They are among 1,000 students travelling for a competition in Yunnan where their skills in Mandarin will be tested at the World Chinese Bridge Contest.
Although the language is not offered as a subject in state exams, it is one of the first for which a curriculum has been designed for short courses in the new junior cycle programme.
The Irish quartet in China are attending schools that have been teaching Mandarin Chinese for a few years already.
As well as competing with students from around the world, they will get to tour the Forbidden City, the Emperor’s Summer Palace, and see the Great Wall of China.
They secured places on the trip in June at the final of a Chinese proficiency competition, run by University College Cork’s Confucius Institute and the Chinese embassy.
For Billy Lonergan, a fifth-year student at Coláiste an Phiarsaigh in Glanmire, Co Cork, it is the second trip to China after being part of a group of transition-year students who travelled there earlier this year.
He is joined by fellow Corkonian Rónan Murray, of Coláiste Muire in Crosshaven.
“Learning Chinese has been a cultural experience as well. The trip will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Rónan said.
Also travelling are 14-year-olds Aisling Chambers from Confey Community College in Leixlip, Co Kildare; and Blackrock College, Dublin student Oisin McEnroe.
More than 20 Chinese teachers are working with 4,000 students at almost 100 primary and second-level schools for the UCC Confucius Institute, set up in 2007 to strengthen educational co-operation between the countries.