I am delighted and honored today to share a few words about Stories of China Retold In English because this beautifully crafted collection of stories, which is certain to be an instant classic, serves two great purposes: 1) telling the world about China (Xi Jinping’s desire for us all to 好好讲中国故事; and 2) providing an exciting way to encourage foreigners to help Chinese master English!
Almost 20 years ago, when Xi Jinping was our Fujian governor, we discussed the problem that Chinese had learned much about the world but the world still knew far too little about China. So Xi Jinping said to me, “You’ve written about Xiamen, your second home; you should write about Quanzhou, your third home!” He suggested I start with Quanzhou because it was the start of the Maritime Silk Road—which gave Chairman Xi the idea for the modern Belt and Road Initiative.
I did write the Quanzhou book, and a dozen others, as well as developed English websites, and wrote and co-hosted over 400 TV episodes. Some Chinese say I am “Zhongguo Tong” (a China Hand), but I always reply that this is impossible. In a country this large, and changing so fast, not even a Chinese can be Zhongguo Tong! And, in fact, the more I learned about China, the more I realized how little I really knew. What really amazed me is that I discovered that China’s great accomplishments since I arrived in Xiamen University in 1988 were merely the latest of thousands of years of amazing accomplishments!
The ancient world witnessed the greatness of Rome, Egypt, Greece and China, but the only nation that has remained strong and vibrant for these thousands of years is China—and that is because Chinese have throughout history sought the Chinese Dream of peace and prosperity. Most importantly to me, as a former military man, is that China is the only great nation to have relied entirely on economic means to prosper! No war with distant nations, no colonialism, no nationalized opium sales and slavery—just pure economics and trade. So why are Chinese so different? CEO Hu Min’s books hold the answer to China’s success— past, present and future.
China has been great for thousands of years because it has had a solid Confucian educational and cultural foundation that has emphasized morality and responsibility to family and nation, and peaceful coexistence. Even the celebrated Art of War views war as the last resort. But though I’ve read many books about this great country, I’ve never seen so many fascinating stories, both ancient and modern, about the soul of China as I encountered while reading Hu Min’s China Stories.
These masterfully selected stories cover everything from romance and love of family (the Cowherd and the Girl Weaver, for example) to love of country and patriotism—such as Yue Fei, a military hero who 1000 years ago, as a youth, had his mother tattoo on his back his lifelong motto, “Serve the country with supreme loyalty.” There’s also the story of “The Masterpiece of a Humiliated Master,” about Sima Qian, who lived 2200 years ago, and the amazing story of Lin Zexu, who tried to end the West’s opium trade. These stories also tell how paper, pen and ink and inkstick were invented.
As a former military person, I loved the story of how Mozi saved the State of Song by emphasizing “mutual love and restraint of strife”, thus avoiding a war, and reinforcing Chinese’ love of peaceful coexistence. But other stories of ancient and modern martyrs show that the peace-loving Chinese are also heroic and fearless warriors when their nation is threatened.
I also liked the modern tales showing how Chinese braved the tundra to build the world’s highest railway in Tibet, or to work the oil fields of N.E. China, developed hybrid rice to alleviate poverty, or worked around the clock to get their first manned rocket into space.
我还喜欢阅读讲述现代发展的故事。中国人民攻克难关，在青藏高原的冻土上修建了世界上海拔The highest的高铁，在中国东北开采了The first座油田；它培育出杂交水稻为世界人民极大地解决了粮食问题，它的科学家夜以继日的研发成功发射本国The first艘载人航天飞船。
I also appreciated the story, Running Like the Wind, about how Chinese lives have been changed by bullet trains—a miracle I’ve witnessed myself over the past few decades. In 1994, it took me 10 days to drive from Xiamen to Beijing. Today, you can take a train from Hong Kong clear across the country to Beijing in only about 9 hours!
The diversity of Hu Min’s stories is astonishing. The way in which the stories have been selected, edited and organized is as much of a masterpiece as the tales they relate. It is impossible to read these stories and not marvel at the rich culture and character that have allowed China, of all ancient nations, to remain vibrant to this day. And China continues to this day to engage in historically unprecedented engineering feats to raise the living standard of people not just in China but in Africa and other areas of the world. I look forward to CEO Hu Min’s next collection of stories!
The second reason I love Stories of China Retold in English is that they are the perfect way to get foreigners to help you learn English!
One of the best ways to master English is to practice with native speakers, but it gets old hearing the same questions everyday from everyone: “Where are you from? Where do you work? How much do you earn? Do you like Chinese food?” I got so tired of these questions that I printed up cards to give my interrogators. On the cards were printed,“Hi, I’m Bill Brown. I’m from the U.S. I teach at Xiamen University MBA Center. I earn enough money to pay taxes but not enough money to avoid taxes! Goodbye!”
But I suspect all foreigners in China are keen on learning more about this ancient and vast nation. If you can share some of China’s history and culture in English to foreign visitors, you’ll always have an enthusiastic audience. Therefore, English learners will no longer have to worry about a lack of materials to practise the language, and I will no longer be bothered by people wanting me to issue little cards for the same purpose.
On Feb. 1st, I was astonished, and greatly honored, to receive a letter from Chairman Xi Jinping. Near the end of the letter, he wrote that he was confident that the best was yet ahead—that I’d write even better stories about China in the future. That was a great encouragement to me to continue my efforts to share China’s Story. But my own China Stories are just those from one foreigner’s perspective. Mr. Hu Min’s China Stories capture the heart and soul of China, ancient and modern, in a way that has never been done before. I cannot imagine a more rewarding way for Chinese to master English than by sharing with foreigners a collection that showcases thousands of years of Chinese culture and history.
And Mr. Hu Min showed great foresight by producing China Stories in English for 3 stages of English learners, from elementary to intermediate to more advanced, with each level telling the stories from subtly different perspectives —many of which I’d never thought of before. And each story ends with an enlightening conclusion or insight about China and Chinese that helps us understand how the nation’s rich past promises an even richer future—for both China and the world, thanks to the age-old Chinese Dream of prosperity and peaceful coexistence with neighbors near and far.
Thank you, Mr. Hu Min, for an instant classic that I’m confident will kindle the imagination of the world—both Laowai and Laonei!
I hope the series will be used widely, both here in Chinese schools and overseas—especially in the hundreds of Confucian Institutes around the world that are helping to 好好讲中国故事.