Utrecht is home to many nationalities. Every week, DUIC features an Utrechter with a different background. The concept was inspired by ‘180 amsterdammers’.

– article by Annabel van Heesbeen

When I was in China, I missed the Buddhist temple in Zuilen

(c) Bas van Setten

During the four months Caicha spent in China caring for her parents, she missed the Buddhist temple in Zuilen. She’s back in Utrecht now and happy to return to the Longquan Tempel van Groot Mededogen, where she sits silently on cushions wearing brown covers over her shoes.

The temple was founded by one of her ‘uncles’. “He’s not really my uncle, but it’s customary to call men you know uncles where I come from”, she explains. Caicha first encountered Chinese Zen Buddhism, the discipline practised in the temple Zuilen, in China. Chinese Zen Buddhism teaches you how to behave towards one another, taking the interests of society into account. When Caicha arrived in the Netherlands 29 years ago, she placed her own statue of Buddha in her home to pray to. There weren’t many other options for a practising Buddhism.

The Chinese on the corner
Caicha left China in the hope of finding a better future. She moved in with a family that was already living in The Hague, and eventually found herself in a Chinese pharmacy on Croeselaan in Utrecht. This soon felt like home as she lived with several Chinese colleagues in the flat above the pharmacy. Her Chinese husband lived in Spain, where he was working at the time. She made the trip to see him from the Netherlands just once, and came back pregnant. They later divorced and Caicha moved into an attic room in Wittevrouwen with her son.

One of Caicha’s favourite haunts was the local Chinese restaurant in Bollenhofsestraat. Every Wednesday, a man called Arie was sitting there eating his meal. They got talking and one day, Arie asked Caicha to join him for a work dinner. Before long, she and her son moved in with Arie. They enjoy strolling through Bloeyendaal Park. “It’s our back garden”, Caicha laughs. When she meets up with friends, she used to go to La Place in V&D in Hoog Catharijne because of the spectacular view of the city. But since V&D closed down, Caicha tends to meet friends in the Bijenkorf café. It’s fine, but the view’s nothing like as good.

Caicha and Arie had a daughter. She has always spoken Dutch with her children, since the day they were born. She’s starting to regret it now. Why? “My children want to speak Chinese.” She’s delighted that her children go to Dutch schools; Caicha only learned to read, write and do arithmetic in China, whereas here they learn about much wider social issues too. This is important to Caicha: having antennae to pick up what’s going on in the outside world. It’s an important theme within Chinese Zen Buddhism too. How is the world doing? Who could use some help? Caicha doesn’t have big dreams for her own future. She hopes that all will be well with her children and the world. No more war. “Just be kind to one another.”

Name: Caicha Zhou
Place of birth: Wenzhou, China
Motto: ‘Show kindness to one another’

Allemaal Utrechters is a series of interviews with people who moved to Utrecht from another country. We ask them about their background and their impression of Utrecht, revealing the true diversity of our city. The ‘Allemaal Utrechters’ series is a collaboration between DUIC and Culturele Zondagen, and has been made possible with help from Stichting Dialoog and the Municipality of Utrecht. We hope to showcase every nationality in Utrecht.

Click here to view the other articles.