JINAN, July 12 (Xinhua) -- A group of 118 British middle school students who are learning Mandarin visited Qufu, the birthplace of Confucius in east China's Shandong Province on Thursday, to gain first-hand experience of Chinese culture.
They visited cultural relics of the Confucius Family Mansion at the Confucius museum and received a lecture on Chinese incense at an experience center of the Confucius Institute Headquarters.
Confucius (551-479 B.C.) was an educator and philosopher who founded a school of thought known as Confucianism and set up the first private schools in China that enrolled students from different social classes.
"Confucius is very important in the life of the Chinese. I believe learning about his deeds helps us know better about Chinese culture," said Thomas, a 13-year-old student in near-fluent Mandarin.
The students are part of a group of over 800 British teenagers attending a summer camp in China sponsored by the Mandarin Excellence Program.
The program, launched by the British government in 2016, is a unique yet intensive Chinese language program which aims to see at least 5,000 British pupils achieving a high level of fluency by 2020.
More than 3,000 students from Britain have joined the program.
Mandarin has been identified as one of the most important languages for the United Kingdom's future prosperity, according to a survey by British Council.