Foeng Yang Ming

Foeng Yang Ming: ‘The most important thing for Armenia today is to have a strong government’

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YEREVAN — Foeng Yang Ming, a Chinese student at Yerevan State University, has gained recognition among many people in Armenia for his fluency in Armenian, interviews, and roles as a presenter and actor on Public Television of Armenia. Originally from Guangzhou, China, Foeng pursued his undergraduate studies for six years at Ahmad Dahlan University in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Indonesian-Malay languages and literature. In 2018, Foeng enrolled in the Department of Armenian Language and Literature at Yerevan State University while simultaneously engaging in various professional endeavors. He served as the host of the “Aravot Luso” (Morning Light) TV program on the RA Public TV Company and acted in the comedy “Our Yard: 25 Years Later” (2021) and television series. Additionally, he volunteered with refugees of the Artsakh war. Currently, Foeng holds teaching positions at the Gazprom Armenia educational and sports complex, and serves as the head of the Chinese language department at the Yerevan Smart Academy.

Dear Foeng, you are from Guangzhou, formerly Canton. Did you know that Armenians lived there in the Middle Ages and even had a church?

I did not know about the Armenians of Guangzhou. When I was very young, I read an English book about Armenian history, from which I learned about the Armenians of South China, Singapore and Indonesia. Since I have a little Indonesian blood, I went to study in Indonesia and encountered remnants of Armenian influence, such as the “Raffles” hotel in Surabaya. You can find Armenians in different places: China, Indonesia, Japan. When I was little, I really wanted to go to Brazil, discover the Amazon, it is an interesting country, and I was very surprised to learn that right there, in the city of Manaus, there is a stadium called Petrosyan. What business does a man of the people living in the mountains have in the middle of the Brazilian forest? Also, Armenians and Chinese share some similarities. Both our histories have elements of bitterness and sadness, which have led us to disperse to different corners of the world, whether those regions are by the seashore or in the mountains. Wherever I go, I am certain to encounter people of both nationalities: Chinese and Armenian.

Did you come to Armenia just to learn Armenian? Becoming an Armenologist cannot get you a good job, right?

Yes, knowing Armenian in China does not necessarily provide any advantage. My aim was simply to explore various corners of the world, whether they were familiar or unfamiliar. However, not everything revolves around money and work for us. Having a richer life experience holds more significance than simply getting rich. I arrived in Armenia through the student exchange program between Yerevan State University and Beijing University of Foreign Studies. Consequently, there are now other Chinese students in the Armenian Faculty of Philology.

And now you also have students here.

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Before my arrival, I was unaware of the significant number of Chinese learners in Armenia. Chinese is an intriguing language; like Armenian, it boasts unique characters — hieroglyphs. I am deeply inclined to assist my beloved students, as their motivation is intense. I can sense their genuine affection for the Chinese language through their eyes and the passion with which they speak.

Foeng Yang Ming

With your proficient knowledge of Armenian, do you have a clear vision for your future?

I remain committed to the exploration of new cultures and languages. As Armenian proverb says, the more languages you know, the more human being you are. Having lived in diverse countries, I have absorbed the finest elements of their cultures, customs, and traditions, cherishing them deeply. For instance, during my time in Indonesia, I admired their profound respect for one another, even a bit exaggerated. My life in Armenia has been equally enlightening, offering lessons both positive and negative.

Really? What negative thing did you learn here?

Drinking (laughs). Actually, I’m joking; I drink in moderation, recognizing its potential harm. However, I appreciate the societal emphasis on family values here. Regardless of age, whether they are elders or youngsters, the first question often revolves around family – where my mother works, if I have siblings, and so on. In contrast, in Chinese culture, conversations typically veer towards topics like work, school, or university. Interacting with Armenians has prompted me to ponder my familial responsibilities. Living in foreign countries, I had distanced myself from my family a bit, but now interacting with Armenians, their way of thinking has influenced me.

And do you have favorite Armenian authors?

Living in Armenia is indeed challenging; I often find myself working tirelessly, leaving little time for leisurely activities like reading. Nonetheless, I make a point to indulge in the poetry of Hamo Sahyan, albeit knowing only fragments by heart. Additionally, I hold a deep appreciation for the works of Hovhannes Tumanyan; visiting his house-museum in Lori was a memorable experience. I have also immersed myself in the writings of Silva Kaputikyan. In Armenian society, men traditionally held many prominent positions and occupied important professions. However, it is essential to acknowledge the significant role women played. They contributed to literature and art, offering their unique perspectives. I hold great respect for such a society.

Foeng, please name some more of your favorite things in Armenia. The places, the artists, the song, the food…

My favorite place in Armenia is Lori. Firstly, for its breathtaking nature. I have encountered some of the most stunning landscapes in Lori with its green mountains and the distinct taste of water. Secondly, it’s the people. Despite common misconceptions labeling the people of Lori as naive, I have found them to be incredibly kind, friendly, and hospitable. They exude warmth and openness, always willing to lend a helping hand to friends. I feel a special bond with my friends from Lori. While I do not intend to discredit the people of other regions in Armenia, I wish to highlight the distinctiveness of Lori and its people. Regardless of where my future takes me, I will forever cherish memories of the Armenians, the splendid nature, and the wonderful people of Lori Marz.

My favorite spot in Yerevan is the botanical garden, and you know what drew me there? The squirrels! I visit there every week, and the squirrels often come quite close to me…

As for my favorite Armenian artist, it is Charles Aznavour. You might have noticed my fondness for classics – I don’t like rabiz at all!

When it comes to songs, my top pick is Ruben Hakhverdyan’s Autumn of our Love. It was the first Armenian song I ever heard, and as they say, first love is always unforgettable.

Regarding Armenian cuisine, while barbecue is a favorite for many, especially for men, for me, it is the salad of aveluk, made with walnuts, a hint of garlic, and a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds!

What do you think Armenia needs most today?

I prefer not to talk about politics, as it is not my area of expertise, but we must face reality. It appears that having a strong government is crucial for Armenia at this stage. We all know what happened in the country. Looking at the map and comparing the old and new Armenia, it is evident that the neighbors have seized significant portions of the territory, resulting in a considerable reduction in size. It is regrettable. Reclaiming lost land is an arduous task. Therefore, strong leadership is essential to save what remains.

I have always held a keen interest in cuneiform inscriptions, relics that now reside only in museums. I hope Armenia’s fate does not mirror that of an artifact confined to a museum. The Armenian nation boasts a rich culture, vibrant traditions, and a storied history that must be preserved. Hence, it is imperative to contemplate the future trajectory of Armenia just now.

 

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