China’s Confucius Institute

confucius_institute_logoWhat is the Confucius Institute?

The Confucius Institute is a non-profit public educational organization affiliated with the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China. Since its founding in 2004 it has been the main educational organization tasked with the job of promoting Chinese language and culture to the world outside the Middle Kingdom. It seeks to do this through Chinese language courses, and cultural exchanges. These cultural exchanges normally focus on language music, calligraphy, and martial arts.

Due to its status as a non-profit the course and cultural exchanges offered through the institute are not only affordable but often include the chance for student participants to gain free scholarships.

These scholarships allow high school level Chinese language students, college level Chinese students, self-taught Chinese language students and Chinese language teachers and researchers to go to China for a specific period of time and have the chance to choose from more than thirty different destinations from the most well-known and “obvious”, like Beijing and Shanghai, to Harbin, Chengdu, Chongqing, Dalian, and Qingdao, which are less known to the general public. There aren’t yet any scholarships from the Confucius Institute that go to Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Confucius Institute Locations throughout the world

Confucius Institutes’ can now be found all over the world, and through its educational programmes links and relationships are fostered through the promotion of Chinese language and culture. The aim being to promote China, its culture history and language to the world.


Scholarships are awarded for exceptional knowledge of Chinese culture by the Office of Chinese Language Council International (HANBAN) through Chinese Bridge. These scholarships are checked on this site and generally fall into four types.

1 – Brief program of 4 weeks

Financial contribution from Hanban with complete coverage for lodging and the price of the course. Minimum requirements: having completed a HSK exam and not have previously studied in China (that last requirement is decided by the individual Confucius Institutes).

2 – Six month program

A half year in China completely covered by Hanban. Minimum requirements: having reached the HSK at level 3 or greater and the HSKK of any level.

3 – Year Program

Completely covered for a year. Minimum requirements: having reached HSK level 4 and the HSKK intermediate level.

4 – Graduate course for Chinese language education

Complete coverage for two years. Minimum requirements: having reached HSK level 5 and HSKK intermediate.

A few partner universities with the Confucius Institute also make Masters available in conjunction with universities in China mainly centred on production, to put it briefly, two degrees for the price of one. Quite appealing!


Standardised testing

The Confucius Institute organizes Chinese language exams recognized throughout the world. The most important when applying for a scholarship, are HSK and HSKK.

HSK is an acronym for Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (汉语水平考试, Chinese language level exam). The HSK is subdivided into 6 levels. To pass this exam, the Chinese language student must have a strong knowledge of Chinese grammar but above all, Chinese characters. In fact each level requires the knowledge of a certain number of words:

  • HSK 1 – 150 words
  • HSK 2 – 300 words
  • HSK 3 – 600 words
  • HSK 4 – 1200 words
  • HSK 5 – 2500 and more words
  • HSK 6 – more than 5000 words

The HSK exam consists of various tests that require just the spoken and written language.

The HSKK, which stands for Hanyu Shuiping Kouyu Kaoshi (汉语水平口语考试, Spoken Chinese language level exam), is an exam that mostly tests the ability to read out loud and speak the Chinese language.

The HSK and HSKK are the minimum requirements to be able to apply for a scholarship in China. The exams are open to all, just go on the site (or directly on the site of the closest Confucius Institute), enrol in the exam with the Confucius Institute you prefer and show up on the day of the test with the document and admission ticket you can print on the site.

The prices for these exams are:

HSK 1 = 20 USD, HSK 2 = 30 USD, HSK 3 = 40 USD, HSK 4 = 50 USD, HSK 5 = 60 USD, HSK 6 = 70 USD.

HSKK basic = 20 USD; HSKK intermediate = 30 USD; HSKK advanced = 40 USD.

The Martial and Mandarin: Are you a type A student or a type B student?

In China dedicated martial arts students who plan to make the most of their time generally fall into two categories.

Type A – You’re a martial arts student in China and you’ve reached a level where in order to further develop your understanding and skill as well as make your life easier you’ve got no choice but learn the language.

Type B – You’re a Chinese language student who’s always been interested in martial arts but has yet to take the step into training. But things have finally come to a head and you’ve had enough of conversations about where you’re from, how much you earn and whether you like Chinese food, girls or football.

Chances are a few of you reading this post have had at least contemplated at least for a second combining martial arts with language learning.

You might have considered the following options. A university course with a certain amount of martial arts training, finding an elusive badass master and informally studying the language or by joining one of the many international kung fu schools and taking their free classes.

