TENGCHONG, Yunnan, April 30 -- Remote Heshun County, in southwest China, is little known today, but its people have forged a place in the nation' s history by being well ahead of their time.
Nestled on the Myanmar border with Yunnan Province, the population of 6,000 comes from entrepreneurial stock who invested heavily in education.
Li Kunba, 80, comes from a very rich family whose business once spanned Southeast Asia, but her greatest source of pride is her father' s decision decades ago to abolish the painful feudal practice of foot-binding of women.
It was a difficult decision to break with generations of tradition steeped in the doctrines of Confucius and Mencius, in which women were regarded as chattels, but the turning point can be traced back to early forays into the outside world in the late 19th Century.
Due to the lack of arable land, most local people made a living by trading in tea, silk and jade with the neighboring countries. Then they began to go abroad to earn larger fortunes, and were exposed to then advanced concepts such as equality and freedom.
In 1898, Heshun opened the first school for women in Yunnan Province and the education was free.
The May 4th Movement of 1919, in which young Chinese scholars advanced principles of science and democracy, also taught people in the remote county that culture was as important as wealth.
Li' s father, after returning from Japan, joined other local people in building more schools. They also raised the money to build Heshun Library, which is still open today and houses more than 100,000 books, many donated by local people.
Librarian Li Min told Xinhua that about two thirds of the population have borrowed books from the library.
"It is the spiritual wealth left by previous generations," said Li Kunba, "I hope young people cherish it."