Rafael Papageorgiou reads "The Analects of Confucius" at home in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Aug. 18, 2017. Although five years have passed since Rafael Papageorgiou won the trophy of Chinese Bridge language competition, the joy is still fresh in the memory of the Brazilian young man. After returning to Brazil, Rafael went to work for a Chinese company in Sao Paulo and meanwhile continued to learn Chinese. (Xinhua/Li Ming)
by Zhang Qichang
SAO PAULO, Aug. 23 (Xinhua) -- Five years has past since Rafael Papageorgiou won the trophy of the Chinese Bridge language competition, the joy is still fresh in the memory of the Brazilian young man.
"The Chinese language has brought me many opportunities since I began learning it. China has become an indispensable part of my life," he told Xinhua.
Rafael who was a student of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) in Porto Alegre started to learn Chinese in 2010 out of interest in the Chinese culture that struck him as mysterious.
"I spent at least eight hours a day learning Chinese. I used the opportunity to speak with Chinese students at UFRGS and bought all materials available in Brazil to learn Chinese," Rafael said. "Learning Chinese was difficult but I wanted to learn more. Learning the language gave me a strong sense of accomplishment."
After learning Chinese for two years, Rafael was shown a once-in-a-life opportunity in 2012 when UFRGS established its Confucius Institute. He then signed up for the Chinese Bridge competition later in the year.
Latin America's first Confucius Institute opened in Mexico in 2006, and was followed by a second in Peru in 2009.
The institutes organize an annual Chinese proficiency contest called Chinese Bridge that showcases the talents of foreign youth that excel at learning Mandarin as a way to develop a greater understanding of the Chinese culture.
Rafael recalled that he sang a very popular and also his favorite song, Long De Chuan Ren, which is translated as Descendants of the Dragon.
"The most important thing in winning the contest was not being crowned as champion, but obtaining an opportunity to study in China for the next year," he said.
As the champion, Rafael was granted a scholarship to further his study at Nankai University in China's northern city of Tianjin for a year, where he gradually became familiar to the Chinese society, culture and people.
"The Chinese people are honest, friendly and hard-working. During that year, I began to read Chinese literature and I was fascinated. I have always thought that literature is the gateway to the soul of a nation," he said.
As he went further into the study, Rafael started to read the Analects, a collection of sayings and ideas of Chinese philosopher Confucius about 2,500 years ago. He said he found universal values in Confucian texts.
After returning to Brazil, Rafael went to work for a Chinese company in Sao Paulo and meanwhile continued to learn Chinese.
"I want to tell people that it is not difficult to learn Chinese if you make the effort," he said.
Rafael said he dreams that he could return to China one day in the future to continue his study and work there, so as to witness China's development by himself.