The benefit of combining martial arts and language learning can be found in the practical skills you learn that not only add to the experience but also your CV. Indeed such a step can take many in completely new directions abound with opportunities for the wily foreigner. Overall these programmes allow participants the opportunity to develop their martial arts and deepen their own understanding of Chinese culture and language.

“It’s a unique way to study with a high level master outside the normal international kung fu school route as that all important Chinese visa can be provided relatively cheaply through a University.”

Find a badass kung fu master  

This video clip above was taken in Yantai, Shandong province.

Yantai is a small second tier Chinese City on the northeast coast of China. It has cheap housing and has a good environment. Yantai is famous for a number of kung fu styles including Taichi Mantis, Tongbei quan, and Baguazhang. Locally with a little care you can find good masters. The city itself is a hot bed of kung fu schools and is well worth a look.

“Yantai is a hot bed of kung fu schools and masters on the east coast of China”

For details of our Traditional Martial Arts and Language Learning programmes in Yantai email You can also check out Master Sui’s full biography and training schedule here. Or you can have a look at this school Kunlun International Kung Fu School which has links to Ludong University in Yantai for long term visas and currently has a very good Shaolin Kung Fu and Mantis Kung Fu master that you can study martial arts with.

Two alternatives that may be more suitable for those who are less independent or would prefer an all-inclusive experience are  The Yuntai Mountain International Culture and Martial Arts School founded by Shi Yan Lin, also known as Xie Xu Yong. This school is the only martial arts school currently offering a quality half day martial arts and half day language learning programme. The other option I would recommend is Capital Sport University of Physical Education in Beijing.


Yuntai half and half programme

Master Shi Yan Lin is a master with over 10 year experience in teaching to both Chinese and International students Shaolin Martial Arts. The school is located in the famous Yuntai geological park, which attracts thousands of tourists every year and is fairly close to the fabled Northern Shaolin Temple. The Martial Arts training at the school will primarily focus on the various Shaolin fists and weapons as well as Sanda and Taichi. The school building formally a hotel has been converted into student accommodation, as a result the rooms are comfortable and comparatively of a high standard. The newly built training area and performance hall is five minute walk from the main accommodation area, so everything you need is close at hand.

The Chinese language course organised as part of the half martial arts, half language learning programme is available in partnership with Jiaozuo University. These courses can be specially tailored and intensive. This, makes the school a very real prospect for serious Chinese language learners. This close relationship between the martial arts school and the university means that long term student visas can be obtained for long term International students of the school.

The down side to the programme primarily relates to the schools relative isolation and the management insistence for compulsory school line ups throughout the day. Sometimes this can make students feel like they’re prisoners rather than students.


University Programme

Captial University of Physical Education & Sports is one of Beijing’s premier Martial Arts Training Universities providing top-ranking conditions for international and domestic students. The university is supported by Hanban and Confucius Institute offering Chinese Language Learning Programs, Martial Arts University Programs, TCM, Sports & Health Care Programs.

The University offers the following programs; 4 Year Undergraduate Programs, 3 Year Master Programs, 3 Year Ph.D Programs, 1-2 Year Non-degree Programs and Short-term Programs.

The Universities Featured Programs are:

1. Chinese Language Programs
The University employs a special team for teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language. This team is specializes in training international students who want to learn Chinese Culture and speak the Chinese Language. Class sizes are smaller than other universities and attention and help given to students is higher than at other Universities.  Thjs helps to ensure that students acquaire the language competences sufficent for their speciality studies in China. Small classes of differnt levels are provided as well as one-to-one teaching to meet students needs.

2. Martial Arts Programs
According to the period of study students can expect to study martial arts from martial arts champions who are experienced in both teaching and competitions for performance and also sport.

3. TCM Sports Health Care Programs
The instructor for this program is Ru Kai an assistant professor of Sports Rehabilitiation Department of Schools of Sports Science and Health. He is also the successor and master of Xisui Neigong, Baduanjin and Yijinjing.

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One of the main benefits from studying Mandarin at Capital Sports University is obviously the facilities, access to top coaches plus relatively small class size for language learning.

If you would like to learn more about studying martial arts and learning Chinese check out these great articles.

