Our second annual Pengyou Day was held on November 19, 2015, during the State Department’s International Education Week, as a day of solidarity encouraging friendship and exchange between China and the United States. Through the “We are all #Pengyou” campaign, Project Pengyou Chapters and Asia Society Confucius Classrooms celebrated international friendships and empowered students of Chinese to spark conversations about China and share their knowledge.
There are now over 40 Project Pengyou Chapters at schools across 27 states in the US. The Chapter leadership network is diverse: there are high schoolers, undergraduate and graduate students from large state schools and small liberal arts colleges in big cities and small towns. On Pengyou Day, the whole network comes alive and it’s easy to see why “We are all #Pengyou” is fitting.
This year on Pengyou Day, Chapter events included panel discussions such as SUNY Geneseo and the Geneseo Environmental Organization’s discussion of the joint conference between US-China on climate control, a classical Chinese music performance at the IU Bloomington Chapter, including instruments such as the 琵琶 (pipa) and the 二胡 (erhu), exhibitions such as the Grinnell Chapter’s “Representations of China in American Media throughout History”, shared Chinese cultural traditions such as food, calligraphy, film and more.
“Pengyou” as a Verb
This year’s Pengyou Day followed a tumultuous week that saw an America divided by nationwide protests against institutionalized racism at US universities. Simultaneously, the attacks on Paris and Beirut and the resulting widespread fear of Syrian refugees stirred up xenophobia across the US. Feelings of powerlessness and frustration have alienated and divided some campuses where there is a lack of space for constructive cross-cultural dialogue. Many Project Pengyou Chapter leaders mentioned that they are grateful to have a community that supports that space for open and constructive dialogue.
“Pengyou” means friend in Mandarin. The idea of friendship across cultures is our foundation and we think of friendship as an active pursuit. Our Chapter leaders recognize that the most powerful way to bridge cultural divides is through proactively listening and befriending those who are different from you. It takes courage and an open mind to leave behind assumptions and stereotypes, but the conversations and trust that grow can be like a ripple effect for change.
In light of current events, the Chapter Leaders were struck by a renewed realization of the importance of building bridges at home, and strove to incorporate inclusiveness and empathy into their Pengyou Day discussions and events.
This past Pengyou Day reminded all of us that developing a movement of peacemakers and bridge-builders is vital to creating an empathetic global community. Although all of the celebrations on Pengyou Day were in separate states, and even separate countries, their effect was felt throughout each and every community, demonstrating how impactful small actions in solidarity can be. It was exciting to see close to 900 posts on social media from kindergarten classrooms to graduate students as well as participation from other members of the Project Pengyou community coming together in celebration!
Pengyou Day Highlights
Here are a few of our favorite moments from over 28 events held across the US by our Project Pengyou Chapters! Check out our Pengyou Day Photo Album to see more, or search for the hashtags #pengyou and #pengyouday on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook:
We are very thankful for Asia Society Confucius Classrooms, the Fulbright Program, and the 100,000 Strong Foundation who helped to spread the #PengyouDay campaign in their national networks. We also want to thank all the chapter leaders and pengyous in the community, whose belief in the Project Pengyou mission is the heart and soul of our movement.