'State's children' a model of national unity

Wan Lixin
Inner Mongolian herdsmen adopted 3,000 Han orphans from southern China, lovingly called "the state's children" by their prairie mothers, during the famines in the early 1960s.
Wan Lixin

On March 5 at the fourth session of the 13th National People's Congress, President Xi Jinping took part in a deliberation with deputies from the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

During the discussions, Xi mentioned two significant events in China’s recent history: the mobilization of the national effort to support the construction of the Baogang Group in the 1950s, and the epic transfer of more than 3,000 orphans from southern China to the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region during the famines in the early 1960s.

Significantly, the orphan-transfer feat is partly related to Shanghai.

Although during those difficult years the herdsmen in Inner Mongolia themselves were suffering from scarcities, such was their generosity and kindness that they managed to accommodate and raise the 3,000 orphans, who were descendants of Han people. These children from southern China were lovingly called “the state’s children” by the prairie mothers.

There are many moving stories, like that of Duguima, who was a 19-year-old girl at that time.

Given Duguima’s kindness, perseverance and meticulous care, all 28 children she was assigned to look after turned out well, with none of them suffering disabilities or deaths. This was nothing short of a miracle in those years of privations when medical supplies were often in short supply.

In September 2019 when President Xi signed a presidential decree to award National Medals and National Honors to 42 people, Duguima was the recipient of the honorary title of "People’s Model."

The orphan story has already inspired a number of artistic creations.

Duguima’s story was dramatized in the 40-episode television series “National Children” (2019), directed by Bateer and produced by the Shanghai Film Group.

In a certain sense it is significant that the drama was produced in Shanghai, for those from Shanghai who benefited from the generosity of the Mongolian people owe them a lasting gratitude.

Although Shanghai is more than 1,000 kilometers away from Inner Mongolia, the two regions are inextricably linked together by national unity that transcends consanguinity.

The legendary story of the 3,000 orphans and rave reviews the TV series has received testify to the tenacity of national solidarity, giving new meaning to the affinity between the Han people and ethnic minorities. This story of love, national unity and patriotism, when propagated through dramas, will shine the path to a great rejuvenation of the Chinese people, as we adhere to the understanding that no one is to be left behind in our march toward mutual prosperity.

The re-airing of the drama will help remind us of those “state’s children,” and our indebtedness to people like Duguima.

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