At 4 a.m. the bell echoes over the plateau. While the rest of the world is still fast asleep, the day has commenced at the ACC. It is pitch dark and pouring down with rain, yet children still make their way to the temple. Some are yawning, some carrying the younger ones while others are racing to see who reaches the top of the countless temple steps first. The children are all dressed in clothes donated to the center by supporters in China and greater Asia. Once they reach the top of the stairs, they remove their shoes and neatly place them in rows outside the temple's majestic entrance. Boys and girls enter through separate doors. Once inside, the children organize themselves into rows, while repeating the words of sutras led by the head monk. Seated in the meditation position, all the children dutifully follow the daily ritual. Some of the younger ones nod off before waking up to the call to bow.
After the morning ritual, the children go for an early morning run down the gravel road that leads to the center. This is followed by bath time, and at 7 a.m. they are ready and seated for breakfast. Despite coming from a background where meat forms a big part of the diet, children seem to enjoy the vegetarian food, wolfing down what is served up.
It is surprising to see a 3-year-old Malawian boy skillfully eating rice and vegetables with chopsticks. Once they are fed, the children head off to school. Afternoons are spent practicing kungfu, learning table etiquette and cooking skills, and tidying dormitories.
Kungfu health booster
Wang Zhanbei is one of the kungfu instructors at the ACC. He said that when children first arrived at the orphanage, many of them were in ill-health, unfit and lacked basic nutrients. Besides their healthy diet at the center, kungfu is also a major contributor to their health improvement. It not only keeps children fit and strengthens their immune systems, but also helps with lack of concentration, hyperactivity and low energy levels. The children love it. They work very hard at their kungfu skills, and become perfectionists as they see themselves improving. Wang believes kungfu can also restore self-confidence and infuse children with a unique sense of pride and discipline.
Every year, a group of 30 children are chosen to take part in the annual kungfu performance tour. Jamali Chimwemwe is 14 and has already traveled to Shanghai and Hong Kong to test her kungfu skills. She said the best part of kungfu is teaching it to the other children from her home village when she goes home twice a year for a visit.
It is perhaps one of the additional benefits of the ACC that students can have a positive impact on people outside the center
With the rising growth in Sino-African cooperation in trade and investment the ACC brings together two cultures in a workable, effective and optimistic way. Cultural cooperation has become the soft power of the future and provides these orphans with a healthy mental, physical and spiritual disposition. It can be good for China and Africa in the long term.
(Reporting from Malawi)