Institute offers culture classes to faculty
Published: Monday, February 20, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, February 21, 2012 03:02
Nursing professor Karen Avino sat in a class in Penny Hall on Wednesday night, learning about the history of Chinese art and the proper way to hold a paint brush—a subject different from the medical procedures she usually deals with.
Although it was her first time attending the class, Avino said she might be able to incorporate it into her lessons.
"I may be able to use it within my class and share the ideas learned in the class with my students when we talk about art and music therapy," Avino said.
The class was part of a series of weekly courses taught by members of the Confucius Institute, a partnership between the university and Xiamen, a major city in China, which offers lessons in Chinese language, calligraphy, brush painting and martial arts to faculty, staff and their spouses.
Jianguo Chen, director of the Confucius Institute, said the department first offered classes last spring. He said the lessons have been popular and were full within one week of opening. Nearly 40 people having signed up for them this year.
He said the university community is interested in learning Chinese, even though it is a difficult language.
"People want to and are willing to learn the language," Chen said.
He said the classes coincide with the department's mission, which includes promoting a world of multiculturalism.
"It's beneficial and it helps build connections between the Chinese and American cultures," Chen said.
Many faculty and staff are taking the classes to help improve their interactions with the Chinese students at the university, said Ming Wu, a visiting scholar at the Confucius Institute. Wu said many faculty and their spouses had expressed interesting in learning about the Chinese culture.
"The purpose of these classes is to help the people from China and America communicate and understand each other on a more personal level," Wu said.
The institute will offer free advanced Kung Fu classes and lessons in Taiji, another Chinese martial arts form, for $30. Chen said students cannot take Chinese classes for free because classes for credit are offered through the College of Arts & Sciences.
"The consequence of the Confucius Institute offering Chinese 1 and Chinese 2 to students hurts the university," Chen said. "The university would then not be able to collect tuition money for those classes if free classes are offered."
Junior Mengjia Shi, a Chinese student who teaches painting and calligraphy classes, helps students in her class learn the differences between American and Asian art. She said people usually equate bamboo with Chinese art, which is often used as subjects in paintings or as a painting tool.
"Bamboo is modest and strong, just like the Chinese characteristics," Shi said.
Shi compared Western and Chinese art by placing a picture of the Mona Lisa next to a Chinese painting of a woman on the side of a landscape of mountains and flowers. She said the Mona Lisa is the center focus of the painting while in the latter, the woman is turned to the side with her head down, reflecting a traditional Chinese belief that women should not look up at people.
"The reason why artists use black and white is related to philosophy," she said. "The artist wants to express the beauty of nature and spirit. Spirit should be far away from materialism."
Deborah Williams, senior records specialist in the admissions office, said she enrolled in the class because she thought it was interesting.
Williams said she would be able to use techniques learned in class at home or in the office.
"I figured I could then use it for addressing envelopes post cards and note cards," Williams said. "I could also make a sign using the calligraphy for my new home and hang it on the wall."
Junior Sean Spurdle has taken Chinese Level 1 at the university and said the course helped build his relationships with his international students on his floor. He said he would be interested in taking classes at the institute.
"I've always been interested in the Chinese culture and language to communicate with the international students at UD," Spurdle said. "If the institute offered language speaking classes there would definitely be a strong interest on campus."