9 Mistakes to avoid when learning Chinese at a Kung Fu School in China

The things Chinese People Say


9 Mistakes to Avoid when Learning Chinese at a Kung fu School in China

If you’re studying martial arts in China whether north or South, the chances are you might also be learning the language or at least have it as one of your goals. Whether your motivation is a deeper understanding of your Shifu and the various martial arts concepts he or she is teaching you or whether it is simply to make living in China easier, learning the language makes your experience more colorful and opens greater possibilities. And yes and those possibilities also improve your chances of success with the opposite sex.

This article is specifically tailored to highlight the common mistakes that martial arts students and adventure travelers often make when attempting to learn the language.

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Mistake #1: Assuming the language learning classes at the kung fu school of your choice will be enough to give you a basic understanding of Chinese

Over the past 10 years many kungfu schools in China have developed specifically to cater to international kung fu students. Many of these have divided and sub divided over the years. The result has been many schools are hard to tell apart except for their locations. The heads of these schools through their shared experiences have caught onto the fact that many of their potential students are looking for a total experience. They are not just after expert kung fu tuition from ‘Shaolin masters’ they want language learning classes, buddhism classes, calligraphy and even TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine). So with one school offering this the rest attempt to follow suit. Promising to over deliver on value for money with these optional evening classes.

The truth is however, that the optional evening classes most schools offer are generally very basic and only meant to be introductory at best and at worst are poorly structured, and a total waste of time. For the purpose of this article I am going to concentrate on the mandarin classes.

Generally, these are taught by inexperienced translators working at the schools who often have little or no teaching experience. This makes the class itself, structure and content rather random. Another additional challenge you will face is that these classes are often open to all school new comers who have a varying degree of seriousness about learning the language. The result is that every few sessions you might be back to learning, ‘

'Ni hao'

And listening to your new class mates ask questions such as, ‘how do I say you are beautiful in Chinese?’ or ‘how do I say this is too expensive!’

The solution is to not expect too much from the free language learning classes and instead to take control of your own learning.  I recommend you buy structured Hanban HSK Chinese language learning books, Practical Chinese Reader. And work toward completing the HSK exams. This will help you set achievable incremental goals. HSK books generally have a text book, workbook and audio files/cd’s, dvd’s. These books start from beginner level and work up to advanced. HSK Level 1-6.

Using these books as the main foundation for your course material will give your Chinese class structure and provide the teacher with set lessons to help you complete the books.

NOTE: If you would like us to send you any of these books please let us know and we will order them and send them direct to your school so they are either ready for you on your arrival or soon after.

So the language classes at the kung fu schools might not be the best. However, they are great value for money and with the right attitude and some dedication they can still get you the basic Chinese and the foundational level you want.

26BBAE0C00000578-3000324-image-a-13_1426675428565Mistake #2: Not mastering tones

If you speak Chinese without proper tones you might as well be half deaf and dumb. The tones are the foundation of the language so time spent here and reviewing this will really help you get your learning off on the right track. If you don’t almost no one is going to understand you. No one except your classmates and your, teacher, the same teacher that’s used to students mangling his or her language. Once you step outside the warm cocoon of the classroom, everything changes.

But Chinese people can guess what you’re trying to say, right? Wrong.

The reason why is simple but hard to fathom for people who didn’t grow up speaking a highly tonal language — to a native speaker of Chinese, the different between tones is just as pronounced as that between consonants — perhaps even greater. Now, I’m sure you will debate time and time again with your fellow foreign friends but surely the context makes it clear! Trust me save yourself some pain, embarrassment and frustration. Master the tones early on.

Here are some articles that might help speed up the process: Master the Tones and Mandarin Tone Tricks.

In addition to this in the SMA Welcome Pack provided to students who book their training through www.StudyMartialArts.Org we’ll provide you with a Michelle Thomas Audio that will help you distinguish the tones and make you familiar with them in quite a unique way. Green Thumb Up!

Kung Fu Hustle_5

Mistake #3: Not learning characters

What about characters — won’t leaping over them help you reach conversational fluency faster? Sure, in the beginning, Pinyin is easier, after all, and you’ll free up time to practice conversation. But characters are nothing if not an aid to your learning at the higher levels. They help you watch TV, get around town, and do pretty much everything you need to live in China without assistance. The other thing is that visual learners find learning characters re-enforces their existing learning.

Wouldn’t living in China be even better if you could read those old kung fu manuals. What price would you put on learning the ancient buddha palm? Like in the movie ‘kung fu hustle’?

