South Charlotte

Confucius Institute shares culture with Charlotte

The Confucius Institute at Pfeiffer University on Park Road marks its two-year anniversary this fall.

The institute opened in November 2009 to promote awareness of Chinese language, culture and business practices. The nonprofit organization accomplishes this mission through education, cultural exchange and providing consulting services to companies wanting to do business in China.

The institute ofers a wide array of Chinese cultural lectures on various topics. Professor Weihong Yan, 50, who teaches in Pfeiffer's School of Humanities, directs the institute.

Yan says the public may contact the institute to schedule a free lecture for businesses, community organizations, school groups or even book clubs. Lecturers will bring their presentations to the desired location.

"We're ready to go," Yan said.

Lectures are categorized under broad headings including Chinese civilization and art, business, Chinese ideology, scenic spots and historical sites in China, the contrast between Chinese and American cultures, China and the life of the Chinese, and the history of China.

Led by the institute's instructors - many of whom are here from China for only a year or two - lectures typically run about 40-75 minutes and include question-and-answer sessions.

Yan, who speaks English and Mandarin Chinese, says he presents some lectures himself, including "The Art of Chinese Writing and Calligraphy," "Western Supplements and Chinese Herbs," "China Market Entry - Investment in China" (for business), "The Way of the Superior Man" (about Confucian thought) and "Changing Before My Eyes: The Last 30 Years in China."

The topics are timely: Yan has a strong interest in Chinese writing and calligraphy and is co-authoring a book on the subject.

He cites the popularity of dietary supplements as a reason for the supplement and herb discussion.

Examples of additional lectures include "Eating in China: Tofu, Vinegar and Chopsticks," "Chinese Table Manners," "Traditional Chinese Wedding" and "Please and Thank You - Chinese Views on Politeness."

Being polite is a recurring theme. Yan accepts a reporter's business card purposefully and with both hands, bestowing a friendly cultural lesson. He says receiving the card with two hands is a sign of respect.

Confucius institutes are initiatives of the Chinese Language Council International, also known as Hanban, affiliated with the Ministry of Education in China.

Charlotte's Confucius Institute is one of two in the state; the other is at N.C. State University in Raleigh.