Confucius Institute ties UK to China


Campus leaders at the opening of UK’s Confucius Institute in November of 2010. Staff file photo. 

A direct connection to the world’s oldest continuous civilization now exists at UK.

The Confucius Institute was inaugurated Saturday before a full crowd at the Singletary Center for the Arts.

UK President Lee Todd introduced what he called a historic moment in UK’s history. He said the institute works toward the university’s goal of becoming more international, strengthening educational opportunities and mutual respect between the U.S. and China. Todd said as Kentucky’s flagship institution, it is UK’s responsibility  to give students a global education and to spread information and knowledge across the state.

The inaugural ceremony also included speeches from Shanghai University President Zhewei Zhou, former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao and Deputy Director of the Hanban Hu Zhiping, with UK Provost Kumble Subbaswamy serving as the master of ceremonies. Also in attendance were Sen. Mitch McConnell and Rep. Ben Chandler.

Zhou also spoke about the importance of education and the blending of cultures, and said the mission of a university is “to help our students to fulfill their dreams and consequently improve our future.”

Chao gave anecdotes about her ties to China and to Kentucky, noting that America and China are part of “an increasingly interconnected and diverse world.”

She pointed out the striking differences in the Chinese and English languages and the importance of the two cultures understanding one another, which is a main goal of UK’s new institute.

“The Chinese not just respect, but venerate education,” she said, adding that educated people create a harmonious and peaceful society.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony and calligraphy demonstration followed, as a Shanghai University professor formed Chinese words translating to “horse bring success,” in reference to Lexington’s vital role in the horse industry.

After a gift exchange between UK and SU, Zhiping gave closing remarks from the Hanban, the Confucius Institute Headquarters in China, followed by Todd.

Zhiping compared the cultural exchange that Kentucky Fried Chicken brought to China 23 years ago to the success he hopes to see in the Confucius Institute at UK, in a speech that incited laughter in the audience.

A concert followed the ceremony, connecting UK and partner institution SH in China through music, dance and martial arts.

Zhiping also said UK’s is the 68th Confucius Institute in the U.S., a number that means “fortune and prosperity” in China.

“I think [the Confucius Institute] will have an impact on this university and on this commonwealth for years to come,” Todd said at the ceremony’s conclusion.

The concert, called “China in the Commonwealth: A Musical Celebration” featured performances by the UK Chinese Ensemble, musicians from SHU, world-renowned Chinese violinist Sha and the UK

Symphony Orchestra String Ensemble in mix of Chinese and American folk music. Also featured were dance numbers by the Kentucky Chinese American Association and a martial arts demonstration by the Shaolin Kung Fu Mission in China.

Some Chinese instruments were played for the first time at UK, in accordance with the UKCI’s goal of cultural, educational and artistic exchange.

The institute will work to provide the university and its surrounding area with Chinese language programs, study abroad opportunities, a cultural lecture series and more. Language courses start in

January 2011, and more information can be found on the institute’s website,