US first lady shows character during maiden visit to China

US first lady shows character during maiden visit to China
U.S. first lady Michelle Obama (left) and Peng Liyuan, wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping, pose for a photograph as they visit Forbidden City in Beijing.

US first lady Michelle Obama said she was amazed by the country's culture when she tried her hand at Chinese calligraphy for the first time on Friday.

"I want to try again, it's beautiful," she said after writing the Chinese character 永 (yong), which means "forever" in English.

She made the brush strokes under the guidance of a Chinese student at the Second High School Affiliated to Beijing Normal University.

The character she wrote was a typical one for calligraphy skills training. Yang Jie, the class teacher, said ancient Chinese calligrapher Wang Xizhi spent decades writing the character.

"Mrs Obama has done very well as a beginner," she said.

Obama is on a weeklong visit to China with her mother, Marian Robinson, and her two daughters, Malia and Sasha. It is her first trip to China and also the first official visit by a US first lady to the country without the accompaniment of a US president. The family arrived in Beijing on Thursday evening.

China's first lady, Peng Liyuan, who invited Michelle Obama to China, accompanied the guests throughout the day. The US first lady's office said earlier that Peng designed the entire schedule for the tour.

President Xi Jinping and Peng also met their guests in the afternoon at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse.

Xi said he "cherishes the well-established good working relations and friendship" with the US president, according to a Foreign Ministry press release.

Xi also said he "has kept close communication" with the White House through channels including meetings and phone calls.

"I believe that through concerted efforts China-US relations will keep advancing to the goal of the new type of relations between major nations," Xi said.

Obama said she had been impressed by her experiences during the day and expected to make more visits to China. Peng later hosted a dinner for the guests.

The two first ladies turned on the style. Peng wore a dark blue, long suit dress in the morning and a black Chinese-style suit for the official meeting. Obama was dressed in black and white in the morning, changing into a red dress in the afternoon.

In the morning at the high school, Lu Yuhong, an outstanding student in the elective calligraphy class, acted as mentor for Obama's Chinese calligraphy skills.

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