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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, November 5, 2006

COMMENTARY
Chinese legacy has spirited UH program

Island Voices
By Rosita Chang

Rosita Chang

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The verdant Hawaiian Islands in their mid-Pacific location have for more than two centuries played a siren song to travelers from the greatest land mass in East Asia. The earliest Chinese emigrants landed on Hawai'i's shores in 1789 and built the first wooden structures around Honolulu harbor that are the forerunners of the business district of modern Honolulu. In 1879, a 13-year old Chinese boy landed on these same shores, and absorbed enough modern Western (Christian) education in Honolulu's schools to topple the religious altars in his own home, and decades later, as Sun Yat-sen, overthrow an empire to establish a democracy in his homeland.

The College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts was founded in 1907 as Hawai'i's institution of higher education. A Honolulu resident of Chinese descent named William K.F. Yap is credited with having instigated the legislation that changed it to the University of Hawai'i. William Yap is honored by many as the "father of the University of Hawai'i," and a room at Hamilton Library is dedicated to him.

Given the prominence of these early connections between Hawai'i and the Chinese, and the composition of Hawai'i's population, it is not surprising that by 1930, UH ranked third among U.S. colleges and universities in the number of Asia-related courses it offered. And today, the university's Center for Chinese Studies, housed within the School of Hawaiian, Asian, and Pacific Studies, is the largest such research and training center outside of Asia. With more than 50 faculty and 150 graduate students in 23 departments, the Center for Chinese Studies, together with the centers for Japanese and Korean studies, has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a National Resource Center for East Asia one of only 17 nationally.

UH-Manoa, and the Center for Chinese Studies in particular, is particularly proud at this juncture to be recognized by the Ministry of Education of the People's Republic of China as key in promoting Chinese studies in the U.S.

Tomorrow, the Confucius Institute at UH-Manoa will be unveiled in a ceremony on campus attended by Gov. Linda Lingle, the Hon. You Shao-zhong, Minister for Education of the People's Republic of China, and Li Yaosheng, consul for education of the Los Angeles Consulate General of the PRC. UH President David McClain and Denise Eby Konan, the university's chancellor, also will attend.

Support for the Confucius Institute comes through the National Office of Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language of the Chinese Ministry of Education. There are 100 Confucius Institutes being established worldwide, including 11 in the U.S. Our partner in this enterprise is the Beijing Foreign Studies University, which traditionally trains members of China's diplomatic corps. We are delighted to count the president of BFSU, Dr. Hao Ping, as a UH-Manoa alumnus.

When fully operational, the institute will respond to local and national needs in promoting education about Chinese language and culture, including:

  • Developing a Chinese language teacher certification program, in collaboration with the UH departments of East Asian Languages and Literatures and Second Language Studies, and the UH College of Education. The Confucius Institute has the potential to become a national leader in meeting the burgeoning demand in this field.

  • Developing an articulated, online Chinese language curriculum for students grades K-12, in collaboration with the Hawai'i Department of Education and UH's National Foreign Language Resource Center. This, too, would respond to a recognized national need.

  • Developing innovative language learning opportunities for populations that are not currently being served, including a summer language immersion sports camp, weekend classes, and online lessons for executives.

  • Bringing the resources of the Center for Chinese Studies faculty and students to the business, government and general communities through lectures and other presentations.

  • Supporting Hawai'i's film resources, including the Hawaii International Film Festival and the film program at the Doris Duke Academy, and the university's own Academy for Creative Media, in promoting Chinese films and documentaries.

  • Developing an online resource base to link Hawai'i, the U.S. Mainland, the PRC and other Chinese communities elsewhere, in promoting education about Chinese language and culture.

    The University of Hawai'i is honored and delighted to be celebrating this new chapter in its relations with China, and with Chinese communities everywhere. We welcome the input of the entire Hawai'i community in this important undertaking.