Hebrew U student represents Israel to millions on popular Chinese game show

During Lechao Tang’s screen-time, the show rose to China’s second most-viewed program.

October 26, 2014 18:42
2 minute read.
 Lechao Tang (right) participating in Chinese game show.

Lechao Tang (right) participating in Chinese game show.. (photo credit: CHINA TV)

As the clock wound down on his opponent, a grin spread across Lechao Tang’s face. The buzzer sounded.

Tang, a Hebrew University student, applauded his foe politely – and the floor opened up beneath her feet, sending her plummeting unceremoniously below.

Tang represented Hebrew University in a popular Chinese game show earlier this month that pitted students from schools across the world against one another. His unlucky opponent hailed from the University of Cambridge, with other contestants representing Yale and Harvard.

But whereas Harvard and Yale are well-known abroad, Tang said that in China, the typical response when he says he studies in Israel is: “Where’s Israel?” “We are easternmost Asia and Israel is westernmost Asia,” he said. “I’m lucky to be the person to connect them.”

The quiz show, called “Who’s Still Standing,” spun off from the program “Lauf al Hamilyon” on Israel’s Channel 10.

During Tang’s screen-time, the show rose to China’s second most-viewed program.

Before the quiz segment that sent his opponent plummeting into the ground, Tang gave the audience a two-minute introduction to Israel and the Hebrew University, mentioning the international character of the school. He also brought up some of the stark realities of life in Israel, such as the widespread presence of armed soldiers.

For Tang, merely appearing on television as a student from Israel was “a really honorable and special opportunity.” A master’s student in bible studies, Tang seeks to bridge the gap between the Chinese and Jewish cultures, which he says share many values and philosophies.

He runs a blog in Chinese about ancient Israel. He teaches Hebrew via Web videos for the Chinese online education startup One Man University, which are sometimes the first introduction to Hebrew for newcomers from China.

Tang’s story struck a chord with the program’s hosts, a married couple who had recently been to Israel. On air, they told of how they had visited the Western Wall and scribbled a note asking for help conceiving a child. This year, they had a baby boy.

“They helped me a lot to introduce my university,” he said. “I didn’t have to say much.”

The hosts’ goodwill didn’t help Tang in the show’s second round, where he and a group of international students competed against a team from Chinese universities.

“There were lots of questions on Chinese history and that kind of stuff,” he said. “So the domestic students won eventually – by chance, in my personal opinion,” he added, grinning.

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