Text by Zhao Xuan
In many countries around the globe, Chineseculture is already irreplaceably infused in themainstream — various Chinese restaurantsabound while T-shirts with fanciful Chinesecharacters are seen frequently and martial arts clubsattract youngsters to the timeless practice. However,textbooks with simplified Chinese characters andhistory books from the Chinese mainland are rarelyfound in bookstores, let alone an institute specializingin interpreting modern China’s social phenomena.
As a result, some foreigners with interest in Chinaand Chinese culture have been embarrassed on certainoccasions: Some learned the Fujian dialect overseasbefore realizing their “Chinese” could not be understoodin major cities like Beijing or Shanghai; whilesome mistakenly assumed traditional Chinese characterswere the standard across the mainland, ratherthan simplified script.
In recent decades, along with economic reformand development, dramatic changes have taken placein China, which injected new vitality into Chinese culture.The world is increasingly focused on China, withaspirations to better understand the nation. But, aftera long period of isolation, China lacked elementsto represent its modern culture beyond its borders.“What on earth is genuine modern Chinese culture?” is a common question today. “How can I gain intimateunderstanding of it?”
To provide foreigners with convenient access toChinese culture, the first two Chinese Culture Centers,as overseas permanent institutes for promoting Chineseculture, were established in 1988 in Mauritius andBenin. They were followed by seven others opened inthe 21st century in Cairo, Paris, Malta, Seoul, Berlin,Tokyo, and Ulan Bator.
Spreading Chinese Culture
In Cotonou, the economic capital of Benin, an elegantChinese-style archway marks the headquarters ofBenin’s Chinese Culture Center. Through its scheduleof various performances, exhibitions, and lectures, thecompound is often crowded with locals from all walksof life. When a short-term martial arts training programstaged graduation performances recently, dozensof African students, men and women, practiced Chinesekung fu to the rhythm of music, winning a warmresponse from spectators.