Authorized by the Hanban Office of Chinese Language Council International, the Confucius Institute at the University of Lisbon (IC-UL) was co-sponsored by TFSU and the University of Lisbon as a base for promoting Chinese language and culture in Lisbon, Portugal. On January 31st, 2007, in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Prof. António Sampaio da Nóvoa, Rector of University of Lisbon, and Ms. Xu Lin, General-Director of Hanban and Secretary-General of the Confucius Institute Headquarters, signed to establish a Confucius Institute at University of Lisbon. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Portuguese Prime Minister José Sócrates attended the ceremony. On April 8th, 2008, IC-UL was opened in Lisbon, with China's ambassador to Portugal Gao Kexiang, the Deputy Director of Hanban, and Deputy Secretary-General of the Confucius Institute Headquarters Zhao Guocheng, and Portuguese representatives present at the celebration.
Chinese courses at the Institute are divided into elementary, intermediate and advanced levels for now-223 students. TFSU sends teachers majoring in Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language (TCFL) to teach Chinese language, and teachers who not only are well-versed in Chinese and English but also have a Master’s degree in business to teach Business Chinese. Since September of 2008, full-time teachers from the Confucius Institute also teach Chinese lessons for 72 undergraduates majoring in Asian Studies in the Faculty of Letters. These Chinese lessons were chosen as the most-welcomed elective classes in foreign languages among undergraduates.
2. IC-UL Features
Since its foundation, IC-UL has committed much efforts to quality Chinese teaching and rich cultural activities. Apart from regular celebration activities during traditional Chinese festivals to introduce traditional Chinese culture to Portuguese students, IC-UL also holds various thematic cultural activities in Lisbon: a photo exhibition on the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, a cultural journey to Tagus River, Chinese language-study corner, Chinese Bridge Competitions, Chinese paper-cutout workshops, Chen-style Tai Qi demonstrations, Chinese Calligraphy workshops, a Chinese film festival, and art performances held by Hanban, Sino-Portuguese academic meetings, as well as Chinese academic presentations by students. The Hanban art performances at Aula Magna, University of Lisbon, in January of 2010 attracted 1,600 local citizens including government officials from Belem Palace (the official residence of the Portuguese Republic presidents), the Prime Minister, Ministry for Foreign Affairs and other officials, and foreign ambassadors to Portugal, creating a great social influence. On July 3rd, 2010, more than 500 people in different fields participated in activities that aimed to spread Chinese culture in the community. Each summer, TFSU welcomes a short-term school delegation from IC-UL for visits and learning, promoting the exchange between the two schools and giving students a better understanding of Chinese culture.
Portuguese President Anibal Cavaco Silva gave a written interview to Xinhua News Agency just prior to President Hu Jintao’s visit to Portugal in November of 2010. When speaking of cultural exchange between the two countries, President Silva appreciated the work done by the Confucius Institute at University of Lisbon, saying, “More Chinese students and scholars engage in learning the Portuguese language. Similarly, there are also an increasing number of Portuguese people who desire to learn Chinese, showing great interest in Chinese culture. The two nations should encourage and promote people’s interests in each other’s languages and cultures. The Confucius Institute established in Lisbon is a good example of such efforts...”