The verdant Hawai‘i Islands in their mid-Pacific location have for over two centuries played a siren song to travelers from the greatest land mass in East Asia. The earliest Chinese emigrants landed on Hawai‘i’s shores beginning in 1789, and built the first wooden structures around Honolulu harbor that are the forerunners of the business district of modern Honolulu. In 1879, a 13-year old Chinese boy landed on these same shores, and absorbed enough modern Western (Christian) education in Honolulu’s schools to topple the religious altars in his own home, and decades later, as Sun Yatsen, helped overthrow an empire to establish a democracy in his homeland.
Given the prominence of these early connections between Hawai‘i and the Chinese, and the composition of Hawai‘i’s population, it is not surprising that by 1930 UH ranked third among U.S. colleges and universities in the number of Asia-related courses it offered. Today, the university’s Center for Chinese Studies housed within the School of Pacific and Asian Studies, is the largest such research and training center outside of Asia.
The Confucius Institute at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa is a part of the university’s Center for Chinese Studies. Funded by the Confucius Institute Headquarters (Hanban) of the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China, it is operated jointly by UH Mānoa and the Beijing Foreign Studies University. It was established on November 6, 2006, and tasked with responding to local and national needs in promoting education about Chinese language and culture.
The CI-UHM strives to respond to local and national needs in promoting education about Chinese language and culture, including (but not limited to) the following:
- Developing a Chinese language teacher certification program, in collaboration with the UH Departments of East Asian Languages & Literatures and Second Language Studies, and the UH College of Education. The CI-UHM has the potential to become a national leader in meeting the burgeoning demand in this field
- Developing an articulated, on-line Chinese language curriculum for kindergarten through grade 12 students, in collaboration with the Hawaii Department of Education and UH’s National Foreign Language Resource Center. This too would respond to a recognized national need
- Developing innovative language learning opportunities for populations that are not currently being served, including a summer language immersion sports camp, weekend classes, and online lessons for executives
- Bringing the resources of UH-CCS faculty and students to the business, government, and general communities through lectures and other presentations
- Supporting Hawaii’s film resources, including the Hawaii International Film Festival and the film program at the Doris Duke Academy, and the University’s own Academy for Creative Media, in promoting Chinese films and documentaries
- Developing an online resource base to link Hawaii, the U.S. mainland, the PRC and other Chinese communities elsewhere, in promoting education about Chinese language and culture