The United Nations’ Annual Chinese Language Day

The United Nations has declared April 19th 2020 as Chinese language day! Mandarin Chinese is one of the six official languages used for UN communication. Each official language has its own holiday meant to inspire and unite speakers and learners of the language across the globe. 2020 marks the 11th year of the Chinese language day. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important for Chinese learners around the world to come together online and celebrate Chinese in a way that encourages unity through diversity.

To acknowledge the great diversity of Chinese speakers and learners, it is beneficial to understand the history of Chinese language within the UN. Chinese was adopted as an official UN language in 1946, but was not widely used until its designation as a working language by the General Assembly and Security Council in 1973 and 1974 respectively. The 20th of April was selected as the celebration date to honor Cang Jie (仓颉), who invented the Chinese characters system around 2650BC. Cang Jie was often inspired by the shape of objects and natural phenomena and created hieroglyphs according to that. It is said that he had four eyes, so he could observe things better than others. According to legend, the gods rained millet (guyu, 谷雨) upon the earth when Cang Jie had completed the character system on the 6th of 24 solar terms in the Chinese calendar. In the Gregorian calendar, this is around the 20th of April.

Today, Chinese is spoken by 1.3 billion people worldwide and is studied by approximately 100 million others. In the past, the UN in New York celebrated the event with Chinese art displays and cultural lectures. This year, Chinese learners from around the world have created inspiring videos which will be available from 19 – 26 April at on their Chinese day page.

Check them out and get inspired!

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