“Mr. Li, my performance today is for you. I miss you so much!”
In the interview after the competition, Ema Redzepagic, No. 16 contestant in the Primary School Group of the 2020 "Chinese Bridge" Southwestern United States Preliminary Competition, shed tears of excitement when facing the video camera.
Ema was very excited after learning that she won the 4-5 grade primary school group championship. The 11-year-old girl prepared for this competition for a whole year. And there is also a touching bond between a teacher and a student.
“Mr. Li, I miss you so much!”
"The performance I have presented today is ‘Tai Chi Kung Fu Fan’. The teacher who taught me Tai Chi fan is Mr. Li from Xiamen University. He has returned to China. I miss him very much. Last year, I couldn't perform Tai Chi fan in the 'Chinese Bridge' competition because my foot was injured. Now that my feet have recovered, I can present the show again." Ema said fluently in Chinese.
"Although Mr. Li is not here today, Ema prepared and presented the Tai Chi fan program especially for him," Ema's mother Susanna added.
Mr. Li, mentioned by Ema and her mother, is Professor Li Rensong from the School of Physical Education of Xiamen University and a Chinese teacher at the Confucius Institute at San Diego. From 2017 to 2019, as the person in charge of the "Six Arts" project, Professor Li mainly managed the teaching and guidance of Tai Chi, Qi Gong, and Wushu culture at the Confucius Institute. At present, Mr. Li has finished his term and returned to Xiamen University.
In the autumn of 2018, Ema signed up for the "Tai Chi Kung Fu Fan" course in the "Six Arts After-school Interest Class" of the Confucius Institute. Since then she has formed a master-apprentice relationship with Mr. Li. At the time, Ema was in the third grade of the Chinese immersion class at Barnard Primary School Confucius Classroom. She had a solid foundation in Chinese and was very interested in Chinese culture.
Li Rensong found that Ema was not only talented but also worked hard, and often interacted with teachers in class. After a year of Tai Chi and Tai Chi fan training, Ema was proficient in the action and movement, and had a deep understanding of the spiritual connotation of Tai Chi.
When registering for the "Chinese Bridge" competition in 2019, Ema wrote down "Tai Chi Kung Fu Fan" in the application form of the talent show without hesitation. At the same time, Mr. Li also recommended Ema to the Chinese Qigong Association, hoping that she could go to China to participate in Tai Chi competition after that.
Unfortunately, all plans had to be suspended due to Ema's foot injury.
Ema is diligent and eager to learn. In addition to taking Chinese classes from Monday to Friday, she also attends various after-school interest classes to learn Chinese culture on weekend. She signed up for a Chinese dance class, but her ankle ligament was injured during practice.
The doctor told her that she couldn't dance or have any sports within a few months. Ema was sad for a long time after she heard the news.
Even so, during the Spring Festival of 2019, she insisted on participating in several Tai Chi Kung Fu fan performances with foot injury in order to support the Chinese New Year performance, which was organized by Mr. Li.
When the "Chinese Bridge" competition was held in May, Ema's foot injury worsened. With the persuasion of her mother and doctor, she temporarily changed the performance program and replaced the originally planned "Tai Chi Kung Fu Fan" program with poetry recitation.
With her excellent performances of fluent Chinese speech and emotional recitation, Ema won the third place in primary school group of the "Chinese Bridge" Competition. After the competition, Li Rensong encouraged her to practice Tai Chi after her foot was recovered. He also expressed a wish for Ema and her mother to visit and study in Xiamen University.
In September 2019, before Mr. Li returned to China, Ema and Susannah held a special Dinner for him to express their gratitude.
Re-enter the "Chinese Bridge"
One year later, Ema re-entered the "Chinese Bridge" Competition with the "Tai Chi Kung Fu Fan". Although Mr. Li was not present this time, he was very touched after watching Ema’s performance through the video. He said, " I'm glad her foot injury has recovered. This is the two-minute program I designed for her last year, and she performed it very well."
On learning that Ema won the championship with outstanding performance this year, Li Rensong was very excited. He said, "I am really happy for Emma! After the pandemic of coronavirus is over, I hope to invite Ema and her mother to Xiamen University."
Ema's mother Susannah once went to China to study Chinese and traditional Chinese medicine, so she encourages her daughter Ema to learn Chinese from an early age and has also been very supportive of the Confucius Institute's projects and work.
After the "Chinese Bridge" competition, Susanna expressed her gratitude to the Confucius Institute. She said, "The 'Chinese Bridge' competition held by the Confucius Institute is a very good activity. It provides a platform for children to encourage each other, help each other and learn Chinese from each other, which not only improves their Chinese level but also helps them learn Chinese culture, serving as a bridge of cultural communication."
“Learning Chinese together and dreaming for a better future”, the story of Ema and Mr. Li are still being written. The Confucius Institute at San Diego will carry on the original intention of "building a bridge of language and culture" and strive to train more students like Ema who love Chinese and Chinese culture, and build more bridges for China-US cultural exchanges.
Source: Confucius Institute at San Diego, USA