The highly anticipated final of the 16th “Chinese Bridge” Chinese Proficiency Competition for Foreign College Students, organized by Confucius Institute Headquarters (Hanban) and the People’s Government of Hunan Province, took place on August 12 in Changsha, Hunan Province.
Zhao Zhihang from Sudan was crowned the winner of the 16th “Chinese Bridge” Chinese Proficiency Competition for Foreign College Students. [Photo by Confucius Institute Headquarters ]
At the end of a compelling affair that had spectators sitting on the edge of their seats, hanging on each word from the contestants, Zhao Zhihang from Sudan was crowned the winner of the prestigious competition, beating Sha Mier from Malaysia in an intense session of questions and answers with the added pressure of a ticking time clock.
Zhao Zhihang and Sha Mier, together with the other three finalists, made it to the last stage of the competition out of 145 college students from 122 countries.
Front from left to right: He bende, Sha Mier, Zhao Zhihang, Mu Chenpeng and Liu Siyuan. [Photo by Wei Jia/China.org.cn]
And what a final it was. When it comes to working a crowd, Zhao Zhihang was no slouch, rendering fluently a catchy rap in trendy Chinese words. Not to be outdone, Liu Siyuan from Australia performed a graceful dance in tribute to her idol Yang Liping, one of the most famous dancers in China. It was a pity that Liu Siyuan could not master Chinese as smoothly as she could those dance moves, which caused her, the only female finalist, to strike out in the first round.
The elaborately designed second round took two more contestants out of the running. The section’s questions, which were threaded together with magic performances mostly inspired by the ancient Silk Road and the Maritime Silk Road, a major theme of this year’s competition, proved too much for Mu Chenpeng from the US and He Bende from Germany. And Zhao Zhihang went on to see off Sha Mier and win the competition.
Apart from the impressive performances by the contestants, the person who stole the show was a dainty girl from Sudan who made a moving guest appearance. Born blind, Li Can, a student at the Confucius Institute at the University of Khartoum, wanted nothing more than an opportunity to learn Chinese in China. Despite her handicap, Li Can made a habit out of listening to Chinese tapes and imitating the people speaking on them, devoting herself to learning Chinese with an indefatigable fervor.
Li Can, in the middle, singing The Invisible Wings with her classmates at the Confucius Institute at the University of Khartoum. [Photo by Wei Jia/China.org.cn]
Her favorite Chinese song is "The Invisible Wings," an inspirational and life-affirmative song that extols the strength of being fearless no matter the obstacles. She could sing it so well that it’s almost impossible to tell whether it was a native Chinese speaker singing when she sang the song or not. When the music to the song played in the venue where the final was being held and Li Can began to sing it with such power, she must have known that the Chinese language and her tenacity were the wings that brought her to Changsha.
After singing the song and sharing her story with the panel of judges and the audience, it was announced that Li Can had passed the Chinese proficiency test (HSK), especially held for her alone, with flying colors and she was granted a scholarship because of her grades by the Confucius Institute Headquarters (Hanban) on the spot so that her dream of studying in China could come true.
Li Can’s passion for the Chinese language and Chinese culture is shared by all the contestants of the “Chinese Bridge” competition, an event that is more about helping the outside world better understand China than deciding who can speak better Chinese.
The grand finale of this year’s “Chinese Bridge,” like those before it, saw a new group of energetic and talented young people who are fascinated with the Chinese language and Chinese culture take the center stage. Their moment in the limelight is not only about their mastery of Chinese, but also the appeal of the country’s culture and language with a splendid history and an even brighter future.