On April 11, the Wesleyan community celebrated the Grand Opening of the Confucius Institute at Wesleyan College, welcoming visitors from China and Central Georgia to tour its newly renovated home in the Lucy Lester Willet Memorial Library and to participate in the festive official kickoff complete with dignitaries, speeches, and thrilling performances. Highlighted by a warm greeting from Madame Xu Lin, Director General of the Confucius Institute Headquarters (Hanban) in Beijing, the opening ceremony also included remarks from Macon Mayor Robert Reichert, leaders of Guangzhou University and the municipality of Guangzhou, and a representative of the Consulate-General of the People’s Republic of China. Deputy General Counsel for the U.S. Department of Commerce Geovette Washington ’89 brought greetings from the United States government. Hundreds enjoyed seeing new displays of the College’s treasures from China before gathering in Porter Auditorium for the dedication ceremony, where they were treated to musical performances by Wesleyan students and to an outstanding exhibition of traditional Chinese music and dance by students from Guangzhou University.
Madame Xu said, “This is my dream realized. My generation, and also the young generation – especially girls – they love the story of the Soong sisters very much.” Emphasizing the special relationship between China and Wesleyan College and her desire to build upon that foundation, she added, “So this is from my heart. I think I should do something for Wesleyan College, and now this is a chance for me and also for Chinese women... Your Confucius Institute is like a flower, a window of introducing China and Chinese culture, and it is an exchange of our cultures, very welcomed by the people... We at Hanban will do our best to support the Wesleyan Confucius Institute, and we will make this flower the most beautiful in the world.”
Preparations for the Wesleyan Confucius Institute began in the spring of 2012 and included a visit to Guangzhou and Beijing by President Ruth Knox and Vice President for Enrollment Services Steve Farr. In Beijing, they met personally with Madame Xu and presented Wesleyan’s official proposal to her and the Hanban staff. For the first time ever, a fact Madame Xu confirmed during her visit to Macon, the Wesleyan proposal was approved on the same day. Now officially in operation, the Confucius Institute at Wesleyan College (CIWC) is one of about 420 around the world, including fewer than 100 in the United States.
The mission of the CIWC is to promote Chinese language and culture; foster intercultural exchange with China among students, educators, and the community; serve as a resource for Chinese studies through its China Museum; and celebrate the historic connection between Wesleyan College and China in changing the lives of women through higher education and social action. In addition to providing a variety of language classes, cultural programs, and travel opportunities, the CIWC also offers access to the art, artifacts, and documents in Wesleyan’s archives that are closely related to the Soong sisters. The timing of the Grand Opening of the Confucius Institute at Wesleyan College is especially noteworthy, marking the 100th anniversary of Soong Ching-ling’s graduation in 1913 from Wesleyan College.
Located on the first floor of the Willet Memorial Library, the CIWC includes offices, a conference room, and a newly renovated classroom – with the new China Museum at its heart. The China Museum contains silk tapestries, oriental screens, ornate rosewood tables and chairs, porcelain objects d’art, and other Chinese art and artifacts that are a part of Wesleyan’s long-standing history with China. This Museum gallery also serves as a reception area to welcome visitors and scholars from around the world. Wesleyan’s China Room, located on the third floor of the library, continues to house original documents, photographs, correspondence, and other archival materials for serious study. Many of the College’s Chinese artifacts are gifts from the Soong sisters. Over the past century, other alumnae and friends have donated numerous personal letters and gifts from the Soong sisters as well as tapestries, furniture, and art from China.
Programs planned for the CIWC include Chinese language courses for youth and adults, including Wesleyan students; summer camps in China; Chinese language and cultural art classes through The Wesleyan Academy of Lifelong Learning; faculty exchanges with Guangzhou University; and a variety of cultural performances that will showcase art, theatre, and music and celebrate holidays such as the Chinese New Year and the Lantern Festival. Eventually, the CIWC may enable Wesleyan to add Asian studies as an academic program, further broadening the College’s international relations instruction.
On May 28, only one month after the Grand Opening of the Wesleyan College Confucius Institute, the College’s Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Vivia Fowler and Vice President Steve Farr participated in the ceremonial opening of another exciting venture for the College – the Wesleyan College American Cultural Center at Guangzhou University. Approved in September 2012 by an award from the U.S. Department of State, Wesleyan’s American Cultural Center is designed to enhance mutual understanding between China and the United States by giving Chinese students and the Guangzhou community better insight into American history, philosophy, international relations, media, fine arts, community engagement, and life in America. A stunning jazz piano performance by Wesleyan Assistant Professor of Music Chenny Gan ’02 highlighted the festivities. More than 20,000 students are enrolled at Guangzhou University in the third largest city in China, providing Wesleyan College with the opportunity to engage a large Chinese populace in learning more about Wesleyan and life in America.