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Wei Deyou's 52-year life on the border in China's far west


12-28-2016 05:23 BJT

In China's far west Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, a border patroller has been fulfilling his commitment to the land for over 50 years. 

Every morning along with the sunrise, 76-year-old Wei Deyou starts his day on the border.

52 years ago, Wei and his comrades came to the Sarbulak Prairie in China's northwest Xinjiang, making a commitment to guard the land.

 Wei Deyou's 52-year life on the border in China's far west

But the land is a barren grassland with deserts all around. Nothing to eat. And not even anywhere to live at first.

"There wasn't even a house to live in at the time we came. So we dug a house under the earth and used two big bags as a door," said Liu Kaiying, Wei's comrade.

"There wasn't enough to eat. We ate black wheat shells," said Xu Yimin, Wei's comrade.

In 1981, many of the original families began to move away. But Wei insisted on staying because of the commitment he had made 18 years before.

"I swore I would never ever leave this place. I know I'm such a stubborn guy," Wei said.

In fact, Wei knows deep in his heart that he is not that necessary for this land. But he is afraid that no one will ever come if he leaves.

"My wife and I have already decided to stay here as long as we live," he said.

Wei's half a century life as a border patroller would not have been possible without his family's support.

His wife, Liu Jinghao, says she came full of longing and yearning. But the moment she arrived, the barren land and harsh living conditions smashed all her romantic dreams.

"One time I saw a wolf jump at our flock of sheep. It leapt at the throat of one of the sheep. I yelled and shouted. That experience really frightened me," she said.

On her path of learning to be tough, the young Liu Jinghao once thought about running away.

"I fled once, but he chased me back. He told me to stay with him here for another 3 years. And he would then go home with me together," she said.

But Liu Jinghao didn't expect this three years to turn out to be a lifetime.

Gradually adapting to the tough environment and understanding her husband, Liu then brought up 4 children.

"I told him to feel free to do what he wants. I will always be by his side and won't leave anymore," Wei's wife said.

Although the couple reached an agreement, border life was not easy for their 4 children.

Wei Xia and her sister Wei Ping recall a memory of one scary winter.

They called that experience "a test of life and death".

"The school was 30 kilometers away from home. I was really exhausted and could't take one step further. It was so cold at that time. My pants were frozen and could stand still. To tell the truth, I hated my parents a little at that time," said Wei Xia, Wei's daughter.

But as the children grew up, they began to understand their father's love for this land.

Wei's third daughter even came back to the border this August and decided to live with the old couple.

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