It is true however that not everyone is interested in characters. Maybe your goal is just simple conversations for the heck of it. In that case you don’t need to learn characters. If you want to get any further, characters will help you when you want to go. And luckily for you there are lots and lots of apps, websites and free materials you can get your hands on to help you learn characters.

Here is a good app for learning how to write Chinese Characters, its called Skritter. Skritter allows you to write Japanese and Chinese characters with a mouse or a tablet and get a score and suggestions on how to improve your handwriting. And here is another app its called Memrise.

Memrise is community based learning app that uses images and science to make learning easy and fun. It does this through connecting audio, imagery, pinyin and character recognition.

Mistake #4: Not being consistent and persevering

Use all the opportunities available to you to learn. Pick a day each week where you force yourself just to use Chinese. The trick is to use the language when the opportunity presents itself. Immerse yourself in the language and the country and enjoy the experience. To do this you must be consistent and persevere. Making a learning plan with set learning goals for each week will definitely help but remember having goals is not the be all and end all.


Mistake #5: Focusing on progress over process

Having goals for learning Chinese is fine, and can take you a long way on the path to fluency. But you may end up going crazy long before you reach your destination. That’s because a realistic expectation for learning Mandarin to true fluency might be five to twenty years!

It’s easy to get discouraged when you make mistakes or don’t see rapid progress. So what can you do to stay sane?

First, accept that you are not Chinese, and even after years of hard work you’re still going to make stupid mistakes. The more the better, as we’ll talk about in a moment.

Second, enjoy the journey — make your goal using Chinese instead of mastering it. Focus on today, not where you want to be next year. That doesn’t mean abandoning long term goals or not setting them at all. It means focusing on the here and now and being happy with your current level of Chinese and using it. And you can do that by avoiding a common mistake that Chinese language learners make:

Mistake #6: Not making good Chinese friends

If you’re really going to master the language, you need to get out there. That’s because language can’t be completely built within the warm confines of a classroom. You find the missing pieces by getting exposed to real Chinese. A lot of it. Making interesting Chinese friends is one way to get this exposure. If you feel awkward speaking to your Chinese friends in Chinese, you need to make more friends or learn more Chinese, or both. When you find a friend who doesn’t mind speaking Chinese with you, see if you can get them to correct some of your mistakes. This is the advice that Tim Ferris gives best, from Why Language Classes Don’t work: “Make it your goal to screw up as often as possible in uncontrolled environments. Explicitly ask friends to correct you and reward them with thanks and praise when they catch you spouting nonsense, particularly the small understandable mistakes. I was able to pass the Certificatdo de Espanol Avanzado, the most difficult Spanish certification test in South America, in eight weeks, which is said to require near-native fluency and years of immersion. How? By following the above fixes and making more mistakes in eight weeks than most make in eight years.” – Tim Ferris Make as many mistakes as you can, and try to get people to point them out to you. It may be awkward at first, but it’s the best way to improve your speaking. But like you wouldn’t jump into the Amazon without learning how to swim, you need to learn the basics before putting yourself out there. One way to do so better is by avoiding this common mistake:

Mistake #7: Not using the best learning materials available

Most people think that having a great teacher is more important than having a great textbook. Personally, I agree with Tim Ferris and what he says in the article linked above: great textbooks + an average teacher > average textbooks + an great teacher. Whether or not you take formal language classes, the best learning materials will help you learn Chinese better.

Here are three sources I highly recommend:

1. — Their podcasts and other audio aides make this the best choice if you can’t attend real classes or get much time with a good tutor / language exchange partner.

2. Integrated Chinese (Princeton University Press)– This is the most thorough textbook introduction to Chinese I know of. If you learn everything in the first two year’s worths of books, you’ll have succeeded in building a good foundation for later learning.

3. Fluentu is a website with the best Mandarin Chinese video content. It’s fun, timely, and ideal for Chinese learners. It has Chinese movie trailers, Chinese music videos, Commercials, and Business Chinese videos. No matter what your interest or level of fluency, we’ve got what you’re looking for.


Mistake #8: Settling for poor classes

A bad class can sometimes be worse than no class at all — spending time and energy on average classes and with teachers who force feed you the same lessons or that have no imagination or class structure is not something you want to do. So take control of your learning.

The quality of the textbooks — Don’t settle for poor texts use New Practical Chinese Reader to being with.

The size of classes — For the most part will be small. The problem is the numbers are likely to fluctuate throughout the year during peak and quiet times at the school

The levels of classes — Most schools will have only one level it therefore will be up to you to put a case for adding extra levels. The most likely solution will be that you recommend the school has 1 level for beginners and new arrivals and another for students serious about learning Chinese.

