By Laiyin Yuan
Translator: Laiyin Yuan
Published on: 08/25/2014
Source: China News Service (CNS)
Original text (in Chinese): http://www.chinanews.com/hr/2014/08-25/6527281.shtml
Chinese martial arts have always been an important component of Chinese soft power. Their popularity in Africa provides African peoples with a better understanding about Chinese traditional culture.
—- Laiyin Yuan (translator)
“With the integration of seminars and performances, the ‘Cultures of China – Lectures of Masters’ series offers a new way to spread Chinese martial arts culture.” Li Hui, deputy director of the Henan Provincial Martial Arts Management Center, was very impressed by the enthusiasm of her African audience as she delivered three lectures in their respective countries.
In mid-August, many famous Chinese martial arts masters went to South Africa, Botswana, and Mauritius with the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council’s “Cultures of China – Lectures of Masters” delegation, and provided wonderful kung fu seminars and live demonstrations for the locals. Among the delegation was Chen Zhenglei, one of the first state-level Intangible Cultural Heritage inheritors of the Chen-style tai chi, and also Jiao Hongmin, President of the Henan Shaolin Martial Arts Academy. This was the first time that martial arts was a series theme since its initial launch in 2007.
In Africa, Chinese martial arts have always been loved not only by overseas Chinese, but also by many non-Chinese enthusiasts who want to experience real “Chinese kung fu.” This is the main reason that the delegation ignited local passions.
In South Africa, the seminar attracted an audience of hundreds – overseas Chinese and Africans alike – with an electric atmosphere. In Botswana, the delegation went to the SOS Children’s Villages, where the audience was stunned by the superb kung fu demonstration, and the event drew constant applause and cheers. Ge Su, the director of the SOS Children’s Villages, told the media that the children really like Chinese martial arts, and that kung fu techniques are a great combination of strength and elegance. Practicing martial arts is an exercise for both physical and personal development.
The last stop of this series was Mauritius, where the hosts – the Mauritian Minister of Youth and Sports and Renhe Hall – receive thousands of consultations every day according to the local media. On the day of the event, nearly a thousand people crammed into the University of Mauritius’ theater which itself only had 500 seats. Many of them were very impressed by the outstanding explanations and dazzling kung fu demonstration, and expressed that it was certainly a worthwhile experience.
Yu Jiang, the Chargés d’affaires ad interim of the Chinese Embassy in Mauritius, stated that this event not only helped the locals understand the deep culture of Chinese martial arts, but also promoted its dissemination in Africa while enhancing the friendship between both peoples.
Li Hui, after her recent trip to Africa, explained over an August 25 phone interview that the current activity format with both seminars and demonstrations is better than the kung fu performance tours that Henan province used to organize regularly. “In seminars, people can understand the martial arts’ origins, virtues, and its fusion with Chinese Buddhist, Confucian, and Taoist philosophy, which cannot be achieved solely with performance.”
Chen Zhenglei has been devoted to spreading the kung fu culture for many years, but this was his first time in Africa. He also attributed the delegation’s success to its innovative format, which was “an integration of visual performance and abstract lecture that better reflected the cultural connotations and characteristics of tai chi.”
“African audience are very enthusiastic and appreciate interactive performances,” said Jiao Hongmin during the interview, “and the combination of seminars and performance is a new method of martial arts promotion, which is an easier method of engaging the audience when compared to the old method. Furthermore, it also strengthens their determination to learn Chinese martial arts with instructions and explanations.”
“Cultures of China – Lectures of Masters” is one of the series events held by China State Council Overseas Chinese Affairs Office and China Overseas Exchange Association. It provides face-to-face interaction between overseas Chinese and famous Chinese experts or scholars, offers classical lectures and inclusive discussions in foreign countries, and gives overseas Chinese a chance to experience the endless charm of Chinese culture for themselves.
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 Translator note: Intangible Cultural Heritage is a UNESCO concept that looks to protect “traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants, such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts.” For more information, see http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/index.php?lg=en&pg=00002