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Indonesian Teacher Does Face-Changing to Motivate Students to Learn Chinese

By DENG, YANICHONGQING|Nov 23,2022

Chongqing – Recently, in a primary school in Surabaya, Indonesia, Raymond Abraham performed face-changing, an art part of the Chinese Sichuan opera, which amazed many other teachers and students. During the performance, he was dressed in traditional Chinese theater costumes, and when he turned around, his red face mask turned yellow.

While the students were still surprised, he raised and lowered the folding fan in his hand, and the mask turned black and then back to yellow again.

Raymond Abraham became a celebrity in the local area because he learned how to change faces. Although Indonesian, his Chinese name is Zhou Ping’an. He went to China to study in 2013 and returned to his hometown to teach Indonesian children Chinese and Chinese culture. 

Raymond Abraham performed the face-changing at the primary school in Surabaya, Indonesia. (Photo provided to iChongqing)

Studied in China

Ramon Abraham was born and raised in Surabaya, Indonesia. He was educated in Indonesian and English since he was a child. By chance, he came into contact with the Chinese.

When taking buses, he heard the Chinese sitting next to him speak fluent Chinese. The beautiful pronunciation and intonation of Chinese aroused his interest, so he signed up for the school’s Chinese elective course and started to learn Chinese.

During his university studies in Indonesia, he majored in international trade, but he did not give up learning Chinese and continued to improve his Chinese level through self-study. Finally, he passed the HSK (Chinese Proficiency) test and won the opportunity of the school to study in Zhengzhou, east-central China’s Henan province.

In September 2013, Abraham started his first trip to China. After the exchange study, he applied for a Chinese government scholarship and obtained a master’s degree in international trade from Zhengzhou University in 2014.

During his three years of studying, he traveled all over China, including Beijing, Xi’an, Hangzhou, Guangzhou, and Mudanjiang. While studying and traveling, he learned more about Chinese culture, made Chinese friends, and felt China’s development and significant changes.

What surprised Abraham the most was the development of China’s mobile payment and online shopping technologies.

“Teacher Zhou” can do face-changing

After graduating from Zhengzhou University in 2017, he returned to Indonesia and joined a local trading company. “Day-to-day work makes me feel tedium and tired.” At the beginning of this year, when he saw that a local elementary school in Indonesia was recruiting Chinese teachers, he immediately decided to try it.

With his rich experience studying in China and his strong interest in Chinese culture, he quickly passed the assessment and officially joined the Surabaya Montessori School in Surabaya.

Because he was not a Chinese education major, Abraham worked harder than other teachers. “Chinese is one of the most difficult languages for elementary school students to learn.” Abraham watched the video about face-changing, the exclusive skill of Chinese Sichuan Opera. He wanted to use this mysterious performance to cultivate Indonesian students’ curiosity and love for Chinese culture.

Abraham started learning face-changing through online classes. The Chinese master sent him props such as costumes and facial makeup and taught him the secret of “face-changing” through video. Abraham took time out to practice face-changing skills every day after work.

This year’s Mid-Autumn Festival, Surabaya Montessori School held a Mid-Autumn Festival performance. Abraham took the stage and successfully presented this traditional art performance to the students. On the stage, he dressed in traditional Chinese drama costumes and changed his face while raising his hands and turning around. Indonesian children opened their eyes wide, applauded and praised the teacher’s performance, and called him “Mr. Face Changing.”

The group photo of Abraham and his students. (Photo provided to iChongqing)

“For me, face-changing is not just an acrobatic performance but has rich Chinese cultural connotations. Each facial makeup expresses the characters’ different psychological and emotional changes,” said Abraham. Sichuan Opera is very representative of Chinese traditional culture. He hopes to make children interested in Chinese history and culture through performances.

“Thanks for the help from China”

Growing up in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city, he still remembers the inconvenience of commuting between his hometown Surabaya and the nearby island of Madura as a child. The distance between the two places is only 5 kilometers, but for a long time, they only have ferry boats for transportation.

It has always been the wish of residents to build a bridge connecting the two places. With the technical support of China, in June 2009, the Sima Bridge spanning Java Island and Madura Island in Indonesia was completed and opened to traffic. “Since then, communication has become much more convenient, and the closed island has gradually developed. Many Indonesians are very grateful for China’s help,” Abraham said.

Abraham and his family. (Photo provided to iChongqing)

Abraham added that over the years, he had witnessed Chinese-funded enterprises actively participate in constructing Indonesia’s transportation infrastructure, helping Indonesia build many roads, bridges, ports, and high-speed rail projects.

“We look forward to the cooperation between China and Indonesia on the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed rail project.” Abraham said, “I have seen reports that the high-speed rail will be extended to my hometown Surabaya.”

“After the Belt and Road Initiative was put forward, the cooperation between our two countries has increased, and more Indonesians have begun to learn Chinese and understand Chinese culture. Many people like me go to China to study. China has provided us with better development and opportunity,” he said.

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