News > News > 

Lin Yuanxiang's pursuit of his Chinese ethnic heritage from France

2010-02-11 15:45 BJT

Lin Yuanxiang is the president of the Association of Chinese Culture in Reunion Province, France. He engaged in disseminating Chinese culture and facilitating communication between Reunion and China. He persuaded the 2010 Shanghai World Expo to carry out a "Reunion Week" in the French Pavilion.

Reunion: a volcanic island in the southwestern Indian Ocean, 650 kilometers west of Madagascar and 190 kilometers north-east of Mauritius. It became an overseas province of France in 1946 and it also controls several of the neighboring islands. There are about 30,000 Chinese there but most of them cannot speak Chinese. On February 6, 2010 local time, the Chinese Ambassador to Reunion Province's capital city of Saint-Denis opened the new Chinese Consulate.

"I remember my father once told me when I was a child, 'Every morning I stand in front of the mirror looking at myself, I see a Chinese face. It is not an American or a French face', it was under my father's guidance that we started to learn about Chinese culture, to understand China from books and on a trip to China, to pursue it further," said Lin Yuanxiang, the president of Association of Chinese Culture in Reunion Province which has the largest overseas Chinese community and ethnic Chinese population in France.

The Chinese Ambassador to Reunion Province's capital city of Saint-Denis opened the new consulate on February 6. Lin Yuanxiang devoted his heart and soul to the entire process. He felt comfortable even when he was tired, however, because he felt he was becoming closer to China. "I was born in Reunion and educated in a French way. I identified with my Chinese heritage in small bits. For me, China is close at hand though seemingly far away. We will make every effort to get close to her and understand her, which is also the ongoing work for the Association of Chinese Culture in Reunion."

Although it disappoints Lin Yuanxiang that he so far cannot speak Chinese, it will never stop him from being attached to the homeland. "I came back to my ancestral home in Mei County, Guangdong province for the first time in 2004. A relative of mine in Belgium acted as a translator for me during that visit. I could not understand a single word of Hakka at first, but one day I suddenly recalled that my father used to speak these words in my childhood and I began to understand the conversation among these people, but I cannot express my thinking with the same language."

In recent years, with the increasing exchange between Reunion and China, Lin has become more and more busy with his work. The Confucius Institute, the Shanghai World Expo and China-France football match…… Talking about future plans, Lin was very precise. He told reporters that Jose Freches, France's commissioner general for the Shanghai World Expo, had contacted with his association and hoped that he could organize the "French Overseas Territory of the Month" activity after the opening of the Expo in May 2010, however the activity was cancelled due to unnamed reasons.

"We told Fraches that we had done much work with it, so we are willing to participate in the Expo exhibition alone. Then he gave us an opportunity to carry out the 'Reunion Week' and other series of activities in the French Pavilion," Lin said that in his view, the 2010 Shanghai World Expo is undoubtedly an important event for China, "for us, the overseas Chinese living in Reunion, it is a bridge linking us with China. We hope to take this opportunity to tell the world where we came from, what our culture is about, and what our ancestors did after they came to Reunion. Meanwhile, it also will provide a rare chance to Reunion's businesses and they can interact with Chinese businesses and find opportunities for collaboration…… We will take advantage of this rare opportunity to introduce Reunion's history, culture and rich tourism resources. Next week, we will call all of our partners together to conduct consultations and formulate a comprehensive plan. Of course, we must rely on the provincial government and parliament to implement the plan. Our association will fully support the plan and bring our ideas, those of the overseas Chinese, to the Expo."

Regarding the China-France friendly football match that will be held in June this year, Lin finds it hard to conceal his excitement. "The French national football team will stop in Reunion on the way to participate in the World Cup in South Africa. Originally, Reunion's Football League hoped that they would be able to hold a friendly match here. Unexpectedly, the opponent turned out to be the Chinese team. Now we are making efforts to coordinate and hope to arrange another two matches between Chinese team and other teams, so that they can stay here for a longer time. But the only trouble is that we do not know which party we should support in the match. By that time we will vote and then make half of the overseas Chinese support the French team while the other half will support the Chinese team." he said with a smile." In addition, in June this year, there will be a volleyball match between French and Chinese teams in Reunion, and the Chinese gymnastics team will also come and give a performance. I bet that June will be Reunion's 'Chinese sports Month'."

After opening the consulate general, Lin believes that there are great prospects for future exchanges between China and Reunion in the areas of culture and economics. "Now there are more and more people who are eager to learn Chinese culture, calligraphy and cooking, but there is a serious shortage of teachers in these fields. I believe that the consulate general will be able to offer help. Besides, we are trying to persuade Reunion's civil aviation department to open direct flights between Reunion and China. Maybe flights to and from Guangzhou and Shanghai will be opened first and then more cities will be added as necessary."

"I hope I can achieve more exciting things in the future," said he with a smile.

Editor: Shi Taoyang | Source: