China Daily: Kung fu dreams in the Cote d'Ivoire

Publish Date:2024-06-20

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Xinhua | Updated: 2024-05-03 12:10


Max Yollando (Yanming) practises at the Shaolin Temple in Henan province. [Photo provided to China Daily]

ABIDJAN — "When I was young, I told my mother that I would go to China to learn Kung Fu one day. She didn't believe it at the time. When I got there, I immediately called her and said, 'Mom, guess where I am, I'm at the Shaolin Temple!'," says Max Yollando, a young man from the Cote d'Ivoire, sharing his affection for Chinese culture.

Yollando is also known as Yanming, the Chinese name he was given by his teacher at the Shaolin Temple, the Buddhist monastery where the "Shaolin kung fu" was born, and which today is a magnet for fans from all over the world.

At the time, Yollando was a student at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny University in Abidjan. Motivated by his passion for Chinese culture, he enrolled at the Confucius Institute to study Chinese. In late 2016, he had the opportunity to visit the temple in Henan province on a three-month exchange.

This experience defined his engagement with traditional Chinese culture.

"The spirit of martial arts displayed by my fellow disciples deeply impressed me. I truly fell in love and felt sure that this was the place I had dreamed of since childhood," he says.


Yanming (left) poses with a fellow disciple. [Photo provided to China Daily]

After returning to the Cote d'Ivoire, Yanming continued to practice Chinese and study traditional culture.

In July 2017, he returned to Shaolin and remained there for six years.

His years at the temple reading, exercising, practicing martial arts, and meditation greatly changed him, and allowed him to better understand and appreciate traditional Chinese culture.

He says the most impressive things he noticed that rooted in Chinese culture are the love of work, respect, and recognition.

"Coming to China to study made me more disciplined and hardworking. Before, I was a little lazy, but the Shaolin Temple taught me to be punctual, respectful and grateful."

At the end of 2022, when he completed his studies at the temple, he began working at a Shaolin cultural center in Zambia. The first of its kind in Africa, the center is home to 30 orphans, who are taught Chinese language and traditional Chinese culture, including kung fu, as part of the curriculum.

For Yollando, the purpose of studying Chinese culture was to be able to return to Africa to introduce Chinese values to his compatriots.

"The culture fascinated me because in China, people make an effort to work better, and they are very respectful and grateful to their family and country," he says.

"When I make connections between Chinese and African culture, it seems to me that they have a lot in common," he says.


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