Lui Village Primary School
Da Zhao Township
Chang An County
Xi'an, Shaanxi, China
(30 Km South of Xi'an)
Tel: (029) 587-9532
FOR LIST OF
Mr. Wang Yongxue
Tel: (029) 587-9532
Briggs with Students in Pang Lui
In April 1998, a group of American teachers traveling with the New England China Network first collaborated with their Chinese guide, Richard Wang, to create the idea for a PROJECT HOPE in the guide's home village of Pang Lui. New Millennium Ride visited Pang Lui Village on 20 April 1999 with a group of 21 teachers visiting China under the auspices of New England China Network, sponsored by Primary Source in Watertown, MA, USA. This was the first visit to Pang Lui by outsiders.
Donations for PROJECT HOPE are collected from many sources, both within and outside of China. Funds collected help with the construction of schools and libraries in the rural villages of China.
Our guide, Richard (Guotang) Wang, the only university graduate from Pang Lui, had long been hoping to make a significant contribution to improving life for the children of his farming village. It was Richard's lifelong dream to help build a library for the 537 students and 20 teachers of the village school. I had been looking forward to visiting Pang Lui ever since Richard and I first made contact in February 1999.
About 9:30 in the morning, our group left Xi'an, China's western capital, a city in Shaanxi province located on the upper plains of the Yellow River. Our trip to Pang Lui would take us from modern China to the edge of contemporary civilization. We would leave behind the tourist hub, the booming metropolis with its smokestack industries, universities, traffic jams, blaring horns, neon lights, mini skirts, and pollution. In Pang Lui, we would find rural China where even echoes of the big city cannot be heard.
Hardtop gave way to rutted dirt road. Heavy industry yielded to farming. Brick houses built with adjoining walls and shared roofs, were replaced by villages with adobe dwellings. We entered a landscape my travel companions had not yet seen in China. As we neared Pang Lui, the excitement in the bus became electric, anticipation mounted. Richard had assured us that our visit was indeed a major affair for the village.
As we bounced along we passed several hill mounds - tombs of unknown empresses, princesses, or favorite concubines, we were told. The villages grew more distinct, separated by large tracks of tilled land. The scenery was one of gentle pastels. Lavender blossoms of the Chinese parasol trees floated in mottled gray skies above the villages. Dusty brown houses and weathered farm buildings were islands - the fields, like undulating seas colored in Spring's new green, were splashed with the bright yellow foam of the lingering blossom of the rape.
We cleared a small rise and there ahead lay Pang Lui. A red banner draped across the entrance to the village welcomed us. A great occasion was unfolding. Hands that had been reaching half-way around the world were about to touch. Anticipation, excitement were ours. I couldn't help wondering what was in the hearts and minds of our hosts. Most of the villagers had never seen someone of another race and here suddenly a bus of aliens was rumbling down the road toward them.
Smiles. Miles of smiles. A band played. Everyone was dressed in festive colors. Old and young pressed shoulder to shoulder to get as close as they dare, to get a peek, one day to say, "I was there!" We could not have felt more welcomed!
We wound our way through the
narrow streets. Evidently loads of sand had been brought from far
away to spread on the mud to make sure the bus could pass easily to the
school. All along the way, children lined both sides of the road, singing
and waving plastic flowers. (I thought, "The modern world has arrived.")
We disembarked and were led along an honor course. Children in colorful
uniforms of red, yellow, pink lined the way to the administrative meeting
room in the school.
There was much reverence and an appropriate show of applause. NECN teachers gave a few gifts to the headmaster: some books; cards made by children in a Massachusetts school; $1400 for the school library, some pens and writing books; a pin with the China and US flags; and a camera with some film. The room we were crowded into had five large posters on the front wall: Marks, Engels, Lenin, Mao, and Sun Zheng Shen.
We learned that the county has 16 primary schools. The Pang Lui Primary School (6 grades) was established in 1947. It is primarily village supported: local donations of 37,000 yuan were recently collected to build four offices in the school, plant some flowers, and improve some of the paths leading to the school. Some 300,000 yuan ($36,000 US) is still needed to rebuild the library, pay for books and other much-needed supplies. There are 21 teachers at the school (5 men, 16 women). Fourteen of the teachers are village supported, while 7 are supported by the state. (After high school, Richard Wang returned to Pang Lui to teach in the school for 3 years. He was a village-supported teacher.) Nowadays, many graduates leave the village to seek work in the cities and factories. The school has produced lawyers, teachers, and politicians.
The village community is divided into 12 teams who farm the arable land. The village has 4200 mu (1 acre = 6 mu). There are 663 households. Of the 2,460 people, 36 are retired, 1300 are laborers (split 50/50 men/women), and the rest are children or adolescents. There is one school. The town produces 1.3 million kilos of wheat a year - 266 kilos of grain/person/year. The land produces 225 kilos/mu. The total village income last year was 2.33 million yuan, or approximately 947 yuan/person/year (about $125/person/year).
We toured the school yard and the buildings. (Those who visited the school "restrooms" will never forget the simplicity of the plumbing there.) The walls of the school yard had more posters of notables: Edison, Copernicus, Watt, and - of course - Mao's hero, Lei Feng. The crowd pressed in from the street and the "dignitaries" were having a hard time keeping the atmosphere dignified.
As our visit to Pang Lui continued, the children got braver and wanted to get closer. We touched. The formal friendship became personal. Lots of pictures were taken. Polaroid pictures were given to anyone who could find their way into the viewfinder before the film ran out. There was a dance performance, some singing and a very feeble attempt by the assembled American teachers (I was there too) to sing "America the Beautiful". The crowd applauded anyway!
We toured the village with hundreds in tow, and then split into three groups to eat lunch in a host family's home. I joined a group at the home of the retired village headman, Cheng Xuan Ming. Lunch was boiled chicken feet, squash and pork, lotus root and pepper and pork, mushrooms and kale and pork, pigs intestines, noodle soup and beer. We toasted each other and gave brief personal biographies of our lives. There were many questions about costs of living, teaching conditions, students, etc.
After lunch we gathered again in the schoolyard for the final farewells. Tears were shed but the mood was unquestionably ebullient. An overwhelming sense of optimism and shared goodwill had lifted our hearts together toward a mutual understanding of a promise of friendship that would last no matter what.
The band played and arms waved. Slowly the bus moved away. Each in the bus seemed lost in the profundity of their personal experience. As the village disappeared into the afternoon haze the reflecting bubbled forth. Each spoke as if to hear the incredible truth of what they had experienced.
I sat next to Renay Intisar Jihad of Springfield, MA. We sat quietly. We watched as the city world raced toward us, a dark storm cloud threatening the landscape. Little villages like Pang Lui are being gobbled up by that storm cloud. The family networks, the social systems, the simple pleasures, the reverence for life, the importance of harmony, the quiet - all are slipping under the storm cloud.
Thank you kind, brave people of Pang Lui for inviting us into your village and into your homes. Please know that you have given us a gift of friendship that is unique in all the world.
from a Day in the
Life of Pang Lui