Experience traditional Chinese culture with the Confucius Institute

The Confucius Institute, UAA’s center for Chinese culture, will host Chinese Cultural Workshops throughout the fall and spring semesters. The four workshops, Chinese Martial Arts, Chinese Painting, Chinese Instrument – Erhu and Chinese Calligraphy provide an opportunity for students to learn and experience parts of traditional Chinese culture.

Participants of the Confucius Institute’s 2017 workshop focus on Chinese painting styles. The organization has put on workshops for students for the last eight years. Photo courtesy of the Confucius Institute

The Confucius Institute has offered various combinations of workshops every semester for eight years. Jing Ren, whose English name is Jane, is the Institute’s cultural event coordinator, and she arranged the workshops for this semester.

“We volunteer at the [Confucius Institute] to give Americans who are interested in Chinese culture the access that they are wanting,” Jane said.

One of the newer workshops offered is the Chinese Instrument – Erhu. The erhu is a traditional instrument in China, consisting of two strings and played with a bow. Erhuss will be provided during the workshop, and participants will get a chance to listen to how it’s played and learn a few techniques.

“The erhu is similar to a violin, and its sound is very moving,” Jane said.

Mingyang Li, or Lee, focuses on Chen style Tai Chi in his lessons. which students can take on Sept. 22. Photo courtesy of the Confucius Institute

This semester, the Confucius Institute is putting a lot of emphasis on the Martial Arts workshop due to the prestige of the teacher, a skilled martial arts master named Mingyang Li, or Lee. Lee focuses on Chen style Tai Chi in the lessons, aiming to help expand students’ understanding of martial arts beyond what they’ve seen on TV.

“When I ask my students what they think of martial arts, they say fighting, but it isn’t about striking. Stopping the use of weapons and seeking reconciliation is the true spirit of martial arts,” Lee said.

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Lee has been practicing Chinese martial arts for 18 years, beginning when he was 6 years old. At 10, he enrolled in a professional school of martial arts, and at 16, he won his first championship. Lee went on to win five more championships while earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Martial Arts.

Lee has been a martial arts teacher for three years and continues to practice eight hours a day.

“My students often ask me what the meaning of practicing so much is,” Lee said. “It’s about challenging, overcoming and exploring your body’s energy.”

Lee says his classes not only teach martial arts but also wisdom and strategy, which can be used as a way of thinking when the student is in a hard environment. His workshops also expose students to the many health benefits of Tai Chi, including healthy breathing techniques and coordination of inner organs. According to Lee, it is believed to help those in the practice live a long life.

“Practicing Tai Chi for 10 minutes gives you the same physical and internal benefits as an hour of running,” Lee said. “It uses eight parts of your body at once.”

All of the Chinese Cultural Workshops are free and open to all students and community members. Supplies will be provided by the Confucius Institute.

“The main purpose of these workshops is not money. We want them to be affordable and accessible to students,” Annie Ping Zeng, director of the Confucius Institute, said.

The next martial arts, painting and instrument classes will take place on Sept. 22, and calligraphy will begin on Oct. 20. For more information about the dates and times of the Chinese Cultural Workshops, visit the Confucius Institute’s page on the UAA website.