“If you can speak Chinese and can write Chinese characters, you can get to know China better,” Stephen A. Orlins, an expert on US-China relations, said last Thursday.
Joining UN staff members celebrating the Chinese Language Day, Orlins, who is president of the National Committee on US-China Relations, made the remarks in Chinese at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
The UN Chinese Language Day has been observed annually on April 20 since 2010 to celebrate the language’s overall contribution to the world and to encourage more people to take it up.
This year’s celebration included a calligraphy exhibition by Pang Zhonghua, a well-known pioneer of hard-nib calligraphy in China, martial arts performances and a showcase of cultural customs of the Qiang ethnic group mainly living in China’s southwestern province of Sichuan.
The event also provided UN staff members with an opportunity to try Chinese calligraphy with traditional brush, ink and paper.
Every year, the celebration is held roughly at the same time in April around guyu, which literally means “rain of millet,” referring to the sixth of the 24 solar terms created by ancient Chinese to carry out agricultural activities. Chinese people celebrate the day in honor of Cang Jie, a mythical figure who is presumed to have invented Chinese characters about 5,000 years ago.
Legend has it that when Cang Jie created the characters, the deities and ghosts cried and it rained millets.
Nowadays, the Chinese language is the most spoken language around the world. More than one billion people speak it as their mother tongue, which means one person in six in the world communicates using Chinese.