A student practices writing Chinese characters
A Chinese school (simplified Chinese: 中文学校; traditional Chinese: 中文學校; pinyin: zhōng wén xué xiào) is a school, particularly outside of China, that is established for the purpose of teaching the varieties of Chinese (in particular, Mandarin and Cantonese), though the purpose can vary to teaching different aspects of Chinese culture such as Chinese art, calligraphy, and martial arts. The programs can either be an independent institution or a part of an existing educational institution. For example, The Huaxia Chinese School in Great Valley, Pennsylvania operates independently from the Great Valley High School where it is taught. However, some programs are part of the school curriculum and is generally a branch of the foreign language department. According to various mission statements, many Chinese schools are purposed to preserve traditional Chinese language and culture. In 2007, USA Today dubbed Chinese "... is the new English." A recent trend in 2011 shows that the Chinese government has also provided funding to U.S. school districts with additional funding on top of funding they already receive from the U.S. government. As a result, there has also been concern that the Chinese government may also be infiltrating the education system outside its borders, as it has done with a school district in Columbus, Ohio.
Background and history
Prior to the year 1996, there were only two Chinese immersion programs in the United States, both of which only existed in the San Francisco bay area. In that year, the first Chinese immersion program outside of the Bay Area started in Potomac, Maryland and has spread to many other parts of the United States. Depending on region, there is typically a governing body that regulates and networks various Chinese schools together. In the United States for example, the Chinese School Association in the United States is one such governing body founded in 1994. Other agencies exist throughout the world.
A typical Chinese school curriculum can vary depending on the particular school. However, the Mandarin Chinese language and various aspects of Chinese culture such as Chinese art and Chinese martial arts are typically included.
The Chinese language is spoken by nearly 1.2 billion people or about 16% of the world's population. Chinese schools typically teach both written and spoken Chinese. With the growing importance and influence of China's economy globally, Mandarin instruction is gaining popularity in schools in the USA, and has become an increasingly popular subject of study amongst the young in the Western world, as in the UK. One of the teaching tools used widely in Chinese schools is the Pinyin system, also known as the official phonetic system for transcribing the Mandarin pronunciations of Chinese characters into the Latin alphabet which was developed in the 1950s based on earlier forms of romanization. It was published by the Chinese government in 1958 and revised several times. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) adopted pinyin as an international standard in 1982.
Written Chinese as taught in Chinese schools uses methods as defined by the Shūfǎ (書法) from China, which means "the way/method/law of writing".[note 1] Curricula in Chinese writing typically focus on stroke order and repetition. Schools also teach the relationship of words based on their Chinese radicals, as many words come from ideas that relate to a particular topic. Stroke orders of words are also important as they dictate how Chinese words can be found in a Chinese dictionary.
Chinese art is taught in Chinese schools following the techniques as established in Chinese painting. For example:
- Gong-bi (工筆), meaning "meticulous", uses highly detailed brushstrokes that delimits details very precisely. It is often highly coloured and usually depicts figural or narrative subjects. It is often practised by artists working for the royal court or in independent workshops. Bird-and-flower paintings were often in this style.
- Ink and wash painting, in Chinese Shui-mo or (水墨) also loosely termed watercolour or brush painting, and also known as "literati painting", as it was one of the "Four Arts" of the Chinese Scholar-official class. In theory this was an art practised by gentlemen, a distinction that begins to be made in writings on art from the Song dynasty, though in fact the careers of leading exponents could benefit considerably. This style is also referred to as "xie yi" (寫意) or freehand style.
Chinese martial arts
Chinese martial arts, sometimes called "kung fu" are a number of fighting styles that have developed over the centuries in China. Chinese schools often offer such programs as part of their curriculum as it is one of the fundamental aspects of Chinese culture. Though some martial art styles may have originated in other parts of Asia such as karate and tae kwon do, they are sometimes taught as though it were part of the Chinese heritage.
Chinese New Year
Many Chinese schools put on a Chinese New Year gala as the festival is an important Chinese festival celebrated at the turn of the Chinese calendar. It is also known as the Spring Festival, the literal translation of the modern Chinese name. Chinese New Year celebrations traditionally run from Chinese New Year's Eve, the last day of the last month of the Chinese calendar, to the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the first month, making the festival the longest in the Chinese calendar. The first day of the New Year falls between January 21 and February 20.
List of notable Chinese schools
- Huaxia Edison Chinese School in Edison, NJ
Other cultures and languages have similar setups. For example:
- Hebrew school
- Arabic language school
- Hindi language school
- Français langue étrangère
- English as a second or foreign language
- 書 being here used as in 楷书/楷書, etc, and meaning "writing style".
- "Huaxia Chinese School at Great Valley".
- "Chinese School of South Jersey (CSSJ)".
- "Chinese isn't the new French - It's the new English".
- "China sponsored language programs in U.S. raise concerns, hopes".
- "The nation’s oldest public Mandarin immersion program".
- "Welcome to the Chinese School Association in the United States (CSAUS) Website".
- "CONSTITUTION OF THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF ASSOCIATIONS OF CHINESE LANGUAGE SCHOOLS".
- "How hard is it to learn Chinese?". BBC News. January 17, 2006. Retrieved April 28, 2010.
- "Pinyin celebrates 50th birthday". Xinhua News Agency. 2008-02-11. Retrieved 2008-09-20.
- "ISO 7098:1982 – Documentation – Romanization of Chinese". Retrieved 2009-03-01.
- Wang Li; et al. (2000). 王力古漢語字典. Beijing: 中華書局. p. 1118. ISBN 7101012191.
- The Chinese character "mo" means ink and "shui" means water
- Sickman, 222
- Rawson, 114-119; Sickman, Chapter 15