daiwamillionaires300|Feature: Reviving the Kuliang spirit: Elyn MacInnis on passing torch of U.S.-China friendship to next generation

super2024-06-24 21:07:0813Academia

by Xinhua writer Yang Shilong

NEW YORK, June 24 (Xinhua) -- Elyn MacInnis' eyes lit up as she recounted the stories of American families who, over a century ago, built enduring friendship with their Chinese neighbors as they resided on the serene hills of Kuliang, Fujian Province in Southeast China.

Kuliang, known as Guling in Mandarin, was a popular summer retreat for foreigners, including many Americans, who lived harmoniously with local Chinese residents from the 1880s onwards. In 2016, MacInnis established "Friends of Kuliang," a group gathering about 50 descendants of American families who once lived in Kuliang.

In June 2023 in the Fuzhou city in Fujian, MacInnis and several of the group members participated in "Bond with Kuliangdaiwamillionaires300: 2023 China-U.S. People-to-People Friendship Forum," which received a congratulatory letter from Chinese President Xi Jinping.

daiwamillionaires300|Feature: Reviving the Kuliang spirit: Elyn MacInnis on passing torch of U.S.-China friendship to next generation

"All the Friends of Kuliang are very happy and excited about another symposium. They all know how important it is to have the spirit of Kuliang, of people-to-people friendship and caring continue," MacInnis, with a warm smile on her face, told Xinhua in an interview before leaving for Fujian to attend "Bond with Kuliangdaiwamillionaires300: 2024 China-U.S. Youth Festival," which opened on Monday.

Xi sent a congratulatory letter to the festival on Monday. He said it is hoped that Chinese and U.S. youth will have in-depth exchanges, enhance friendship, know each other well and work hand in hand to carry forward China-U.S. friendship, contribute to the sound and steady growth of China-U.S. relations, and work with people around the world to build peace, promote progress and create prosperity.


During his trip to the United States in November 2023, Xi announced a program to invite 50,000 American youths to China in the next five years for exchanges and study.

"We're very excited about President Xi's initiative to bring young people from the U.S. to China, so that they can have a deeper understanding of China, and have the chance to build friendships with the Chinese people. And so the Kuliang families are all very happy about that," said MacInnis.

"Because for them, China feels like home. They grew up there. They had their childhood there. And so they're very fond of China and know how precious their friendships are. And they are hoping to see that relationship continue between the peoples of China and America."

"I think one of the most important things that can happen is for Americans to go to China and Chinese people come to America and spend time together. Most people hear about China from the media, but that is often just about political things. So in order to understand each other better, we need to have young people go to China from the States, and have Chinese young people come here to the U.S. and have a real exchange," she said.

MacInnis said she is deeply impressed by Xi's focus on friendship and cultural exchange.

"It's beautiful, that he's thinking about friendship. And this is very important. So I respect him for that very much," she said.

In his letter to "Bond with Kuliang: 2023 China-U.S. People-to-People Friendship Forum," Xi said: "I hope that you will continue to write the Kuliang story and carry forward the special bonds, so that the friendship between our two peoples can stay forever strong and robust like the thousand-year-old cedar trees in Kuliang."

MacInnis said she was very touched when Xi wrote her back last year. "And when he wrote back, he echoed those stories about those families and people and the stories of Kuliang, and how they reflect the deep friendship between the Chinese and American people. So I was very happy when he wrote back. And that's when he said, he hoped that our friendship would go on for as long as an old tree for 1,000 years and more."


The MacInnis family's ties to China are strong. Elyn's father-in-law, Donald MacInnis, was a member of the Flying Tigers who fought alongside Chinese forces during World War II. Her husband, Peter MacInnis, was born in Fuzhou, and the couple has lived in various Chinese cities for nearly three decades.

"The spirit of Kuliang is long-term friendship," said MacInnis. "It's one thing to just make a friend for an evening or a week. But the spirit of Kuliang is the spirit of friendship over time. Because we only really understand each other when we've spent some time together."

The "Friends of Kuliang" group has now become an important force in driving non-governmental friendly exchanges between China and the United States.

As a senior advisor and lead researcher of the Kuliang Tourism and Culture Research Association, MacInnis is currently working on a book about the stories of how the people of Kuliang lived together. "On Kuliang, they were open. And they were friends. They were friendly. The doctors looked after the people, the teachers taught school in the summer time for the mountain children. They helped each other. And they respected each other. And that's the basis of a deep friendship," she said.

She emphasized the urgency of documenting these accounts, especially as many of the original residents of Kuliang are now in their senior years, noting that Len Billing, the oldest, passed away at 103 last year while the oldest person from that time is now 90.


Looking ahead, MacInnis called for more educational initiatives to further cultivate understanding and interest in Chinese culture among younger generations in the United States. She suggested creating engaging and educational content about China for children, which could help build a foundation of curiosity and appreciation for a different culture.

"I would like to see educational sets of videos that are about the joys of being a child in China that foreign children might find fascinating," MacInnis said, adding examples could include how Chinese children play with crickets, or silkworms.

"I am sure they would be fascinated to learn about crickets and silkworms, and see a video about that -- to watch a silkworm grow, how they would have to look after it, how the silkworm spins its cocoon. How children play with silkworms in China."

Although she is facing personal health challenges, MacInnis, at the age of 73, remains committed to her work with the Friends of Kuliang, driven by her hope for a friendlier and more peaceful world.

"I hope the world can become a friendlier place where friendship between the people is really deep and that we can have a chance to be friends. And when we're friends, there'll be a chance for peace," she said.

Despite the current challenges in China-U.S. relations, MacInnis is optimistic about the power of people-to-people exchanges. She believes that by sharing these stories and fostering understanding between the two cultures, "we can contribute to improved relations."

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