KOTA KINABALU: Maybelle Meryl Maurice is a sixth-grade primary student from a family originally from Kadazan, who recently became the first to participate in a Chinese calligraphy contest held online across the country.
Although she is only one-fourth Chinese (her mother is of Kadazan and Chinese descent while her father is a Kadazan), that hasn’t stopped her from falling in love with the language and doing well in the subject. .
“I love the Chinese language as I find it, especially Mandarin, which is beautiful to my ears when listened to and spoken,” said the 12-year-old who studies at SJK School (c) St Peter , Telipok.
The eldest of two siblings said studying at a vernacular Chinese school and having a half-Chinese mother probably helped her discover her love for the Chinese language and culture.
It also helped discover Maybelle’s talent in Chinese calligraphy and recently helped her beat 17 finalists in the Chinese Bridge (Chinese language proficiency competition) for Malaysian primary school students held online across the country on June 11.
She will also represent Malaysia at the international level of the second Chinese bridge competition with the runner-up.
“For me, Chinese calligraphy is like art and I also like to make art,” she said, adding that she started learning Chinese calligraphy when she was eight years old at school.
Calligraphy is a form of artful writing of Chinese characters using brush and ink, and was once considered the supreme visual art form that could also show culture, education and status during ancient times, more valued than painting or sculpture.
At school, Maybelle usually gets above average marks in her Chinese subject while at home she speaks English, Malay, Mandarin and Kadazan.
She said that like many of her friends and cousins, she loves to listen to songs online and watch dramas, but unlike those who choose Korean pop or English songs, she prefers Mandarin songs.
Her father, Maurice Miki, a teacher, said that although he doesn’t understand Chinese or calligraphy, he has always supported and encouraged his daughter to pursue what she loves.
“Early on, I knew she would win some of the top spots in the competition because she always came home with awards every time she entered state competitions,” the 42-year-old said.
He said it was still a surprise, however, when she came out on top in the last competition.
Maurice thanked his wife, a housewife, for guiding and teaching their daughter what little she knows about Chinese and calligraphy, and the teachers at Maybelle for taking the time and effort to train and trust their talents.
He said that any language in the world was beautiful, as long as the person using it didn’t abuse it or disrespect it in any way.
He also felt that at the time and in the times of today, one would only gain by being multilingual.
The Chinese bridge competition was hosted by the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Malaysia and organized by the Kongzi Institute of the University of Malaysia.
During the competition, participants had to show their talents by singing, doing calligraphy, dancing, allegro, etc.
The contest content also included a language and culture knowledge test and a speaking quiz.
Earlier at the opening ceremony of the competition, the embassy’s education counselor Zhao Chang Tao said that Chinese civilization has a long history and a splendid culture over 5,000 years old.
He said Mandarin was a commonly used language in the world, where more than a billion people understand and converse.
He said people could learn Chinese songs, cuisines, better understand folk cultures, history and customs by learning the language.
Professor Yong Zulina, Vice Chancellor of the University of Malaysia (International Affairs), said the Chinese Bridge Competition is a platform to promote language and cultural exchanges between China and Malaysia.