Cheerful and gregarious, Li Shijun, 81, a veteran Chinese Esperanto expert rattles off a litany of details about Esperanto, the language he loves so much and has been devoted his life in for the past 65 years.
His proficiency in Esperanto seems to outshine his mother tongue and there is good reason for that. He picked this tongue up with "tongue-in-heart."
During the Japanese intrusion into China, he, at the age of 16, with a cry for salvation, ran furiously in the country. The introduction of Esperanto into China around then, from its very beginning, inspired him with the resolve to shake off linguistic manacles binds without loosing ties to the outside world.
Among the translation works of Li, the readers today are expected to find books greatly influential at that time and still resonate nowadays, such as masterpieces of the great man of letter and revolutionary writer Lu Xun, who is widely acclaimed for his vehement critic essays, and the poems by great poet Li Bai of the imperial Tang dynasty (618-907 a.d.), as well as political statements and works by Chairman Mao Zedong, founder of the new China.
In 1983, Li's unremitting efforts in translation of Esperanto earned him the academician title with the International Esperanto Academy. He was the first Chinese to enter this academic circle.
In 2003, he was awarded the Grabowski Award at the 88th International Esperanto Conference in Sweden.
Bespectacled and gray-haired, Li's childhood keen interest in science and technology shows no sign of waning, as he checked his camera and twiddled with his SONY video recorder that he uses to record his speeches.
"Edison, Watt and the like was once my idol," Li said. "My living experience as a villager drove him to cast doubt on everything and values behind. I might have done the same thing to Esperanto, which I take the leave to doubt."
"Esperanto," translated into Chinese as "world language," once had a speaking population of approximately 400,000 in China. But students of the language gradually dwindled and enthusiasm waned.
In effect, for many, learning "Esperanto" had the appeal of "no-pain-much-gain," because in less than six months, one can be well on his way to Esperanto fluency.
With a theme of "language equality in international relations,"the 89th International Esperanto Conference is being held from July 24 to 31 in Beijing, with a range of seminars, social gathering and exhibitions scheduled.
"This symposium is not only a networking opportunity for Esperanto learners from around the world, it is also a showcase of Esperanto and a modern China," Li acknowledged.
One other event important to Li is the unveiling of his long-labored translation of the "Heroes of Water margin", a very popular classic Chinese novel of the early Ming dynasty (1368-1644) in China. The book was also translated into English by Pearl S. Buck under the title "All men are brothers." This novel offers a vivid portrayal of life in Northern Song dynasty (960-1127), when the country was torn apart by feudal corruption and barbarian intrusions. The difficulties prompted the people to revolt.
This book, together with more than 25 literary works, shelved in many libraries and private studies worldwide, tells what a relatively affluent country has undergone in the past 5,000 years -- all through the life-long, arduous efforts of an Esperanto veteran.