"In 1992 when I worked in Fuzhou City of China's Fujian Province, I myself witnessed a moving story," Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, who was on a visit to the United States, told friendly groups at a luncheon Wednesday.
Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping addresses a welcoming luncheon hosted by the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations and the U.S.-China Business Council in Washington, the United States, Feb. 15, 2012. [Xie Huanchi/Xinhua]
In 1992, when Xi was serving as the party chief of China's southeastern city of Fuzhou, he came across a newspaper report about "My Guling," written by a Chinese student studying in the United States.
The story depicted an American couple who tried in vain to revisit a southern Chinese town called Guling, where the husband, Milton Gardner, had spent 10 years of his childhood before moving back to the United States in 1911, Xi said.
Gardner, who later became a professor of physics at the University of California, had been longing to revisit Guling since the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and the United States in 1979. But he had never made the trip due to his failing health.
According to the newspaper, Gardner kept uttering "Kuling, Kuling" in the final hours of his life.
After he passed away, his wife Elizabeth Gardner decided to fulfil the dying wish of her husband and since then made several trips to China in an attempt to find the small town that her husband had so much affection about.
Her efforts ended in vain as she had few clues about the exact location of the town. But a Chinese student lodging at the Gardners' recognized the small town as Guling near Fuzhou City from postmarks on some old mails of late Mr. Gardner.
The student, surnamed Zhong, wrote an article about Gardners' story and sent it to the People's Daily, one of the major newspapers in China.
"After I read the story, I immediately contacted Mrs. Gardner through relevant departments and invited her to visit Guling," Xi said.
Thanks to Xi's arrangement, Mrs. Gardner finally arrived at Guling in August 1992. She met there with nine childhood friends of her husband, all of whom were over 90 years at that time.
It was a happy occasion for Mrs. Gardner, who was later awarded the honorary citizenship of Fuzhou City, Xi recalled.
"She said that she would cherish this bond of friendship between her husband and the people of China, because after seeing for herself the beautiful Guling and the warmth and goodwill of the Chinese people, she now understood why her husband had been so deeply attached to China."
"My friends, I believe there are many such touching stories between our two peoples," said Xi.
Xi's remarks won thunderous applause.
Jeffrey Bader, former senior director for Asian affairs at U.S. National Security Council, was among the moved audience.
"The story about Kuling was a wonderful personal touch that the audience really appreciated. The story was very engaging, it was charming, it was substantive. I think he made a very positive impression on the audience," he told Xinhua.
Former U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen said, "He told a touching story that was evidence to me (he is) a man with a good heart, and wants the best for his country and for our relationships."