SA through the Lense of an Open-Minded Asian Visitor

– Thuthukile Mbanjwa

While Africa, including South Africa, has certainly had an increasing number of Chinese visitors, the vast majority has never traveled to South Africa nor have they ever thought of planning a trip to the greater parts of Africa. In this post we spoke to Dawei Huang a Chinese national currently a student at the Yenching Academy of Peking University who visited South Africa for 6 days in 2014. He is also one of the most down to earth, easy-going, musically talented friends I have 🙂

The main objectives of this piece was simply continuing on the quest to dissolving stereotypes and providing a window into Africa (better yet from a Chinese perspective) and really just capturing Dawei’s experience in South Africa and sharing it with our readers.

Friends my country is really stunning, I really hope you enjoy this!

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Dawei and friends hiking Table Mountain.

What were your expectations of South Africa prior to arriving there? Could you also elaborate on your time there.

I was really just looking forward to seeing the area known as the Cape Point, a place I had learnt so much about but never physically visited. I was also excited to see the famous historical sites in Cape Town and in the greater parts of South Africa.

“My expectations were exceeded.”

My expectations were exceeded and I say this because I really enjoyed the Cape Town urban lifestyle. The fancy buildings reminded me of my home, Shanghai making it easier to settle in as the environment was somewhat ‘familiar’. I was fortunate to have seen some exceptional musical and drama performances in local theatre such as the Artscape Theatre Centre. Building relationships and creating international alliances with students from the University of Cape Town through actively engaging with them to learn more about the local history and culture.

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Dawei adds that they also traveled to the Kruger National Park to see the big five which was both exiting and exhilarating. He says he was amazed by the magnificence of nature!

Were there similarities you saw/ found there that you could immediately identify and link to Chinese People back in China or rather the country of China?

“The common state of extreme splendor and squalor.”

Dawei illustrates the concept with an image he took on a night out at the cinema. The image has been displayed below, and was taken in front of the National Center for the performing arts in Beijing.

He goes on to explain that when he was about to enter the theater, he suddenly saw the a man standing there, staring into the hall with his tatered dress and his package. Dawei says he realized the couldn’t afford the show that night as he saw him look back several times as he walked away after the security guard  had politely asked him to leave.

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This image was first published in the Yenching Review as part of a photo competition feature.

What did you enjoy most about your stay in South Africa?

My favorite part of the trip was definitely going to Cape Point. This was a place I had known for a long time.

“There is an amazingly nostalgic feeling I get…”

There is an amazingly nostalgic feeling I get when I reflect on this visit. It really felt like I was walking on the trail of history. I could sense the excitement of ancient Europeans when they crossed the point to see the ‘point’  where the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean met.

What do you wish more Chinese people knew about South Africa and vice-versa?

The Ubuntu and Confucianism philosophies. 

Before going to South Africa, I only knew about Cape point and a few stories about Nelson Mandela. When I was at the University I met some local students and  their understanding of China was no more than the Great Wall and Jackie Chen. I really hope that more and more Chinese and South African students will go to each other’s countries. My greatest wish is that Chinese people learn the philosophical thought of South Africa, such as “Ubuntu”, which means I exists because of you, and more South African people could learn about Chinese philosophy such as Confucianism.

 Can you tell us a bit more about Ubuntu and what you understood about it?

Absolutely!

“Ubuntu” means “I am because of you are” or “I exist because of your existence”

As a student who majoring in philosophy, Ubuntu is a new and great philosophical thought I learnt from South Africa. As far as I know, “Ubuntu” means “I am because of you are” or “I exist because of your existence”. 

In my opinion, thee great Western philosophy thinkers often attempt to explain the existence from a very abstract and scientific way. On the other hand, in Chinese philosophy, ancient philosophers told people that their existence comes from nature and their parents. Ubuntu gave me a new perspective, which I feel very close to. This perceptive involves understanding that humans are able to exist because of their connection with others and the world around them.

Dawei expresses that he is convinced that if the concept of“Ubuntu” is acknowledged by all human beings, there will be fewer wars and less poverty. He says he truelly believes people would care about others’ benefits and happiness. Subsequently, they would no longer use violence to feed themselves or their families.

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