,” said Zhao Chen, who co-directs the institute, along with John Olsen, UA Regents’ Professor of Anthropology. “This is a really unique opportunity for our local people to have access to Chinese culture with the best possible teachers we can get from China. Not many places have these kinds of resources.”
In November and December, the institute offered short courses on Chinese culture to the community. Those classes now have been expanded into 13 semester-long classes that will begin in late January and early February.
Among them are three language courses – Chinese for Tourists, Chinese for Business and HSK Preparation for students preparing to take the HSK (Chinese Proficiency Test) – all of which will be taught by visiting scholar Cara Yuan from Henan University of Science and Technology. Yuan has a master’s degree in literature from Beijing University.
Tai Chi Master Junming Zhao, a visiting scholar from the Songshan Shaolin Vocational Institute in China, will teach two courses in Chinese Tai Chi, Chen Style, for adults 50 and older, as well as a course in Chinese Tai Chi, Chen Style, for younger students and a Chinese Martial Arts course. Zhao, who has won numerous international martial arts and tai chi competitions, also will teach a tai chi class and a kung fu class through Campus Recreation.
Dongxiao Zhang, from Zhongshan University in Guangzhou, China, and the music director of the Zhongshan University Chinese Orchestra, will present two courses in ruan performance and two courses in guzheng performance. The ruan is a Chinese plucked string instrument with a fretted neck, a circular body and four strings. The 2,000-year-old guzheng is a Chinese plucked zither with 21 strings and movable bridges.
All courses, with the exception of HSK Preparation, are designed for beginners. Target audiences include UA students and employees, community members and K-12 students with an interest in Chinese language and culture, said Chen, UA professor of public health.
Most courses will be held at the UA or at the Tucson Chinese Cultural Center, 1288 W. River Road.
The new classes aren’t the only way the institute is helping introduce Chinese culture to the public. In September, the institute presented its first Chinese Cultural Festival, a nine-day celebration of Chinese language and culture that attracted nearly 3,000 people. Moving forward, the institute is working to develop additional community cultural demonstrations and programs, including a summer camp for K-12 students, to be offered in June, Chen said. Planning also is under way for the annual Chinese New Year Festival, which will feature several performances by local and visiting artists, on Feb. 3 at 2 p.m. at Centennial Hall.
Chen hopes the institute’s new efforts can succeed in serving those in the community who are curious about Chinese culture.
“When you start to understand another culture,” she said, “it opens another set of windows for people to look at the world differently.”