CHINA / SOCIETY
Tributes flow as crowds bid farewell to Yuan Longping, 'Father of Hybrid Rice'
Published: May 24, 2021 04:22 PM
A landmark is lit up in remembrance of Yuan Longping in north China's Tianjin, May 22, 2021. Chinese scientist Yuan Longping, renowned for developing the first hybrid rice strain that relieved countless people of hunger, died of organ failure at 91 on Saturday.(Photo: Xinhua)

A landmark is lit up in remembrance of Yuan Longping in north China's Tianjin, May 22, 2021. Chinese scientist Yuan Longping, renowned for developing the first hybrid rice strain that relieved countless people of hunger, died of organ failure at 91 on Saturday. Photo: Xinhua


"Every time when the wind blows through the rice fields, I think of you."

At Mingyangshan Funeral Home in Changsha, Central China's Hunan Province, huge crowds from across the country, who came specifically for one last look at the "Father of Hybrid Rice," waited in long lines with tributes in hand to honor the late top Chinese agronomist Yuan Longping at his farewell ceremony on Monday.

The nation's mourning of the "food hero" was not limited to the site, but was also observed in various forms, including LED screens placed at the cities' busiest streets, in live-stream videos on social media platforms, and on the delivery notes of countless flowers sent to the funeral parlor. 

Yuan's memorial service was held Monday morning at the Mingyangshan Funeral Home in Changsha following his passing on Saturday at the age of 91. 

The funeral of Professor Yuan Longping is held at Mingyangshan Funeral Home in Changsha, Central China's Hunan Province on Monday. Thousands of people went there with flowers to show their respect. Yuan passed away on Saturday at the age of 91. Photo: Cui Meng/GT

The funeral of Professor Yuan Longping is held at Mingyangshan Funeral Home in Changsha, Central China's Hunan Province on Monday. Thousands of people went there with flowers to show their respect. Yuan passed away on Saturday at the age of 91. Photo: Cui Meng/GT



Yuan's body was seen lying in a bush of flowers and cypresses, covered with a bright red Chinese national flag. Chinese President Xi Jinping and other state leaders extended deep condolences to Yuan's family. Yuan's wife also showed up at the service in a wheelchair, tearfully bidding farewell to her husband. 

In front of the memorial hall, the lines of people arriving from across the country extended for kilometers, the Global Times learned on Monday. The majority were young people, with some bringing their children, even toddlers. "This is to teach him to be grateful," said a mother of a young child from Wuhan, the Changjiang Daily reported Monday. "You don't forget Grandpa Yuan when you eat rice, just as people don't forget the well-digger when they drink water."

Of people lining up at the site, some were in wheelchairs, and others were delivery men with cartons of flowers ordered by those who could not manage to come in person. As the funeral drew to an end on Monday afternoon, thousands of people raced towards the service hall in the hope of taking one last look at the late hero, the Global Times reporter found at the site.

Flower shops in Changsrily sent chrysanthemums for free, but the owners told media that all of their inventories have been sold out. Apart from flowers laid in front of Yuan's portrait, ears of rice, lunch boxes, and other forms of tributes were also placed.

Cab drivers picking up people from the train station to take them to the funeral offered services all day long for free, and public commutes were also providing anti-epidemic materials such as protective masks for free. 

Nationwide mourning of this kind has rarely been seen in recent years. In Nanjing in East China's Jiangsu Province, as well as in North China's Tianjin Municipality, LED screens lit up the night sky on Sunday, displaying images of the renowned scientist so that local residents could honor the national hero from their doorsteps. 

Apart from people from within China, the international community extended condolences for the passing of the widely-respected scientist, also a dear friend who had helped millions who suffered from grain shortages. 

The United Nations, the World Food Prize Foundation, the US Embassy in China, and top government officials from countries including Madagascar and Nigeria mourned the Chinese hybrid rice pioneer. 
 
A number of mainstream foreign media including the New York Times, Bloomberg and Reuters dedicated reports remembering his contributions of “steeply rising harvests and an end to famine in most of the world.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Spokesperson Zhao Lijian, responding to the global remembrance upon Yuan's passing, said that "Professor Yuan belongs not only to China, but to the world. His lifelong dream is to see hybrid rice being grown across the world so that famine will be banished from Earth.  With the concerted efforts of all, Yuan's dream will come true and our world will be free of hunger and poverty."

The dream that Yuan has devoted his life to, to cover the world with hybrid rice and end hunger, will eventually come true under the joint efforts with the global community."

Known as the "Father of Hybrid Rice," Yuan was a pioneer in the research and development of hybrid rice in China, and was also the first scientist in the world to have successfully utilized the heterosis of rice. One of the greatest wonders Yuan had achieved was helping feed nearly one-fifth of the world's population with less than 9 percent of the world's total land. He was awarded the "Medal of the Republic" in September 2019.


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