Poetry, printmaking and more draw international students to event at XJTLU

24 May 2024

A Chinese poetry recitation contest and a culture fair were highlights of an event recently held at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (XJTLU) to celebrate International Chinese Language Day.

The “2024 Suzhou Dushu Lake Science and Education Innovation District International Chinese Language Day” brought together nearly 300 students from institutions including XJTLU, Soochow University, Renmin University of China’s Suzhou Campus, and SKEMA Business School’s Suzhou Campus.

International students hosting the event

Poetry recitation competition

The “Whispers of Jiangnan: Classical Chinese Poetry Recitation Competition”attracted nearly 100 students. Xapnakhone Maosomphou, a Year Three student from Laos at Soochow University, won the first prize.

“Participating in the competition has deepened my cultural understanding,” he said. “As I delved into the meanings behind the traditional poems and the lives of poets, I became quite curious about the circumstances that inspired such timeless verses.”

Ying Zhao, Associate Language Lecturer at XJTLU’s School of Languages, added: “Reciting Chinese classical poems about Suzhou can help students appreciate the city’s scenery and cultural heritage.”

Xapnakhone Maosomphou (second from right)

Culture Fair

At the “Traditional Chinese Culture Fair,” Liqiu Wang, Xiaming Cai, and Feifan Zhang, each an expert in an artisan craft that is part of China’s intangible cultural heritage, introduced students to lantern making, silk tapestry making (kesi), Taohuawu woodblock printing, and Luban puzzle locks. Because these experts have learned artisan craft skills passed down through the years, they are known as “inheritors” of their craft.

Zhang, inheritor of Taohuawu woodblock prints, said: “We’ve always been committed to bringing intangible cultural heritage into campuses. At today’s event, I can feel the strong interest from international students from around the world.”

Taohuawu woodblock printings

Silk tapestry making

Lantern making

International students unlocking Luban puzzel locks

Evangel Solomon, a MRes Computer Science student at XJTLU from Nigeria, tried making a silk tapestry at the culture fair.

He said: “I used to see a large kesi machine at a museum in Suzhou, and I was really interested. I’m excited to learn kesi here today. I think this Chinese handicraft is very creative and unique.”

An international student learns how to tie a Chinese knot

International students wearing hanfu, a type of traditional Chinese clothes

The culture fair also featured booths for traditional snacks, such as mugwort mochi, crabapple cake, glutinous rice cake, and candy made of hawthorn fruit; and booths for Chinese arts, such as tea ceremony, music created by plucking the strings of a zither (guzheng), traditional clothing (hanfu), and music created by the kuaiban, an instrument that accompanies storytelling performaces.

Aylar Bodaghi, from Iran, is pursuing a master’s degree in Teaching Chinese to Speakers of Other Languages (TCSOL) at Soochow University. She expressed her interest in traditional Chinese clothes, musical instruments, and the Chinese language.

“I tried hanfu and guzheng today. Guzheng has such a distinctive sound. I’m considering getting myself a tutor to learn the instrument,” Bodaghi said.

“I immersed myself in the Chinese culture today with students from all over the world, and we shared about our own cultures using Chinese – a language we all speak. This is very meaningful,” she said.

A teacher helping an international student tape artificial nails before plucking the strings of a zither (guzheng)

Connecting cultures at XJTLU

Helen Beech, Dean of XJTLU’s School of Languages, said that the School is committed to helping students learn languages while understanding the cultures behind them.

“Chinese isn’t merely a language. It also embodies splendid culture and profound cultural heritage,” she said. “We hope we can work together to promote the international communication of the language and culture.”

Helen Beech

Zhenzhen Shen

Zhenzhen Shen, Deputy Director of the Higher Education Cooperation and Development Bureau of Suzhou Dushu Lake Science and Education Innovation District, said:

“Language is the vessel of culture. It also preserves and disseminates its essence. I hope today’s event can help students feel the charm of the Chinese language and culture. I also hope students can actively contribute to building bridges for cooperation, exchange, and mutual learning between China and other countries.”

The event was co-organised by Suzhou Dushu Lake Universities and Colleges Development Union, the Communist Youth League Working Committee of Suzhou Dushu Lake Science and Education Innovation District, with support from XJTLU’s School of Languages and Arts Centre. Ji Sheng, Director of the Foreign Affairs Office of Suzhou Industrial Park, and Dr Henghua Su, Director of XJTLU’s Modern Languages Centre, also attended the opening ceremony.


By Xinyi Liu and Yaxin Liu
Translated by Xueqi Wang
Edited by Xinmin Han
Photos by Yaxin Liu


24 May 2024


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