If your teachers have experience teaching foreigners — part of the reason these classes can be so frustrating is that its likely your teacher will be totally clueless about teaching foreigners Chinese — by forcing the structure of a text and workbook you can limit this. Finally, don’t make this mistake as you will need it:

Mistake #9: Not using kickass tools for learning Chinese

There’re many tools for learning Chinese online. But these are some of the very best:

1. Google’s Character writing software There’s no better character input system than Google’s Pinyin input system. It reponds fast to your typing, guesses what characters you want incredibly well, and allows you to type out strings as long as you want. All that means a really convenient way of typing Chinese.

2. Chinese Pera-kun Have you ever wished you could hover your mouse over a character or group of characters and see its pinyin and meaning instantly? Well, a plugin for Firefox, and google chrome Chinese Pera-kun, can help you do this. It’s not perfect but it comes close.

3. Anki

This fantastic piece of SRS software”) lets you keep track of everything you’re learning and study it efficiently. If you’re starting out learning Mandarin (or any language), I’d strongly recommend using Anki from the beginning. If you’re already some way into the language, start creating flashcards as soon as possible. Anki’s cool because it’s fairly easy to get up and running, but the more you use it the more you come to realise how deep its features and capabilities go. It can’t do everything for you, but it can make the time you put in much more effective. If you use nothing else from this list, use Anki.

4. Sinosplice John Pasden’s blog Sinosplice has a collection of very clear, accurate guides for learning Mandarin, particularly for the early stages. You can save yourself a lot of time by reading these and getting a few things right from the beginning (particularly tones and pronunciation in general).

5. MDBG & Pleco A good quality free dictionary had to make it on to this list somewhere, and I find MDBG to be the best Chinese dictionary. It’s very fast and reliably online, and it’s also the result of an admirable community project to build a free and open dictionary. I would have put nciku here, but I find it’s either very slow or inaccessible, and when it actually does load, the interface is a overwhelmed by advertising. It has great content but really is hampered by these issues. Pleco is a great free app. It also supports the iPad, while many other iPhone dictionaries don’t. Pleco has an integrated dictionary / document reader / flashcard system with fullscreen handwriting input and live OCR.

6. Tatoeba The Tatoeba project logoDictionaries are useful for quick checks on words, particularly from the target language into your own. But experienced language learners know that to accurately grasp the meaning of a word you need to see it in action. For this you need example sentences, and Tatoeba is quickly becoming the best resource for this. It’s already got a huge database of examples sentences, and more are being added every hour. The thing that makes Tatoeba stand out though is that it’s more than a 1 – 1 list of translations; it’s a web of translations. It’s also a free, community-based project (you might have realised by now that I really like free, community-based projects). This means that if there’s something you don’t know how to express in Mandarin, you can just add it in English and wait for someone to come along and translate it.

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So there you have. Watch out for the mistakes and enjoy your learning. For further information on the best places to learn Chinese, visit StudyMartialArts.Org

Yue Jia Quan training in Yantai Shandong

Yue Jia Quan
 is the Yue family fist directly attributed to General Fei of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279).

Yue Jia Quan is a short boxing combat system based primarily upon the principles of combining inner and outer bodies in theory and application. Emphasis is on low stances centreline and body strikes that over power opponents and the efficient use of kicks. This combat style comes from the principal philosophy of the positive and negative and combines the five elements of the heart, liver,lung, spleen and kidney in the human body.

Yue Jia Fist training consisting of:

Forms practice, combat strength and conditioning drills, free sparing, breathing exercises, hard body conditioning as well as active and standing qigong.

If you would like to study Yue Jia Quan with a traditional master with years of actual combat experience as opposed to forms competition experience follow the link.

Master Sui Peng Fei is based in Yantai, Shandong. It is a very pretty and relatively small costal city on the east coast of China. At present we are offering serious students the chance to enrole in a 1 year Chinese course, (1 year visa included), plus 1 year training with Master Sui and accommodation in a new 2 bed apartment for 1 year – Short term options with or without a Chinese language course are available on request. Accommodation would either be at the University and a 3-6 month language course would have to be applied for or alternatively with an invitation letter organised through SMA we have the opportunity to set those interested in this up with a Home-stay Family. All this can be done through only through http://www.StudyMartialArts.Org

Master Sui Peng Fei