Lovers of the Chinese culture, scholars and students of Chinese gathered recently and joined Chinese nationals in celebrating their country’s New Year. Known as the Spring Festival with the theme, ‘The Year of the Rooster,’ the Chinese community, however, combined the celebration with its Lantern Festival, which falls on the 15th day of the lunar New Year.
The event was held at the Confucius Institute, University of Lagos, Lagos, and it witnessed a large turnout of students from various primary and secondary schools across the state, including tertiary students studying Chinese.
There were presentation of songs, dance and playing of instruments all done in Chinese, which was majorly anchored by Chinese-speaking Nigerians. It also included games and competitions, which saw students going home with prizes.
Representing the Vice Chancellor, University of Lagos, Prof. Rahamon Bello, Director, Quality Assurance and SERVICOM Unit, Prof. Obinna Chukwu, said the Confucius Institute is one of those collaborations the university has with Beijing Institute of Technology, which is set up for cultural exchanges, languages and extension of other exchanges between China and Nigeria.
“The Spring and Lantern festivals is an annual event through which our Confucius Institute brings together people within the community, our younger children whom we have been interacting with through our Confucius Institute, to showcase some of those cultures that exist in China, which we think will go a long way in instilling some sense of history in our younger generation and the guests present here today.”
He said that with the changing economy and a lot of things happening between Nigeria and China, the event is quite significant one, adding, “Even our Confucius Institute extends hands to businessmen and women all over Lagos and beyond to teach them the Chinese language because language plays a huge role in communication, which will make doing business easier.”
Chinese Consul-General in Lagos, Chao Xiaoliang, said the celebration of Chinese New Year and the Lantern Festival more Nigerian people get introduced to Chinese culture and they are learning the language, which will promote the relationship between China and Nigeria.
While the Director, Confucius Institute, University of Lagos, Prof. Segun Awodusi, said being used to January 1 as New Year in Nigeria, the Chinese’s falls on January 26 or early February as the beginning of the Chinese New Year.
“Every year also has its own thematic focus – ‘The Year of the Rooster’ – and we are combining the Chinese New Year festival, which is known as the Spring Festival with the Lantern Festival, which normally takes place around February 11 every year.
“The China-Nigeria relationship is a fantastic one. Sometimes I feel it is divine. Will you believe that Nigeria’s Independence Day is October 1; the same with China and our president has also moved towards their direction to salvage the economy. So, there is a relationship in terms of infrastructural development and cultural co-operation.”
While speaking on the sustenance of the event, Awodusi said, “We have had this programme for eight years. The Confucius Institute in UNILAG is nine years old and it has been on every year. We are jointly funded by the University and Hanban, the Confucius Institute’s headquarters in China.
“Every year in the last eight years, I can say that there is no time we don’t send at least 10 students to China. Some go on one year and others six months’ scholarships. Apart from that, we also organise children in high school, who are sent to China on summer. We are also making sure that we spread Chinese language to other tertiary institutions outside Lagos. We have sent some of the Chinese teachers to Ado-Ekiti to ensure that more students participate in the learning process.”