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My heart belongs to Xinjiang: offspring of expats Li Yizu

from:Tianshannet2015-09-12 22:27

My heart belongs to Xinjiang: offspring of expats Li Yizu

(Tianshannet) Updated: 2015-September-12 12:25:00  

Li Yizu, an offspring of expats who has spent 54 years in Xinjiang. [Photo/CRIENGLISH.com]

With high snow mountains, endless desert and vast grassland, the beauty of Xinjiang is undoubtedly breathtaking. For those who live there, they might just say the land gives them energy and reasons for life.

Li Yizu, an offspring of expats who has spent most of his life in Xinjiang, is definitely one of them.

Bayanbulak Grassland is located in the hinterland of the Tianshan Mountain in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. With an altitude of more than 3,000 meters, the vast grassland surrounded by cloud-kissing snow mountains attracts a large number of geologists and tourists every year.

Li Yizu, a silver-haired, yet very hale and hearty geological expert is introducing the spectacular and inspiring scenery of the place. With a typical Caucasian face, it's hard to believe the man who speaks in fluent Beijing dialect has lived in Xinjiang for more than 50 years.

Sitting in his office, the 77-year-old veteran geologist recalls his past.

"I lived in Beijing for 23 years, and then came to Xinjiang after I graduated from China University of Geosciences in 1961. I majored in geological exploration. All my classmates and I were looking forward to coming here, which was an undeveloped area at that time, using what we learned to do something meaningful."

Geological expert Li Yizu.[Photo/CRIENGLISH.com]

Li Yizu's life is anything but ordinary. Born in a missionary hospital in Tianjin in 1938, Li Yizu's parents were among many Americans who left China when the war against Japanese aggression entered its fiercest period. He was adopted and raised by a Chinese family, who brought him to the capital city Beijing.

Li Yizu says he had a great Chinese mother.

Li Yizu in his childhood. [Photo/CRIENGLISH.com]

"My foster mother had only one Child. I think she is a great mother. She raised me up. When I decided to go to Xinjiang, which is so far away especially at that time when the travel was not so convenient, she showed full understanding and support. She didn't even tell me that she felt ill after I left her. At that time when I was young, the only thing I wanted was to do was to pursue my dream. Only years later when my children left home to somewhere far away, I could understand the feeling of my mother back then."

Li Yizu and his foster mother, 1938 in Beijing. [Photo/CRIENGLISH.com]

He became a geological engineer of No. 156 coalfield geological team in Xinjiang after graduation. From the Altai Mountain to the Gangdise Mountain, his footprints covered almost every corner of west China in the next 20 years, including the A-Li region in Tibet, where the altitude is above 5,000 meters.

In a TV documentary about the wind erosion landform "Devil city" located in the northwest Margin of Junggar Basin, Li Yizu is helping a scientific study team to determine rock composition. The life of geographical explorers can be very tough. It's common for them to set off with baggage, gasoline and explosives and stay in the wild for up to more than 1 year. One of his colleagues died during a mission.

Li Yizu as a geological engineer of No. 156 coalfield goelogical team in Xinjiang. [Photo/CRIENGLISH.com]

He says he never regrets his choice. For Li Yizu, there is no place he cannot go.

"We tramped over hills and dales with a map and compass. We tried to reach every corner. Sometimes we walked more than 40 kilometers per day, but we never felt tired. Each time we found mineral products, that kind of happiness was all worth it regardless the hardships behind it."

Working as a geographical explorer made him fall deeply in love with every inch of the ground he has stepped on and also with local people.

"Working outside was easier since there was no shortage of helping hands. Once in 1975, our truck was stuck in a ditch in the middle of nowhere. There was a family approximately one kilometer away - two elderlies and one child, all Kazaks. They helped us pull out the truck. I took pictures of them as a thank-you gift. The old man changed clothes and put a pen in his upper pocket. All of them looked happy."

The Kazaks family that helped Li Yizu in 1975. [Photo/CRIENGLISH.com]

Li Yizu says he has many similar stories. He says he believes human beings are shaped by the land around them. The blue sky, white cloud, high mountains and wide horizons, such boundless glamour of nature influencing the lives there. Therefore people from different ethnic groups in Xinjiang are unpretentious, passionate, bold and unconstrained.

Those characteristics deeply impressed Li Yizu, and made him one of the locals. He became an educator after retirement. He went to 56 counties and regions in Xinjiang, and gave some 800 lectures to almost 400-thousnad teenagers.

The knowledgeable man with a rich life experience always tries his best to share with children what he has gained in his life.

"American philosopher Maslow once said human beings need endless inspirations of aesthetic function. In order to tell them every day is a new beginning, I went to the Hongshan Mountain to take photos of sunrises and stay whole day to take photos of the sunset. I show them those pictures and tell them the familiar scenes at the corner of your eyes may have different aspects of beauty - once you keep a fresh eye to look at them."

Li says compared with the knowledge that can be learned in textbooks, he believes the lessons from life is more important.

"I always tell them how to live their life with meaning. There are various ways leading to a successful life. A meaningful life means you can do something useful for our nation, and realize your own value and have a sense of achievement."

Li Yizu and the children. [Photo/CRIENGLISH.com]

Li Yizu himself is a role model according to his own standards. In his 70s, he is still providing his expertise to documentary teams and geological exploration teams and sharing his knowledge with children. He says he is a man who always stays foolish and stays hungry, since he believes the best scenery of life just comes from endless climbing which will take a man to new heights.

"People always say I am energetic when going outside. I have a special feeling about working in the field. The picturesque landscape of our country is very inspiring. To tramp over hills and dales can be hard, but I never want to give up. Sometimes I feel tired and don't want to continue climbing, but once I climb up, I think everything is worth the effort."

Li Yizu is providing his expertise to CCTV documentary team. [Photo/CRIENGLISH.com]

Fifty-four years have passed since Li Yizu came to Xinjiang. With so many ups and downs in his past, his life seems more than legendary. However, Li insists that he is just an ordinary Chinese who loves the land he walks upon.

"I have been here for 54 years. It's very meaningful to live in such a fantastic place with beautiful mountains and rivers, and of course, lovely people. People always say I am a man with a foreigner's face, but a Chinese heart. I was raised by a Chinese mother. My heart will belong to China forever. Now I am in my 70s. I just want to do something useful, and try my best to do them well."

The old man smiles proudly and satisfied. It's obvious he has been living the way he wants, with dignity, courage, intelligence and composure.

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