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May 14, 2007

Note to Journalists: Journalists are invited to attend the 9-10 a.m. tour of the Envision Center at the Purdue Memorial Union. The main area will be transformed into a Chinese garden, and representatives from a Chinese delegation will experiment with a robot that can help others learn how to write Chinese language characters. The opening ceremony is at 1:30 p.m. in the Rawls Hall atrium on the third floor.

New institute at Purdue will make China more accessible to Indiana

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - China is investing in Indiana with two new China institutes that will provide instruction in areas of language, education, culture and business.

Wei Hong demonstrates how a robot is used
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Purdue University and Chinese officials on Monday (May 14) celebrated the opening of a new China center, called the Confucius Institute at Purdue University, which will offer Chinese language and cultural programs for students and the public.

"Indiana and China may seem far apart geographically, but this Purdue institute will make the rich diversity, history and culture of the world's largest country more accessible to our campus community and state," said Purdue Provost Sally Mason, who is chair of Purdue's Confucius Institute advisory board. "China was one of the first countries that Purdue began a relationship with in the early 20th century. The history between our university and China is deep, and this institute will help enhance that relationship."

Indiana also is home to another center, which is located at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and supported by the collective resources of IUPUI, Butler University, and the East Asian Languages and Cultures program and East Asian Studies Center at Indiana University in Bloomington.

Students from China comprise Purdue's second largest international student group. There were 767 students from China studying at Purdue in 2006-07.

Purdue's institute is a collaboration among the colleges of Liberal Arts and Engineering and the Krannert School of Management, as well as the Shanghai Jiaotong University in Shanghai, China.

The 140 Confucius Institutes worldwide are intended to develop relationships and understanding between countries, and they are sponsored by the Chinese Language Council International. The council also is known as Hanban and is part of the Chinese Ministry of Education. The University of Kansas and Michigan State University along with 21 other U.S. colleges and cities are home to other Confucius Institutes. Other countries, such as Spain and Germany through the Cervantes Institute and Goethe Institute, also are supporting similar programs to encourage Spanish and German cultural understanding. Purdue's institute will reside in the Krannert Building, and the Chinese Language Council provided $100,000 seed money for the institute.

"Confucius, who the institutes are named for, is perhaps China's greatest philosopher and thinker, and more than 2,000 years ago he promoted harmony and education," said John Contreni, the Justin S. Morrill Dean of Liberal Arts, professor of history and member of the advisory board. "By providing the institute's resources to students and community members interested in China, the institute will help us extend the land-grant philosophy internationally."

One of the institute's goals is to facilitate more exchange opportunities between Purdue and China. In 2006-07, including this semester, 140 students studied in China, especially in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing. While no Purdue students studied in China 10 years ago, it is currently the most popular destination for them, said Andrew Gillespie, associate dean for International Programs and a member of the executive committee overseeing the new institute.

"Next year the number of students studying abroad in China will be even larger," Gillespie said. "More than 150 students have applied to 14 different programs, 10 of which are being led by Purdue faculty members. Also, a team of Purdue faculty and staff members will visit China this summer to seek new partnerships to expand study abroad options, collaborative research and faculty exchange. There continues to be a growing interest in China, and Purdue is looking forward to facilitating the experience for interested students."

Purdue also has seen an increase in the number of students, especially from liberal arts, agriculture, engineering and management, who are interested in Chinese studies. Purdue currently has about 280 students enrolled in Chinese language and culture classes, said Wei Hong, an associate professor of Chinese and the institute's director.

"During my 13 years at Purdue teaching Chinese, I have watched many students' interest in China grow, but that interest is truly accelerating as the country's economy continues to thrive and as more people learn about the wonders of this country," said Hong, who also is an assistant head in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures. "Students who are initially interested in China because of its business and economics find themselves captivated with its culture and people. Chinese study at Purdue has changed their career choices, and even lives."

Purdue's institute has already facilitated bringing two guest teachers to the West Lafayette and Lafayette school corporations through the U.S. College Board and Hanban's Chinese Guest Teacher Program. Guest instructors arrived in January and will start teaching Chinese language and cultural courses in the West Lafayette and Lafayette school districts for 18 months. Thanks to the institute, there will be two Chinese language classes offered at Purdue during the summer for the first time.

Community and business members will be able to participate in fee-based, non-credit short courses on Chinese language and culture, which will be offered during evenings, on weekends and in the summer. Beginning in the fall 2007, basic conversation courses for members of Indiana's business community and Purdue faculty and staff will be offered at Purdue. Classes for this fall also include basic business conversation and calligraphy.

Upcoming conferences in partnership with Purdue's Center for International Business Education and Research and Global Engineering Program will include topics such as development and teaching of business Chinese language and culture, corporate needs for business Chinese instruction, Chinese language education for engineering students, and global engineering professional development. The institute also will lead Chinese language teacher-training workshops in Indiana K-12 schools, and organize art, lectures and exhibitions.

Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, (765) 494-9723,

Sources: Sally Mason, (765) 494-9709,

John Contreni, (765) 494-3661,

Andrew Gillespie, (765) 494-8463,

Wei Hong, (765) 494-3859,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

Wei Hong, director of the Confucius Institute at Purdue and a professor of Chinese, demonstrates how a robot at the university's Envision Center is used to write calligraphy characters. The device is the Omega Device by Force Dimension in Switzerland. The Confucius Institute at Purdue will provide instruction in areas of language, education, culture and business. The 140 Confucius Institutes worldwide are intended to develop relationships and understanding between countries, and they are sponsored by the Chinese Language Council International. (Purdue News Service photo/David Umberger)

A publication-quality photo is available at


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