The Confucius Institute of the State of Washington hosted Washington State’s first ever preliminary round contest of Chinese Bridge at the University of Washington on May 5. This international competition tests non-native speakers’ Chinese linguistic skills and cultural literacy. Run by the Office of the Chinese Language Council International (Hanban), Chinese Bridge is a three part assessment of students’ abilities. Students were required to demonstrate language proficiency in the form of a three minute speech, a 50-question test of Chinese culture, and a cultural performance (singing, calligraphy, dancing, etc.). Winners of preliminary contests qualify to travel to Beijing for the semifinals and finals, which draw together hundreds of regional winners from a vast array of countries ranging from Pakistan to New Zealand. Top finalists win scholarships to Chinese universities.
The Washington State regional contest saw 13 college students compete in front of a panel of local Chinese professors. Competitors began with speeches on one of 11 topics. Bai Chunhui, a sophomore at the University of Puget Sound, described his experiences with and appreciation for Chinese food: “我和同学决定试着做一道豆腐丸子，看起来挺简单的。结果我们做了两次都不成功，我才知道做好中国菜真不容易。” (My classmates and I decided we should try to make tofu balls – which appeared to be simple to make. We made the dish twice, and each time was unsuccessful. Only now do I understand that making Chinese food is really quite difficult).” Another student, Yvonne Louie of the University of Puget Sound, explained the utility and ubiquity of her favorite Chinese food: rice pudding, “在南方廣東粥是一個廣東特色菜。差不多每一家茶樓都會提供各种各样的粥。不同的時令和季節可以吃到不同的粥. “(In the southern province of Guangdong, rice porridge is a Cantonese specialty. Nearly every teahouse offers various kinds of rice porridge. You are able to eat different kinds of rice porridge during different seasons and times).” Competitor Travis Bond, who earned the highest speech score for his clear pronunciation and expressive voice, spoke of his hopes for the future, “让世界上更多人了解这片古老而现代的土地，那里勤劳而热情的人民。(I want to enable even more of the world’s people to understand this ancient and modern land and its industrious and enthusiastic people”).
The second phase of the competition, the question and answer section on Chinese culture and history, proved to be a close contest. Questioned on topics as diverse as China’s stock exchange and grain crops, the top four contenders entered a sudden-death round before Philmon Haile won the stage for his broad knowledge of Chinese culture.
In the final stage of the competition, participants demonstrated a Chinese cultural skill in a talent show. The audience enjoyed Chinese song and dance performances (including songs played on a traditional Chinese instrument called an erhu), Tang poetry recitations, as well as displays of elegant calligraphy, Chinese painting, and tai qi demonstrations. Judges were wowed by all students’ prowess and preparation, but ultimately Travis Bond won the overall competition, with competitors Philmon Haile and Julia Pettigrew tying for a close second place. Travis leaves for China in July, where he will be an observer in the semi-finals. The students’ talent and skill, combined with the enthusiasm of the audience, emcee and judges, contributed to the event’s success. CIWA wishes Travis the best of luck in Beijing and looks forward to next year’s competition.
Winners of the overall competition:
- First Place: Travis Bond (Art Institute of Seattle)
- Second Place (tie): Philmon Haile (UW), Julia Pettigrew (UW)
Individual award winners:
- Speech: Travis Bond (Art Institute of Seattle)
- Knowledge Quiz: Philmon Haile (UW)
- Talent Show: Emma Giguere (Seattle University)