By Xing Xue
Cameron Patterson, a young man from the UK, had just joined the Confucius Institute at Lancaster University when he received this interview from People’s Daily.
“Affirmed and encouraged by President Xi Jinping, I have always been working hard at my Chinese studies and actively participating in the UK-China cooperation on culture, people-to-people exchanges and education,” Patterson told People’s Daily in affluent Chinese.
The man, who names himself “Kang Ke” in Chinese, said he hopes to serve as a bridge between the British and the Chinese people.
Oct. 22, 2015, is an unforgettable day for Patterson, who was a 20-year-old then.
On that day, Chinese President Xi Jinping, on his state visit to the UK, attended the opening ceremony of the UK Confucius Institutes and Confucius Classrooms Annual Conference.
At the opening ceremony, Patterson, as the European Champion in the 2015 Chinese Bridge language competition for foreign college students, recited a poem authored by the Chinese President in 1990 in memory of Jiao Yulu, a long-deceased revolutionary icon of China.
Today, the British young man still remembers every detail of the scenes seven years ago – the fully packed conference hall and the excitement of attending students and faculty.
“I was very excited and too nervous to even raise my head and look at President Xi when I recited, but I somehow felt he was watching me with a smile on his face,” Patterson recalled.
“Ten thousand miles away, your soul has flown; the rivers, mountains and land yearn for your return. The people mourn the loss of a caring official, tears flooding under the empress trees you planted,” Patterson recited emotionally with clear pronunciation and great intonation, and left the stage to prolonged applause.
Xi praised Patterson, “His Mandarin is very good, better than many in my delegation, and he recites the poem better than I could.”
Encouraged by the Chinese President, Patterson noted down Xi’s comments and posted them on the microblogging site Weibo. He wrote in Chinese, “My recitation today went well. I was very happy to hear President Xi’s praise.”
At the opening ceremony, President Xi stressed that language is the key to understanding a nation and that Confucius Institutes serve as an important platform to help the world understand China, Patterson remembered. Xi also pointed out that the way of thinking and lifestyles in China and the UK were experiencing wonderful “chemistry” triggered by the interaction between the essences of the two cultures.
“President Xi’s remarks inspired me so much. As a former student and a teacher today of the Confucius Institute, I’m extremely honored to be able to contribute to UK-China cultural and people-to-people exchanges,” Patterson said.
Patterson has a special bond with China. He came to China at the age of nine with his parents and didn’t go back home until he finished middle school In China’s Shanxi, Shandong, Jiangsu and Guangdong provinces, he went to the same schools as Chinese children, where he gained a profound understanding of Chinese society through a number of touching stories about the endeavors of the Chinese people.
“When I was in middle school in China, my classmates and I were assigned a task by our teacher that required us to learn the stories of Jiao Yulu. I consulted many materials about him and was deeply touched by his love for the people, his hard work, his truth-seeking spirit, and his selfless dedication,” Patterson noted.
He said he had a deeper understanding of Xi’s care for the people when he recited the Chinese President’s poem about the revolutionary icon at the opening ceremony. “Only those who always bear in mind the people can write a poem like that,” Patterson told People’s Daily.
Civilizations have become richer and more colorful through exchanges and mutual learning. Patterson said that Xi would always stress the significance of people-to-people exchanges and mutual learning between civilizations when he visits other countries. Only with exchanges, can people-to-people bonds be established and civilizations learn from each other for common development.
“I was told by many British beginners in learning Chinese that they had a great feeling of being close to China when they recited the poem of Saying Good-bye to Cambridge Again in Chinese for the first time, when they wrote their Chinese names with an ink brush for the first time, and when they talked to their friends in Chinese for the first time,” Patterson said.
“I will present the profound Chinese culture and its aesthetic conception to more British students and introduce China’s development to more people in the classes of the Confucius Institute, and become an envoy of the friendship between the UK and China.” he said.