by Raul Menchaca
HAVANA, Nov. 23 (Xinhua) -- The Confucius Institute at the University of Havana is about to celebrate its tenth anniversary, and has opened its door to the public, seeking to encourage the arrival of new Cuban students interested in the Chinese language and culture.
At its opening in the core of Havana's Chinatown on Saturday, professors and students of the teaching institution attached to the university offered information to people who are interested about the function of the center.
After an initial introduction about the nature of the courses and enrollment, which are totally free, many people gathered at the gate of the institute in the Old San Nicolas Street, to play Wei Qi (a Chinese board game), appreciate the art of Chinese knots and paper folding, and paint on their faces the flags of Cuba and China.
As the most enthusiastic participants, young people and children seized the chance to directly approach the ancient Chinese culture, which were promoted by the 22 Chinese teachers and six Cubans who work in the institute.
"The institute was founded on Nov. 30, 2009 and since then more than 6,000 students have passed through our classrooms and have advanced through the different levels of the Chinese language," the principal Yorbelis Rosell told Xinhua.
Rosell had a PhD in Information Sciences from the University of Havana, and she stressed that they currently have more than 900 students, distributed in 53 groups.
The institute offered courses of various levels, from the elementary to the advanced, as well as for teenagers aged 14 and for adults over 18.
"The Institute is a bridge of friendship between two peoples, because by teaching the language and promoting its culture, the students also know the differences of other people and in that way to respect it and to create stronger friendly relations," said Rosell.
In the classrooms, demonstrations of fabric dyeing, consultations of traditional and natural medicine were also presented, as well as the first class for the attending students.
Among students who received the first notion of Mandarin, Thalia Alvarez majors in English at the Faculty of Foreign Languages of the University of Havana.
"I want to choose Chinese as second language, because I find it very attractive and has nothing to do with our Spanish," said Alvarez, 19, adding that she was very interested in the Chinese culture.
"I am interested in knowing not only the language, but also knowing the culture and learning a little more about that beautiful country," said the young student.
Next to her was the pharmacist Iris de la Nuez, 24, who also received her first notion of Mandarin.
"I think that for any pharmacist, knowing the Chinese language can be an advantage because of the expansion of the use of natural and traditional Chinese medicine in our country," she said.
De la Nuez also highlighted the China-Cuba close relations in various fields, and considered that it is necessary for Cubans to know the language of the Chinese brothers.
In another hall, the institute announced a contest on "What do you know about China," and made the theme of this edition "the Belt and Road Initiative."
The highlight of the day was the staging of the play "The Butterfly Lovers" (an ancient Chinese love story), which was interpreted entirely in Chinese by the students of the institute.
With this opening day, the Confucius Institute displayed its role of introducing Chinese culture and promoting Cuba-China ties over decades.