Ho Can Lim was born to a poor family in Kaiping City, Guangdong Province in 1935. In 1951, he went to Indonesia with a group of his family and friends to make a living. In spite of the tough life there, he insisted on diligently undertaking self-study. In 1957, he was admitted to the Chinese major of the Overseas Chinese Correspondence Department, Xiamen University (XMU). Later he worked as a teacher in the Senior High School Department of Overseas Chinese Middle School in Makassar, Indonesia, and as a tutor in the Correspondence Department, XMU. Ho worked hard to promote cultural exchange and cooperation between XMU and Universitas Hasanuddin Indonesia (UNHAS), his work leading to the establishment of the Zheng He Culture and Education Committee, named for Zheng He, a leader of naval expeditions in the Ming Dynasty. His past positions include working as a teacher at UNHAS and as Director of the Twin Cities Liaison Office of Hubei Province, China and Sulawesi Selatan, Indonesia, as well as being a visiting professor at XMU, a consultant of international exchange and culture at Nanchang University and a consultant for Pusat Bahasa Mandarin-Universitas Husanuddin (the Confucius Institute of UNHAS). Now, Ho is a successful entrepreneur, educator and overseas Chinese leader in Indonesia. Though having lived overseas for a long time, he has always cared deeply for his motherland and has made many contributions to cooperation and exchange between China and Indonesia in such fields as culture, education and economy.
Now in his nineties, Ho, who graduated from the Overseas Chinese Correspondence Department, XMU in 1961, is still energetic and alert. His past experiences have made him a calm person and the hardship he has gone through makes him cherish the peaceful life he leads today. He is a businessman and teacher, a musician who is addicted to music and a go-between who promotes the friendship between China and Indonesia. He has been a wanderer for most of his life. But, no matter how the world changes, his "Chinese soul" remains unchanged, and it is this which drives him to continue spreading Chinese culture and promoting friendly exchange between China and Indonesia.
Ho was born in an era of war, and his life as a child was miserable. In searching for a better life, he decided to go to Indonesia with his relatives and friends to make a living. After arriving in Indonesia, he had to live in a friend’s house due to poverty. He learned sewing techniques, photography and carpentry, and finally became a primary school teacher. However, due to long-term malnutrition, sickness and his worn clothing, he was eventually dismissed by the school, being told that he was "adversely affecting the image of the school". Just as he found himself at rock-bottom, a piece of news brought him new hope in 1957: XMU would begin to enroll correspondence students in Makassar, Indonesia. Despite others' doubts and sneers, he studied hard and persisted, finally being one of 9 students who were admitted to XMU out of a total of 37 applicants, and the only one among his peers who graduated on time.
After Ho graduated with outstanding achievements in 1961, the President and Dean of the famous Overseas Chinese Middle School in Makassar invited him in person to teach there. This proved to be a fresh start for him. "During that time, I learned a lot… it transformed into a kind of driving force, a kind of fighting spirit, which made me dare to face, to challenge and to overcome the difficulties in my life. Gradually, I have changed from an unknown and weak person to a scholar with knowledge and a practitioner with great courage." He finds great joy in imparting knowledge and educating others.
Ho's experience proves the old saying that knowledge changes destiny – it has made him better understand the importance of knowledge and the greatness of those who educate people. He is grateful to his alma mater and teachers. He also believes that it is Chinese culture and its traditional virtues that nurtured him. Thus, he is determined to serve China, the motherland, by being a positive influence on the next generation.
After obtaining his diploma from XMU, Ho applied what he had learned by sharing Chinese culture with overseas Chinese in Indonesia, becoming a positive influence as their teacher. After decades of ups and downs, he understands that "a harmonious and equal social environment is fundamental to people's happiness" because it prevents people from "being overturned by turbulent winds and waves". As a voluntary teacher at UNHAS, one of the most influential universities in Indonesia, he did his best to build a bridge between China and Indonesia through cultural exchange. Thanks to his efforts, XMU and UNHAS jointly founded the Zheng He Culture and Education Committee, and Pusat Bahasa Mandarin-Universitas Husanuddin was set up. He contributed to the establishment of the "Confucius Classroom", the Chinese Department, the Museum of Chinese History, Culture and Art, and a number of Chinese training institutions. These are the results of Ho's incredible commitment to the promotion of Chinese culture.
"As a Chinese," Ho often says, "I have two 'benefactors'. One is China, and the other is Indonesia." China is where he was born and the country that gave him courage to face difficulties; Indonesia is the place that has provided him with the opportunity to live a full life and achieve his dreams. He loves the two countries deeply. In order to enhance the friendship between China and Indonesia, he has participated in numerous activities focusing on cultural exchange. Utilizing his talent for music, he has translated and released nearly 100 Indonesian and Chinese songs and written many original musical works to enhance cultural exchange between China and Indonesia. His music expresses his deep love for the motherland and society, as well as for his work, family and friends.
Music knows no borders. No matter our national or cultural differences, the ability of music to touch our hearts is boundless. Knowing this, Ho not only wrote songs, but also taught Indonesians who could not speak Chinese to sing Chinese songs. He incorporated the spirit of Chinese culture into these songs, formed an orchestra and taught the locals to sing them. He believes this is one of the most direct and effective ways to spread Chinese culture. He has spent his whole life promoting educational and cultural exchange between China and Indonesia.
On the eve of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC), Ho was selected to be included in a special publication to honor those in China's music production and teaching industry, titled Touching China: National Dictionary of Excellent Lyrics and Music Teachers for the 60th Anniversary of the Founding of the People's Republic of China. His composition Magic Spring, which praises Beijing's successful bid for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, was included in the publication, being described as his masterpiece, and he is the only overseas Chinese included in the book.
With the development of the Belt and Road Initiative, ties between China and Indonesia in the areas of education, culture, economics and trade have grown stronger. Ho, under the guidance of the strategy of building a harmonious society and a community with a shared future for mankind, has played an important role by uniting various groups through education. He has demonstrated the kindness, honesty and industry of the Chinese people, especially of overseas Chinese. Although he is in his nineties, Ho plans to share Chinese music, art and language in other cities in Indonesia, and hopes to continue promoting Chinese culture and making new friends. His tireless efforts help Indonesian students and teachers, as well as the general public, learn more about Chinese culture. In this way, he promotes multiculturalism, and helps to form a harmonious, innovative and mutually beneficial relationship between China and Indonesia.
Since the founding of the PRC, many overseas Chinese have made important contributions to the development and growth of the Chinese nation, the spread of Chinese culture, and cooperation and exchange between China and other nations. In this way they remain connected to their motherland. As an overseas Chinese who cares deeply for China, Ho, with noble sentiment and a sense of national responsibility, has built a bridge of friendship between the Chinese and Indonesian people. His work in spreading Chinese culture and promoting Chinese education is a shining example for overseas Chinese, and his determination is worthy of the admiration of us all.