Xi Focus-Closeup: Under the light of a kerosene lamp

(Xinhua) 14:15, April 24, 2022

BEIJING, April 24 (Xinhua) -- In the 1970s, a small village on the Loess Plateau in Shaanxi Province, northwest China, had not yet been connected to electricity. When darkness fell, the whole village sank into slumber.

But one of the simple cave homes would radiate a dim glow. Inside, a young man would be reading books under the dull light of a kerosene lamp.

The avid reader was Xi Jinping, who became Chinese president in 2013.

The homemade lamp, a repurposed ink bottle filled with oil and a wick, was as modest as its light. Wang Xianping, a villager who met Xi in Liangjiahe, recalled that Xi "had to read so close to the glimmer of light that the kerosene smoke often blackened his face and nose."

Xi arrived in Liangjiahe in 1969, not yet 16 years old, hauling a heavy suitcase full of books. During the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), he was just one of the millions of urban educated youth who were sent to the country's rural areas to "learn from the peasants."

Over the seven years he lived and worked on the Loess Plateau, Xi spent almost every minute of his spare time with his -- often sooty -- nose in a book. He would return to the tomes, which villagers remarked were "as thick as bricks," over and over again. By the time he entered college in 1975, he had read "Das Kapital" three times, filling 18 notebooks with his reflections.

Under the same kerosene lamp, Xi would read to the villagers, periodically lending them his books. Wu Hui, now 68 years old, recalled how he borrowed "Records of the Three Kingdoms" from Xi. "Sometimes it (classical Chinese) was hard for me to understand, and Xi was always patient with my every question," Wu said.

Wu later became a middle school teacher. Today, he attributes his interactions with Xi to widening his worldview and helping him identify his goals. "My life would not be the same without Xi's influence."

"Reading is my biggest hobby," Xi once said and, recollecting his time in Liangjiahe, said he did the most reading during his time in the village. Reading, however, was not the only passion ignited under the light of that kerosene lamp.

Inspired by Shakespeare, Xi often pondered the question of "to be or not to be," ultimately making up his mind to serve the motherland and the people.

Xi's passion for reading has remained a constant, from his time as an "educated youth" in the 1970s right the way up to the country's top leadership. He immerses himself in reading regardless of his workload.

"The only hobby I have kept is reading," he once shared in an interview. He has also encouraged officials to read more, from works on Marxism to books on classic literature.

Quoting an ancient Chinese proverb, Xi said, "One's life is limited, but knowledge is limitless." 

(Web editor: Peng Yukai, Hongyu)


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