UN Chinese Language Day Celebrated in Vienna

Lifestyle & TravelCulture ♦ Published: May 18, 2022; 11:54 ♦ (Vindobona)

A virtual event took place in Vienna to mark the United Nations (UN) Chinese Language Day and promote the Chinese language and culture.

The Shi Qiang pan, a bronze ritual basin dated to around 900 BC. Long inscriptions on the surface describe the deeds and virtues of the first seven Zhou kings. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons / 幽灵巴尼, CC BY-SA 3.0

The event was established by the UN Department of Public Information, seeking to celebrate multilingualism and cultural diversity as well as to promote equal use of all six of its official working languages throughout the organization.

UN Chinese Language Day is observed annually on April 20. This day was chosen as the date "to pay tribute to Cangjie, a mythical figure who is presumed to have invented Chinese characters about 5,000 years ago".

The 2022 event, themed "Colorful Yunnan, Showcase for Global Development," was co-hosted by the Permanent Mission of China in Vienna, UN Information Service Vienna and the government of China's Yunnan Province.

More than 200 delegates, including officials, scholars and representatives from international organizations, attended the opening ceremony of the event virtually.

Wang Qun, China's Permanent Representative to the UN in Vienna, said at the ceremony that this year's event is aimed to promote cultural exchanges and people-to-people ties and to highlight the value of diversity and solidarity. Wang added that Yunnan Province boasts beautiful natural sceneries, diverse cultures and green ecology, and offers a window into China's high-quality development in recent years.

Ghada Waly, director-general of the UN Office at Vienna and executive director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, said at the ceremony that Chinese, as one of the official UN languages, plays an important role in multilateral diplomacy at the UN in Vienna and she welcomed the focus of this year's event on Yunnan and sustainable development.

The opening ceremony also featured singing and ethnic dance performances by artists from Yunnan.

Chinese is the most widely spoken language in the world. About 900 million Chinese converse in Beifanghua, the northern Chinese language variant on which High Chinese (Putonghua or Mandarin) is also based.

The written language is generalized and understood throughout China, but pronunciations, individual words, and idioms vary widely between north and south. A Cantonese person can understand a Northern Chinese person without special training as little as vice versa.

Standard Chinese (Standard Mandarin), based on the Beijing dialect of Mandarin, was adopted in the 1930s and is now an official language of both the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China (Taiwan), one of the four official languages of Singapore, and one of the six official languages of the United Nations.

The written form, using the logograms known as Chinese characters, is shared by literate speakers of mutually unintelligible dialects.

Since the 1950s, simplified Chinese characters have been promoted for use by the government of the People's Republic of China, while Singapore officially adopted simplified characters in 1976.

Traditional characters remain in use in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and other countries with significant overseas Chinese speaking communities.

Permanent Mission of the Peoples Republic of China to International Organizations in Vienna

UNIS United Nations Information Service