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Australian youths find understanding in cultural items

Xinhua | Updated: 2022-11-16 09:22
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CANBERRA — From exquisite hairpins with flowers and handwoven red bags for Lunar New Year "lucky money", to Chinese emperors' hats with strings of beads, handicrafts by Australian children in Canberra showed their understanding of traditional Chinese personal accessories.

On Thursday, students from five schools in the Australian capital received awards for the 28th Panda Competition, a signature event hosted by the Australian Capital Territory Branch of the Australia China Friendship Society at the Chinese embassy in Australia, for their works. It is named the Panda Competition after the theme of its first edition in 1995.

The students, aged between 4 and 17, and their entries were judged in different age groups.

According to Carol Keil, president of the Australia China Friendship Society ACT Branch, in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, which made a big difference to the number of schools participating, they have received several hundred entries this year under the theme of traditional Chinese personal accessories, including hats, bracelets, rings, fans and even swords.

"The teachers are very supportive," she says. "Some of the teachers put a lot of effort into helping the children do their research and prepare their entries."

Three 17-year-old girls from St. John Paul II College made a model of a Tang Dynasty headdress as shown in a Chinese TV drama, which grabbed the attention of visitors.

Four-year-old Ava Foster from Mawson Primary School won the third prize in the youngest participant group with a fan she had made.

Talking about why the girl got involved in the competition, her father Andrew Foster says: "Mawson Primary School encourages the children to immerse themselves in Chinese culture."

This is also what Keil would like to see.

At the award ceremony, children and their parents watched lion dances and enjoyed the performance of guzheng, a traditional Chinese seven-stringed plucked instrument.

Andrew Foster says Ava is going to the kindergarten next year at Mawson Primary School, and will do 2.5 days in Mandarin and 2.5 days in English a week.

"China is a big part of the Australian economy right now," he says, noting the decadeslong relationship between the two countries. "For sure it (learning Chinese culture and language) will be beneficial for Ava in the future. Maybe Ava could be a part of that relationship in some way."

Song Yanqun, minister-counselor for culture at the Chinese embassy in Australia, says this year's competition is special, as 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Australia. He hopes that the children would become "ambassadors" for cultural exchanges of the two countries and influence more people around them.

"The aim of the Panda Competition is to promote Chinese culture," he says. "When little children start getting to know about Chinese culture from a symbol, whether it is traditional accessory or musical instrument, as was the theme of a previous edition, they embark on a journey, from understanding to love. It is a good way of promoting cultural exchange.

"Children are the future," he adds. "Understanding each other's culture from an early age lays the foundation for friendship in the future. When they grow up, they might be scientists, doctors, teachers, or social workers. It will be good if they can play their respective parts in boosting the China-Australia friendship."

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