A British Young Man Recites a Poem by Xi Jinping
Published: Aug 26, 2021 11:48 AM

From October 19 to 23, 2015, President Xi Jinping paid a state visit to the United Kingdom. In London, he attended the opening ceremony of the UK Confucius Institutes and Confucius Classrooms Annual Conference. Cameron Patterson, a British university student studying Chinese at a Confucius institute, recited a poem in memory of Jiao Yulu at the opening ceremony. The poem was authored by Xi Jinping himself.

"On behalf of the students of Confucius Institutes, I would like to welcome President Xi Jinping to the UK," Patterson, standing in front of the theme wall in "Chinese red," said in fluent Chinese, "I love the Chinese language and Chinese culture."
Patterson reciting the poem

Patterson reciting the poem

Turning to President Xi, Patterson said, "Having read your poem in memory of Jiao Yulu, I am deeply impressed by your aspirations in your younger years and have gained a deeper understanding of China today and the Chinese culture." He then chanted the poem “In Memory of Jiao Yulu” composed by Xi Jinping over 20 years ago.

"Ten thousand miles away your soul has flown; the rivers, mountains and land yearn for your return. The people mourn the loss of a caring official, tears flooding under the empress trees you planted. Having dedicated your life to the desert, to the betterment of people’s lives, your legacy lives on no matter how many years come and go."

"The moon shining bright as always, I think of you and your life’s work. You toiled long and hard, claiming no credit. Serving and benefiting the people: such was your ambition and is also mine. Many a trickle will add a touch of green to the desert and create a wellspring of hope."

Patterson’s well-modulated recitation, accompanied by traditional Chinese music, won the applause of Xi Jinping and others present. Xi praised Patterson, "His Mandarin is very good, better than many in my delegation, and he recites the poem better than I could." The audience burst into laughter and applause.

Later, Patterson noted down President Xi's comments and posted them on his Weibo account in Chinese. He wrote, "My recitation today went well. I met President Xi and the Duke of York." He was "very happy" to hear Xi's praise.
Xi's poem “In Memory of Jiao Yulu” published on <em>Fuzhou Evening News</em> on July 16, 1990

Xi's poem “In Memory of Jiao Yulu” published on Fuzhou Evening News on July 16, 1990

Xi Jinping has always held Jiao Yulu in high esteem and regarded him as a role model. At the time of writing this poem, Xi was the Party Secretary of Fuzhou. One night in July 1990, he read an article entitled “People Yearn for the Return of Jiao Yulu.” The poem was inspired as literary thoughts surrounding the deceased upright man welled up in Xi’s heart. When he inspected Lankao in 2014, Xi recalled emotionally how he learned from the example of Jiao Yulu more than 40 years ago. "On February 7, 1966, the People's Daily carried a long article by Comrade Mu Qing and others entitled ‘Jiao Yulu: A Model County Party Secretary.’ Back then, I was a grade one student in junior high school. The teacher of political education choked with sobs while reading the article to us. I was deeply moved when I heard Comrade Jiao Yulu kept on working even in the late stage of liver cancer, pressing a stick against his liver to relieve the pain. The pressure from the stick wore a hole into the right side of his rattan chair over time."

Jiao Yulu is no stranger to the Chinese people. After being appointed Party Secretary of Lankao County, he mobilized the local residents in a great struggle to tackle water-logging, sandstorm, and alkaline soil. Leading by example, he was always at the frontline at the height of sandstorms and in torrential rainfalls to identify the wind corridor, forecast quicksand and gauge flood waters. Amid blinding blizzards, he visited poor families to deliver food and financial relief to their homes. He was devoted entirely to all the people of his county but himself. Despite severe illness, he carried on work till the last moment of his life, and is revered as the "model county Party secretary."
Jiao Yulu

Jiao Yulu

But why did Patterson, a British university student, choose to recite a poem about him? Patterson and his parents lived in China when he was in middle school. One day he was given an essay assignment about Jiao Yulu. After reading many of Jiao’s stories, he was deeply touched by Jiao’s unrelenting commitment to leading the people of Lankao in fighting poverty in a harsh environment. In order to perform the recitation well, Patterson studied President Xi’s poem line by line. In his view, both President Xi and Jiao Yulu are dedicated to serving the people. “I think President Xi wants to revive the spirit of Jiao Yulu, with which the people will be better served and live a happier life. This is what the Chinese dream is about.”

Language is the best key to understanding a nation. In the UK, there are many Chinese language learners like Patterson. As President Xi said, diversity spurs interaction among civilizations, which in turn promotes mutual learning and further progress. Diverse people-to-people exchanges will nurture more "chemistry" between civilizations of the world.