Under the guidance of instructor Lin Chang-hsiang, students in the martial arts class resolutely practice their stances. (Liu Shu-hui)
A summer camp for young people of Chinese ancestry in Germany is held each year, but this year was especially interesting.
The teachers hired from Taiwan by the Overseas Chinese Affairs Commission were excellent, of a quality rarely seen in many years; they really inspired respect and admiration. For example, Lin Chang-hsiang is director of the Tsing Tao Martial Arts Academy, director of the Tao Sheng Chinese Weaponry Museum, and a grade A instructor and judge in the National Association of Chinese Martial Arts. However, the name Tsing Tao Martial Arts Academy created some misunderstandings, with many people thinking Lin was a martial arts teacher sent by the mainland.
When word got around about the teachers, Overseas Chinese rushed to sign up, so that the number of enrollments increased sharply to a figure far above that anticipated. Liu Shu-hui, principal of the Frankfurt Chinese School, who was in charge of organizing the event, began to worry that there would be too many students, so it would be impossible to give each the care and attention desired, thereby affecting the quality of the camp, and she began to refuse people.
But the tide of enthusiasm was unstoppable! For decades Chinese martial arts have aroused worldwide interest, but still it is difficult to find an orthodox teacher overseas. Lin Chang-hsiang proved especially interesting to boys. Some specifically mentioned him in signing up, and others even were training under him for the second time-only a short time earlier they had taken a summer camp with him at another European location, and couldn't get enough, so they followed him to Frankfurt and signed up again. You don't see this kind of enthusiasm very often! Observers could only look on and gasp with amazement.
Because this was such a rare opportunity, the Overseas Chinese Affairs Commission sent letters to principals of Chinese language schools all over Germany inviting them to attend. With the comings and goings of students, teachers, dorm prefects, and camp managers, and principals on top of that, the summer camp was really bustling with activity.
On the day of the opening ceremony, parents brought their little Overseas Chinese sprouts to report in. In turning their charges over to the teachers, these parents had high hopes that this week-long camp would allow their kids to come into more contact with and learn more about Chinese culture. The ROC government's overseas agencies are very enthusiastic about this kind of activity, and insist on holding one every year. Chow Hong-yi, who is the director of the Frankfurt service department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Taipei Representative Office in Germany, not only put in a personal appearance, he also provided financial support. This was a great morale booster for a Chinese school overseas. The planning and management of the camp-including contacting people, finding a location, designing the curriculum, and assigning dorm space-was very complicated, and the organizers had to sacrifice much of their leisure and even working time.
The camp was set up in a youth hostel in Bad Homburg. Youth hostels are in fact great places for such activities-they are economical and convenient, and they provide three meals a day. They also offer plenty of space where kids can run, play, and shout without attracting any disapproving glances. Youth hostels are usually located in scenic areas, while some are even set up in old castles, lending a romantic and poetic air. But at the same time they provide a good lesson in life for kids, because the children have to take care of chores like making their beds, cleaning the showers, and clearing away their dishes by themselves, training them to be self-sufficient. No wonder youth hostels are also known in German as Schullandheim: "homes that schools set up in the countryside."
After a simple opening ceremony, the real fun began as students immediately divided into groups and headed off to class. There were both boys and girls, from seven to 21 years of age. Because there were not enough teachers, it was impossible to divide the students by age or interests, so the best option was just to have one class for boys and one for girls. Each day there were three class periods, divided into crafts, dance, and sports. Though the boys showed little interest in crafts or dance, in the interests of fairness they had to take their turns.
Language initially posed a problem, because these children, having grown up in Germany, whether of mixed German-Chinese parentage or pure Chinese, were not necessarily very competent in Chinese, with levels of ability differing widely. The teachers brought over from Taiwan, on the other hand, couldn't speak German. Yet, while verbal communication was only intermittently successful, the subjects involved mainly "do what I do" types of activities, so the language problem did not prove too serious.
Few boys who have grown up abroad have ever seen traditional Chinese weaponry (the so-called "Eighteen Weapons") such as flails, bludgeons, broadswords, cudgels, spears, lances, and halberds, so they were very interested in the many items that Lin Chang-hsiang brought over by air with him from Taiwan. They were particularly dazzled when Lin demonstrated nunchucks, as his rapid movement and skillful handling of the weapon brought to mind Bruce Lee. With his demonstrations of martial prowess, Lin became the hero of the camp, and after class you would often see a group of boys following him around in admiration.
Also popular were Chinese crafts taught by Su Chun-mei, including Chinese knots, cut-paper art, homemade toys, spice bags, and woodblock printing. Su patiently handled the endless stream of questions she received, so that she had virtually no time off at all. Some little girls were so absorbed in the crafts that you would find them making Chinese knots until the wee hours of the morning. Meanwhile, Lin Hui-chun, an instructor at the Tai-gu Tales Dance Theater in Taiwan, kept her students riveted with her elegant movements and postures and her professional level of instructional skill. Lin seemed to be able to do anything, including Aboriginal dance, martial arts steps, Xinjiang dance... nothing was too much of a challenge for her. She taught students differently depending upon their natural abilities and ages, leaving everybody pleased.
On the last day, the fruits of study were put on display for "graduation." There were two categories: static and dynamic. The former involved an exhibition of craft items made by students, the latter included student performances of martial arts and dance. That day the assembly hall was packed with people. In only a few days, these young people went from knowing nothing about these subjects to being able to put on colorful demonstrations of martial arts and dance.
The eldest grandson of Chang Wei-ting, the European representative of the ROC Tourism Bureau, was especially noteworthy for his personification of the traditional Chinese virtues of hard work and patience. He continued to practice, despite blisters, cuts, and torn skin, achieving amazing results in six days, and his skillful demonstration of the staff won resounding applause. Thus, amidst the sounds of clapping hands, did the Frankfurt Chinese Culture Summer Camp come to an end. The three teachers went on to their next stop, the Netherlands, carrying on their mission of nurturing the seeds of Chinese culture in the children of Chinese living in Europe.