A group of Rotorua principals travelled to China for two weeks last month to learn more about the culture, teaching and language.

Kaitao Middle School principal Rory O'Rourke said they were invited, with other principals from around the country, by Confucius Institute, which paid for the trip.

The trip was for schools that taught the language or were thinking of doing so, he said.

It started in Beijing where they went to the Great Wall, Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square.

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Mr O'Rourke said the group also visited John McKinnon, the New Zealand ambassador to China, and a number of primary and intermediate/middle schools.

They also paid a visit to the Confucius Institute Headquarters before flying to Xiamen.

He said in Xiamen the group went to Nanjing Tulou which featured huge round earth houses, the Chinese Museum, botanical gardens, Xiamen University and Gulangyu Island.

A highlight was in Nang Chang where he watched the greatest light show in the world in the middle of the river, as 150 skyscrapers lit up and told a story, he said.

Mr O'Rourke said at Kaitao Middle School they had been offering the language for 15 years.

While in Nang Chang he signed up a sister school, which is attached to Nang Chang University.

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Mr O'Rourke said it would initially see 10 students from the sister school come to Rotorua in July, and 10 Kaitao students going there next April.

Rotorua Primary School principal John Naera said the trip helped get an idea of the culture, learning and language in China.

He said when visiting a number of schools what they saw was a big difference in the teaching and the size of classes.

Mr Naera said the Beijing class average was 40 to 50 children in a class, but could go as high as 60.

"There's a huge difference and everything is done on a big scale," he said.

"It was a great trip. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it to other schools looking to take on Mandarin."