A centre with great appeal

The China Centre at Kiel University was founded ten years ago. Since then, it has established a wide-ranging local, national and international network.

Six people sitting in a class room
© pur.pur

Involved at Kiel Universities China Center (from left): Finja Plambeck (student assistant), Jiaoyi Chen (language assistant), Niklas Crome (student assistant), Angelika Messner (director), Bing Han (lecturer for Chinese) and Jonas Lumma (student assistant).

"The China Centre is not merely an appendage of the university but is integrated as a central theme in many departments and contexts," explained Professor Angelika Messner. The sinologist and cultural anthropologist has led the centre from its very beginning. Now, around a hundred students per semester take up the opportunity to learn or improve their knowledge of the Chinese language through eight levels of courses. These start in the winter semester and are intensive: with six hours of study per week for half an academic year. Students come from all disciplines, including, for example, Business, German, Electrical Engineering, Theology and Nutritional Sciences and Household Economics.

Jonas Lumma is a Business Chemistry student and has been learning Chinese at the centre for three semesters. "During the pandemic, I felt like learning something new," he said, explaining why he signed up. Now, thanks to a scholarship, he is planning to go to China in September. Niclas Crome, Chemistry student in his 11th semester, was looking for a new challenge. Like Jonas Lumma, he has been learning Chinese for three semesters and also works as an assistant at the centre. He updates a database with publications by CAU researchers conducting research into subjects relating to China. Finja Plambeck also attends the China Centre. She learned Chinese at school and is now taking advanced lessons. "I think that this language could really help me in my career," said the Law student, who is planning to work in the field of commercial law.

Over the course of time, Messner has developed specialist Chinese language courses in areas such as Law, Agricultural Sciences, Natural Sciences and Engineering, among others. These are offered based on demand. It is also possible to study Chinese as a minor subject with the 1-subject Bachelor's degree programmes in Mathematics and Computer Science. The centre also offers Business Chinese.

Recently, due to the pandemic, language lessons have mostly been conducted in digital format, although online courses have been available here for five years. Among the teachers of the language, which has around 5,000 major characters and in which meaning is determined by tone, is Bing Han. She has lived in Germany since the year 2000. Within the framework of her doctoral thesis in the specialist field of German and now at the China Centre, she compares Thomas Mann's novel "Buddenbrooks" with the "Dream of the Red Chamber", one of the most famous Chinese novels. Before she came to Kiel, she taught and participated in theatre projects at Frankfurt University. She is also currently setting up a theatre group at the CAU. "We are planning to write a play together and perform it in Chinese or bilingually," explained the 44 year old.

The centre started with three positions ten years ago. Now there are ten members of staff on the team, including language assistant Jiaoyi Chen, who is also planning to complete a doctoral degree. Founding director Angelika Messner is delighted with the success of the team. Among its latest achievements is the centre's classification as an officially certified centre for the Chinese language proficiency test HSK (Hànyǔ Shuǐpíng Kǎoshì). This summer semester, examinations at different levels for the internationally recognised, standardised test for Chinese as a Foreign Language will be taken for the first time in Kiel.

The centre has a wide range of crossovers and interconnections: over the last decade, the centre, which is part of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, has organised many conferences, presentations, discussions and workshops on subjects such as "Asian medical concepts", "Plant breeding partnerships with China" and "China's economy". It also has contacts with Chinese universities.

The centre will celebrate its 10th anniversary on 9 and 10 December: the annual conference of the German Association of Chinese Studies, which is attended by sinologists from throughout the German-speaking region, will be held for the first time in Kiel and will focus on the subject of sustainability.

Author: Annette Göder

Professor Angelika Messner is director of the China Centre Kiel at the CAU and, among other things, member of the Ethics Commission and the Gustav-Radbruch-Network at Kiel University, President of the International Association for the Study of Traditional Asian Medicine, member of the interdisciplinary working group "Zukunft der Medizin: Gesundheit für alle" (The Future of Medicine: Good Health for All) at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities as well as an elected member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts.