Chinese Language Day | 20th April
“Language is a tool for human communication, and culture is the soul of language.”
Language and culture are very closely knit. What a culture has to offer, its language speaks out loud for the world to know. Every word, syllable, intonation and gesture indicates its culture.
“Chinese Language Day” is celebrated around 20th April every year, all over the world. It was initiated by the United Nations in 2010, and it falls around similar dates every year, celebrating multilingualism and cultural diversity. The date originates from Guyu (“Rain of Millet”), the sixth of the old East Asian calendar’s 24 solar periods for the Chinese holiday in honour of Cang Jie.
The UN seeks to inform the public on the history and evolution of the Chinese language. In 1946, China was designated as UN’s one of the six official languages. The General Assembly designated Chinese as a working language in 1973.
To provide Chinese wisdom and solutions for green and sustainable development, this year’s Chinese Language Day will be held under the theme “Chinese Wisdom for a Green World,” held by the UN.
Why celebrate this day?
This is a story about Cang Jie, who is said to be one of the creators of the language. He is a mythical figure who was tasked with curating Chinese characters by Huangdi, more commonly known as the Yellow Emperor. According to legends, Cang Jie had four eyes, and as he created the characters, the gods and spirits wept, pouring millet rain from the sky. There are a few versions which explain how he came up with a language so intricate.
One of the legends talks about the time when inspiration hit him after conversing with a hunter, who told him that the mysterious footprint was that of a Pixiu, a mythical creature in Chinese culture. Wandering around in the mountains and woods for a long time, he realised that the ideal kind of character for writing would be something that could express the distinctive qualities that make each and everything on earth unique, in a picture.
Another folklore says that Cang Jie was travelling through the hills, thinking about his assignment when he encountered a tortoise. He was intrigued by the lines on her shell, so he examined it more carefully and discovered a pattern and a deeper meaning. It made him look deeper into the natural world and the patterns which made it so beautiful.
Because of this, every character in the Chinese language tells a story, helped by its symbolic nature as a result of keen observations.
Nature, culture and Language
The story of Cang Jie is a good reminder of the significance of nature in the creation of languages – Chinese, in particular. Chinese culture is deeply rooted in nature, as seen in various characters of the language.
One of its elements is also represented through the 12 Chinese zodiac signs, where every animal is a sign of an important quality each individual should possess. The year 2023 is the “Year of the Rabbit”, where the Rabbit symbolises luck, wittiness, and positivity among others.
Chinese philosophy has a profound respect for nature. The core premise of Chinese philosophy, Yin and Yang, is that everything in the universe is interconnected and that harmony and balance are necessary for living a healthy life.
What makes the language so significant today?
Chinese is the most spoken native language in the world, having more than one billion speakers. The importance of studying the Chinese language has increased due to China’s growing influence on the world economy, tourism, and cross-cultural interactions. The significance of encouraging multilingualism and cultural diversity in our global society is underscored by Chinese Language Day.
The Chinese language is a significant component of China’s ancient and illustrious cultural legacy. People can better grasp Chinese culture, history, and literature by learning the language. Not only that but studying Chinese can help students advance their academic and professional careers as well as provide opportunities to study abroad in China.
Interesting facts about Chinese
- There aren’t any “alphabets” in Chinese. Instead, the language has characters which denote a word or a symbol. Combinations of such characters result in more words.
- There are around 50,000 characters in the language, out of which around 20,000 are used.
- Mandarin, belonging to the Sino-Tibetan language family is the official language of China, making it the most primarily spoken one.
- Chinese is a tonal language, which implies that the emphasis placed on a word can alter its meaning.
- Chinese has had an influence over many other Asian languages, including Japanese, Vietnamese and Korean.
Chinese is a very important language in today’s date. Many people are gravitating towards it – and for completely fair reasons! It is a riveting language to learn, its culture and tradition being the additional perks of it. The Chinese Language Day highlights its rich significance and encourages more people to rejoice the cultural diversity.
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