At the 14th Asian Culture and Art Festival, held in Columbus of Ohio in May 2008, a chorus group of 18 singers from China staged a spectacular performance. These amateur singers, all in their sixties, had heavenly voices, according to local media. It was the Love on the Grassland Chorus Group, formed by people from Beijing who used to work on the grasslands of Inner Mongolia in the 1960s and 1970s. Their love for the society and their contribution to the society, well known in Beijing, are fully displayed in their songs.
Founded on July 9, 1999, the group mainly consists of Beijing residents who used to work in the Xilin Guole League, Inner Mongolia.
Ms. Ma Xiaoli, the initiator and leader of the chorus group, went to Inner Mongolia when she was 20. The local people on the grassland well received this young girl, despite that her family was labeled with political problems. Ma Xiaoli was very grateful to the people on the grassland who were like her mother.
They were so kind and sincere, she said. When I was to leave the grassland, I did not tell anyone but left quietly. I climbed slopes and walked for more than an hour, and then turned my head to see the villagers still waving goodbye to me.The scene is still lingering in my mind. I will never forget it. For Ma Xiaoli and her fellow youths, their years on the grassland had left indelible impressions on them. Most of them have returned to Beijing, but emotionally they still belong to the grassland. According to Ma Xiaoli, my feeling for my second hometown is stronger than that for my native place, because I spent my youth, the most beautiful and purest period of time there. Life there was tough, but I was edified by the Mongolian culture which had changed me completely.
In 1999, Ma and her former friends set up the Love on the Grassland Chorus Group. As one of the major singers in the group, Hai Yin regards the group as a gift for her.
In 1969, Hai Yin, 16 year old, left her home in Zhejiang Province, a water town south of the Yangtze River, traveled all the way to the dry grasslands of Inner Mongolia. She spent her youth there and left when she was 30. That was an important period of her growth from an innocent girl to a mature adult. During her 14 years there, Hai Yin worked as an actress and creator in an art troupe. Today she is over 50 but she is reliving her youth in the chorus group.
In May 2008, while the chorus group was in Columbus, a great earthquake shocked Wenchuan of Sichuan. The group immediately decided to donate all the income from their performance to the quake-hit areas. At the same time, they composed songs to help rise the enthusiasm in the quake relief. Hai Yin joined in the chorus and recited a poem written specially for the relief. Today, she serves as the head of the dance team of the group. She sees that the group has a higher realm that cultivates mind, and she appreciates every opportunity the group offers her. Owing to the strong affection for their second hometown, Hai Yin and other members of the group paid several visits to the grasslands in recent years. Through these visits, they learned more about the place and the people there. The Mongolian people do not like to talk much, but they have the character of nature -open-minded, brave and tolerant - coming along with their living environment. This is reflected in their daily life. The sincerity and kindness of the people on the grassland carved deep in Hai Yin's mind.
The members of the chorus group are all amateur singers, and 90 percent of them have never performed on stage. How could they overcome all the difficulties and continue singing to this day? Because we had spent our young lives on the grassland, and our love for the grassland and its people will never fade, said Hai Yin.