Fos­ter­ing cul­tural ties through Chi­nese mar­tial arts

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI -

yu­ran@chi­nadaily.com.cn

It is no longer sur­pris­ing to see a Chi­nese man in Africa, see­ing as how re­la­tions be­tween the two par­ties have pro­gressed sig­nif­i­cantly in re­cent times.

Trade be­tween China and Africa has in­creased by more than 22 times in the past 15 years and just last year, Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping an­nounced that the coun­try would be pro­vid­ing $60 bil­lion in loans to help the African con­ti­nent over­come its chal­lenges in in­fra­struc­ture, tal­ent and fund­ing.

Wang Xudong is one such Chi­nese in Africa. But un­like his many other com­pa­tri­ots there who are from the oil and con­struc­tion in­dus­tries, the 26-year-old is a vol­un­teer at the Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute at the Univer­sity of Botswana, founded in 2009 un­der a mem­o­ran­dum of agree­ment be­tween Shang­hai Nor­mal Univer­sity and the Univer­sity of Botswana.

But though Wang may not be able to speak the lo­cal lan­guage of Setswana, he com­mu­ni­cates with his African coun­ter­parts in English and, more no­tably, the lan­guage of Chi­nese mar­tial arts.

The par­tic­u­lar school of Chi­nese mar­tial arts that Wang teaches his African peers at the in­sti­tute is Chen-style taichi. There are var­i­ous forms of taichi and the most dis­cern­able dif­fer­ent be­tween Chen-style and the rest is the tempo — the lat­ter are said to be more fluid in na­ture while the for­mer em­pha­sizes on sud­den bursts of power.

Born in Wen county in He­nan prov­ince, said to be where Chen­style taichi orig­i­nated from, pick­ing up the mar­tial art was a nat­u­ral thing for Wang.

“Every­one around me prac­ticed taichi daily as a form of ex­er­cise. I started learn­ing from my brother when I was just six-years-old but I later found my­self in­creas­ingly in­ter­ested in this mar­tial art,” said Wang, who now holds a sec­ond grade in taichi.

He con­ducts at least three mar­tial arts lessons daily and said that this ex­pe­ri­ence has pro­vided him with valu­able in­sights into the lo­cal African cul­ture and just how pas­sion­ate his stu­dents are about China’s cul­ture and mar­tial arts.

Be­sides mar­tial arts, which some of his stu­dents know as kungfu, Wang also teaches the lo­cals com­pet­i­tive long-style boxing and Chi­nese tra­di­tions such as the Spring Fes­ti­val, the Mid-Au­tumn Fes­ti­val and the Dragon Boat Fes­ti­val. He also or­ga­nizes var­i­ous classes to teach Chi­nese cook­ing, mu­si­cal in­stru­ments, dance moves and poem read­ing.

“I am play­ing the role of a ‘bridge-builder’ for China and Africa, and mar­tial arts is just one of the ways that Africans can learn more about Chi­nese cul­ture,” said Wang.

“It is in this way that they are able to ex­plore the essence of tra­di­tional Chi­nese cul­ture be­cause many of these styles are re­lated to Bud­dhism, Tao­ism and tra­di­tional Chi­nese med­i­cal sci­ence.”

Cur­rently a post­grad­u­ate stu­dent from Shang­hai Nor­mal Univer­sity who is ma­jor­ing in mar­tial arts, Wang’s de­ci­sion to vol­un­teer in Botswana was in­flu­enced by his de­sire to con­duct more in-depth re­search for his the­sis — it is cen­tered on the abil­ity of mar­tial arts to com­mu­ni­cate to peo­ple around the world — as well as broaden his hori­zons.

Now into the fi­nal stretch of his three-year stint at the in­sti­tute, he will re­turn to Shang­hai in about three months to con­tinue his stud­ies on the the­o­ret­i­cal as­pects of Chi­nese mar­tial arts. Wang con­ceded that he had not in­tended to be a vol­un­teer for three years, but it was the charm of the lo­cals and his de­sire to share the teach­ings of taichi that made him de­cide on an ex­tended stay.

The idyl­lic pace of life in Botswana was another rea­son why Wang de­cided to ex­tend his vol­un­teer­ing stint.

“Life is slower here and that has al­lowed me to truly ex­plore and dis­cover what I re­ally want to do in the fu­ture,” said Wang.

“For ex­am­ple, this ex­pe­ri­ence has led me to de­cide that I will teach mar­tial arts af­ter I grad­u­ate as it is a great way of help­ing more peo­ple un­der­stand Chi­nese cul­ture.”

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Wang Xudong (mid­dle) says that his African coun­ter­parts in Botswana have been very in­ter­ested in learn­ing Chi­nese mar­tial arts.

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