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20 February 2015, Special event in Celebration of Chinese New Year: From Chinese New Year customs to the communication between UvA and China, Meiyi Bao

Speaker: Meiyi Bao
Date: Friday 20 February 2015
Time: 14:30-16:00
Location: Room F1.15, Science Park 107, Amsterdam


The Chinese New Year 'Chun Jie' (Spring Festival) is coming soon, on February 19, according to the lunar calendar this year! Besides celebrating this important festival together, the customs of this traditional festival could also give us a hint of the modern Chinese culture and language.

For example, one of the old customs is that children need to do 'koutou' (the act of kneeling and bowing with one's head touching the ground) in front of their parents and grandparents. Although this is no longer a common action among the young generations nowadays, to show respect to the elderly or people who are at a higher position has been deeply planted in our mind as a good manner or a cultural rule. This may be one of the explanations to a comment given by a UvA professor that 'Chinese students have a tendency to be too subservient'.

On the other hand, it is also shocking to Chinese students/scholars like me at the beginning, to call our professors by their first names. It is more common for us to mention a person by his/her family name plus title at Chinese universities, even among colleagues. Unless the person's family name is Fu, then the person might feel offended if you call him/her Professor Fu. Since in Chinese under the same pronunciation 'fu' there are several characters, and one of them means 'subordinate', then Professor Fu sounds like 'Associate Professor'. Although this example is only a joke, it reflexes the social distance between people and the emphasis on class in the Chinese professional and academic context.

Having a better understanding of both the Chinese and western language and culture may help the scholars who work in both China and the Netherlands to conduct smoother collaborations. And in order to connect these two cultures by way of a rapid path, like going through a 'wormhole', let's open our 'nao dong' (brain hole, a new popular metaphor in Chinese for creative, innovative or even crazy ideas) to welcome generously shared ideas. I would also like to share with you my eight years of experience in the Netherlands and Europe as a student before and also now as a lecturer in Chinese language and culture.

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