Watching over fallen comrades
Updated: 2014-10-03 08:03
In 1980, Chen Jungui was dispatched with a team of soldiers to build roads in the Tianshan Mountains. The team was snowed in by a blizzard. As their food ran out, team leader Zheng Linshu sent them in different directions to find help. All died except for Chen.
For nearly 30 years, Chen, 55, has stayed with the tombs of his team members. Chen credited his survival to the team's last small bun, given him by team leader Zheng.
After recovering from the ordeal, Chen left his hometown in Liaoning province in 1985 and returned to the valleys in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region with his wife, Sun Liqin, and newborn son. They had decided to watch over the tombs of his fellow soldiers.
Over the past decades, Chen and his wife have been the first to arrive at the tombs each day, cleaning them and paying tribute to the dead, who he believes should be remembered for their sacrifice. He sought out the families of each team member, but when he learned the whereabouts of Zheng's parents, he only found their graves in Hubei province. At their gravesite, he vowed he would stay with Zheng's tomb for the rest of his life so as "not to leave Zheng lonely".
In the morning, Chen Jungui visits the tomb of his team leader, Zheng Linshu, lights a cigarette and puts it at the base of the tombstone in Nilka county, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. He has been doing this for decades.
Chen Jungui, who for decades has guarded the cemetery where his former team are buried, feels he owes much to his wife, Sun Liqin.
Team leader Zheng Linshu gave Chen his last bit of food during a deadly snowstorm. Zheng did not survive and died at age 24.
Making a meal of jiaozi, or dumplings, with tourists is one of Chen's favorite activities and reminds him of his hometown in Liaoning.
Chen and other retirees pour liquor on the tombs of fallen soldiers in the Tianshan Mountains right before Army's Day on Aug 1.
Chen salutes his fallen comrades at the cemetery.
The couple clean the tombs in the morning before visitors arrive.
(China Daily 10/03/2014 page6)
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