Sime Nkemeni Darrin, a young student from Bafang, Cameroon, was captivated by Chinese martial arts as a child. He longed to learn the discipline and visit China one day. In 2016, Darrin, a material science major at the University of Yaounde I, began studying Chinese at the Confucius Institute of the University of Yaounde II. Through photos and videos, he learned about China beyond martial arts.
After a year of learning Chinese, Darrin enrolled at Henan University as a language student in Kaifeng, Henan Province. He chose the university because of the Shaolin Temple, which is renowned for its martial arts expertise. Upon arrival, he visited the temple and was impressed by the kung fu masters’ practice.
Darrin was delighted to discover that martial arts was more than just self-defense and powerful movements; it was a way of life imbued with Chinese philosophy. Darrin, now 32 years old, recalls that seeing the kung fu masters practice was like a dream come true.
Darrin was drawn to tai chi, a Chinese martial art characterized by slow, graceful movements and lightning-quick strikes. Since 2017, he has participated in martial arts competitions, particularly in tai chi, and has won numerous awards. Tai chi, according to Darrin, helps him remain strong, healthy, and in good shape while developing excellent concentration.
Darrin asserts that tai chi has transformed him, both physically and mentally. He claims that tai chi has helped him achieve balance and improved his mental clarity.
Darrin’s story demonstrates how a fascination with martial arts can lead to an unexpected passion for an entirely different aspect of Chinese culture. Through his pursuit of martial arts, Darrin discovered a deeper appreciation for Chinese philosophy and a new way of life that has positively impacted him.
Sime Nkemeni Darrin, a Cameroonian student, is currently pursuing his doctoral degree at Henan University’s School of Physical Education and Sport. Darrin has been practicing tai chi since 2016 and has won several awards in competitions. His interest in martial arts drew him to Henan province, where the Shaolin Temple is located, and he also learned Chinese at the Confucius Institute of the University of Yaounde II.
Apart from tai chi, Darrin has also learned to perform Yuju Opera, a popular local art form with a large national fan base. Yuju Opera originated and thrived in Central China’s Henan province and is among the top five traditional opera genres in China. It is known for its melodic singing, dazzling martial arts movements, and stories based on folk tales, especially those about brave heroes who are loyal, honest, and patriotic.
Darrin’s first experience of Yuju Opera was in 2017, when he watched a performance of Hua Mulan after arriving in Kaifeng. Hua Mulan tells the story of a legendary heroine who disguised herself as a man to fight for her country when her aging father was called up to serve in the army. The singing of the performers and the live band filled the show with energy, and Darrin was captivated by the drama.
Later, Darrin learned to perform Yuju Opera with veteran artist Li Shujian, who is known for playing heroes, from generals battling for the country to noble-hearted intellectuals. Li has been performing for over four decades, and one of his most well-known roles is Cheng Ying in The Orphan of Zhao, based on the classic tragedy by Yuan Dynasty playwright Ji Junxiang.
The classic piece Hua Mulan was premiered in 1950 by famous Yuju Opera master Chang Xiangyu. It’s one of the most well-known and popular Yuju Opera pieces among Chinese audiences. One of the verses, “Who says women are not as capable as men?” has been loved and learned by many Chinese over the years, and it is also Darrin’s favorite line from the piece.
Darrin’s experience with Yuju Opera has been rewarding, and he appreciates the art form’s beauty and cultural significance. He believes that his knowledge of Chinese culture and language has improved significantly through his training in tai chi and Yuju Opera.
Darrin’s passion for martial arts and interest in Chinese culture have opened up new opportunities for him. He hopes to continue learning and promoting Chinese culture and art forms to people around the world.
Darrin, a young Cameroonian student pursuing his doctoral degree at Henan University’s School of Physical Education and Sport, has shown a keen interest in Chinese martial arts and culture. Apart from practicing tai chi, he has also learned to perform Yuju Opera, a popular local art form. Darrin’s love for Chinese culture has helped him connect with the country and its people, and he hopes to continue promoting Chinese culture worldwide.
Li is a highly regarded Yuju Opera performer who has more than 200 students, including professionals and amateurs. Among her students is Darrin, one of the few overseas learners of Yuju Opera, who has been studying with Li for about five years. Li is also credited with expanding the fan base of this ancient art form through online performances during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Learning Yuju Opera is no easy feat, especially since it is performed in the Henan dialect. Darrin had to first master the dialect, a task he accomplished through hard work and practice, as acknowledged by Li.
Darrin’s dedication and perseverance paid off when he performed Yuju Opera on the popular TV show, Li Yuan Chun, produced and broadcast by Henan TV. The show, which highlights traditional Chinese operas, premiered in 1994. Darrin competed against other amateur Yuju Opera performers and won second place in one of the show’s sections.
To express his love for the city of Kaifeng, which was formerly known as Bianjing in ancient China, Darrin adopted the Chinese name Liu Bianjing.
Despite being away from his home country for about five years, Darrin has been keeping in touch with his family through video calls. He shares with them his life in China and two of his favorite things he has learned: tai chi and Yuju Opera. Although his family may not understand the words he sings during his performances, they find them fascinating and are happy that he is doing what he loves in China.
Darrin plans to return home this year but has also been considering the possibility of living and working in China after graduation. He has made many friends during his time in China and has clearly developed a strong passion for Chinese culture, as evidenced by his dedication to Yuju Opera and tai chi.