Hara in Huawu Group of Huangsha Village in Yeping, Ruijin, Jiangxi Province, on June 24 (COURTESY)
I recently had the honour and privilege of being one of the delegates for the 2021 Global Young Leaders Dialogue (GYLD) China Tours to Jiangxi Province. This was the fourth stop of the tour and it was aimed at tracing the revolutionary memories in Jiangxi which has a unique significance in modern Chinese history.
There is a famous saying in China“seeing is believing.” The underlying implication of this statement is that nothing can substitute a first-hand experience. This chapter of my life via China Tours afforded me once in a lifetime chance to experience China’s history and cultural up close. To hear and be told is one thing; but to personally see and understand is another.
There was a moment on the second day of the trip that became the highlight of my experience. I stood in a hall that was the Yeping revolutionary site. This was the birthplace of the Soviet Republic of China and the place where Mao Zedong was first addressed as chairman. On the day of our visit, a few of the delegates had a chance to share their sentiments regarding the trip and I seized the moment and shared my gratitude and perspective on our trip.
As I stood up to address my fellow delegates, it was immediately apparent that we were a rather unique bunch; not only hailing from different countries but also having different occupations. I was privileged to represent my university (Gannan Medical University) as well as my country (Zambia) as a delegate.
Looking across the room, I couldn't help being intrigued to see that I was the sole medical doctor-in-training in this diverse group of professionals. I marveled at the thought that a young man from the beautiful but far off nation of Zambia had not only an opportunity to learn about Chinese history but also the privilege of doing so alongside young people from different countries. I knew in that moment that this wasn’t just a trip but the experience of a lifetime.
Hara with fellow delegates at Bajialou, former residence of Chairman Mao Zedong, in Jinggangshan, Jiangxi Province, on June 22 (COURTESY)
Immersed in history
I am getting ahead of myself here. Let me start from the beginning. All in all, the trip lasted for five days. Before the first day, I was excited to have the opportunity to not only learn about Chinese culture but also learn about it alongside other young leaders with a unique take on what it means to live in China and appreciate the local culture and its significance. My fellow delegates were young people from different countries such as the U.S., Portugal, Rwanda, Kenya, Thailand, Egypt and South Korea, to mention a few.
Despite our disparate professional and academic backgrounds, we were linked by the thread of a common Chinese experience as well as the opportunity to learn more about this land that we have chosen to call home. Our trip had four stops: the cities of Jingganshang, Ruijin, Nanchang and Jingdezhen.
Our first stop was Jinggangshan, a city located in the middle of the Luoxiao Mountains at the junction of Hunan Province and Jiangxi. We visited the former residence of Chairman Mao at Bajiaolou. As a Zambian citizen, I could not help thinking about the relationship between Chairman Mao and the first president of the Republic of Zambia, Kenneth Kaunda, who had passed away only a few days prior to my trip.
Chairman Mao and President Kaunda forged diplomatic relations not long after Zambia’s independence in 1964. The fruit of this partnership was instrumental in helping Zambia construct a railway line called Tanzania-Zambia Railway. As I stood in that former residence of Chairman Mao and reflected on the wealth of the history around me, I felt proud of the legacy of China and what that meant to me as a Zambian student living in China in light of our shared history.
In the evening, a large-scale live performance was presented at the Red Army Theater depicting the Long March and a grand overview of the revolution. This was particularly moving as it made me wonder what it must have felt like to live through the day-to-day reality of that period.
The next day presented an opportunity to visit Huawu group of Huangsha village which is not only a Red Army Martyrs’ village but also a national model village for poverty alleviation.
I was impressed by the sacrifice and patriotism that prompted young men, many of whom were younger than the average age of our delegation, to join the Red Army and fight for their country against all odds. We were moved by those touching stories like “17 green pines” and “don’t forget the man who dig the well.”
Our penultimate stop was the provincial capital of Nanchang, where I had an intriguing experience because the Virtual Reality Industrial Base was the perfect intersection of cutting-edge technology and the tradition and history of China. It afforded the chance to see China’s progress and position on the world stage through a fresh perspective. I could see in the undercurrents of the local history and culture the foundation of what would eventually make China great under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC).
Our final visit was to the Jiaoqiaoyuan Campus of the Jiangxi University of Finance and Economics and the Ceramic Art Avenue in the “capital of porcelain,” the city of Jingdezhen.
Of course, a few days aren’t enough to capture the entirety of the nuance and complexity of any nation's history, let alone that of China. However, we got a multifaceted glimpse or kaleidoscopic snapshot of the last 100 years. I am not only grateful for the information I have received but also the perspective this exposure has given me.
I am grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow alongside people from various walks of life. With all sincerity, I can say that I have a better understanding of Chinese history and China’s development, particularly as it relates to the difficult course of the CPC in leading the Chinese people, step by step, to today.
Standing in the Yeping revolutionary site, on the second day of the trip, and observing the faces of people I hadn't known a few days prior, I could not but contemplate the thought that [for this one moment in time] we were forever bound by a common experience.
I told my fellow delegates: "We are not only here to learn about history but also to make history..."
The author is a Zambian student at Gannan Medical University, Jiangxi Province