Adopted family's love fueled soldier's spirit

Updated: 2013-07-16 02:02

By Mao Weihua and Zhao Lei (China Daily)

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Zanathan Amet, a Uygur woman living in Toksun county in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, feels proud being the mother of a serviceman in the People's Liberation Army, like many mothers in the country.

Her 24-year-old adopted son, Tao Hui, whom she has taken care of for 22 years ago, is now a lieutenant of the PLA ground force.

Adopted family's love fueled soldier's spirit

Tao Hui (right) with his Uygur parents and brothers in front of their home in Toksun county in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.Li Xiang / Xinhua

Their story started in Toksun in a sunny day in September 1991, when Tao and his father appeared in front of the Uygur family.

"I was tidying up my mutton stall and then his father approached and asked me whether I had a vacant room that could be rented, and I said 'yes'," Xaliq Memet, Zanathan Amet's husband, recalls. "The man looked dark and skinny, and Tao Hui, who was 2 then, impressed me with his big head and lean shape."

Then the father, Tao Jinlai, who hailed from Quanjiao county in Anhui province, decided to stay.

Soon after the two moved in, Xaliq Memet knew that Tao came to Xinjiang as a migrant worker in 1982 and moved to Toksun, a Uygur-populated county, one year later, doing manual jobs such as making tricycle deliveries and painting houses.

Tao Hui was born in 1989 in the county. Unfortunately, a year and a half later he lost his mother, who died of illness.

Gradually, the two families came closer and closer. After realizing Tao Hui was often left home alone and had to endure hunger, the Uygur couple lent their hands by sharing their food with the Han boy and taking care of him.

As Tao Hui became part of the Uygur family, he gained a good command of the Uygur language and also taught Mandarin to his two Uygur brothers and a younger sister.

Though life had become better, Tao Jinlai's health deteriorated due to his heavy workload and he made a decision to entrust the Uygur family with his son.

"In October 2004, Tao Jinlai knew his final day was about to come so he asked me whether I could take care of Tao Hui if he dies," Xaliq Memet recalls. "I told him I definitely would look after the boy."

One month later, Tao Jinlai passed away. Seeing Tao Hui had become reticent after his father's death, the Uygur family held a family meeting and the 82-year-old Memet Toxti, Xaliq Memet's father, said: "Take the boy back, we shall give him a home."

The next day, Tao Hui, who stayed in his dorm in a local high school worrying about where to go during the winter holiday, found his Uygur uncle Xaliq Memet standing outside the dorm.

"He said to me: 'My child, let's go home'," Tao recalls. "And when I came back to their house, aunt Zanathan had prepared rice pilaf for me and my Uygur cousins."

Zanathan Amet even gave a Uygur name to Tao Hui — Toxtaxun, which means "stay here" in Uygur.

Since then, when Xaliq Memet introduces Tao to others, he would always say: "This is my son."

In 2006, Tao was admitted to Xinjiang University and signed an agreement with the PLA that would cover his tuition costs and give him a post in the military after graduation.

The whole family was overwhelmed by happiness and held a banquet for relatives, neighbors and friends to celebrate.

"You don't have to worry about tuition fees. Your only task is to study with all your heart and become a good serviceman like I was in the army," Tao quoted his Uygur father as saying.

Xaliq Memet was once a soldier in a border defense regiment of the PLA and retired with commendations.

Tao says he was deeply moved because "my opportunity to go to university was realized with the sacrifice made by my elder brother, Yasen Xaliq, who had to give up the opportunity so that he could make a living for the family."

Tao graduated from the university in 2010 and was designated to serve in a PLA infantry regiment in Xinjiang.

In gratitude to his Uygur parents, he remitted 4,000 yuan ($650) — all of his first-month salary — to Xaliq Memet. He also brought many gifts for his Uygur cousins.

Although his salary in the PLA is not very high, Tao still does his best to help others. He is financially assisting two Uygur students and two Kirgiz girls with their schooling. His act has inspired his brothers-in-arms to help other students from poverty-stricken families, according to Li Xianqing, political commissar of Tao's regiment.

In addition to poor students, Tao also lends his hands to his comrades in the regiment.

"Without the help and nurturing from my Uygur parents, I could never have become what I am and achieved so much, so I must pass on their spirit of giving and do my best to reciprocate the society," Tao says.