During my holidays at my hometown in China, an intimate friend of mine Chengzhi also came back from Japan for his holidays. Chengzhi had been doing his researching work for Manchu studies for years in Kyoto University, and we hadn’t seen each other for 13 years already. So we arranged to meet each other in Shenyang in mid March after the Chinese New Year, to review our 13 years’ brotherhood together with our common friend Pi (an expert in Manchu language of Liaoning Archives)
Many years ago, on old coach threw me in a narrow street of a small town named as Chapchal. It was an autonomous county of Xibo, locating in the far west of China. From where about dozen kilometers westward was the Republic of Kazakhstan. Walking in the streets, I could find no one looked like a Xibo. Some locals came across and turned away quickly as if to avoid me deliberately. I felt my passion cooled down at once for I had expected beforehand that I might be welcome with open arms by my Xibo compatriots.
Soon it was getting dark, so I went into the only one hostel in the county. There was a young guy at the front desk. He asked me for my certificate of identity. When he saw my student ID, he seemed to be quite happy and said: “oh, you are a Xibo! So you are at home now”. Then I asked if he was a Xibo too, he said he was not but he knew all Xibo people in the county.
The hostel charged 2 yuan for each day. In the room there was just a desk and a bed. Besides, there was a basin, a thermos, a cup and beddings as well. That night I was the only guest of the hostel. After having a bowl of noodles in a small restaurant nearby, I went to bed immediately and soon got sleep. The whole night I covered my head with the quilt because I saw a big hole on the roof that always caused me to think something horrible.
I remembered I had a dream that night. In the dream I finally found my Xibo fellows with the same ancestors. And there were so many Xibo brothers sitting together with me in the dream, asking me about the things of my hometown. They also told me that they had been living here for generations in Chapchal for hundreds of years already, but they were eager to visit their native land in northeast China so as to achieve the aspirations of their ancestors…
Early the next morning, someone knocked at my door. I opened the door and found a burly man in middle-age together with a young man behind. “Are you the student from Shenyang Academy of Fine Arts?” The middle-aged man asked. “Yes, I am.” I replied “And I’m here to look for my Xibo fellows and relatives”. Then he said: “we learnt from the young guy on duty here last night that a Xibo student had come from Shenyang. My name is Bo Feng. I’m in charge for the culture management of the county, and I like to paint water color paintings too. This young man is Yinda, he has just graduated from the fine art dept. of the Northwest Nationalities Institute”. After this introduction he hugged me warmly and said: “come with us please, don’t stay here anymore…”
So far as I knew my father went to Chapchal once at his twentieth, accompanied by one of his Xibo friends, to search for the traces of our ancestors. He was told that several generations before some of our ancestors had been moved to Ili, but more than 280 years had pasted, nothing had been heard from them ever since. My father told me that originally he planned to look for his relatives first, and then he would marry a Xibo girl so as to settle down there afterwards. But later since it was really uneasy for him either to find any of his relatives or to settle down in that multi-ethnic mixed place, he had to give up his idea and returned home without anything. To me it was lucky that he failed, otherwise there would have be no me in this world. Thinking about this, I really felt that the occurrence of life was somewhat quite interesting, hehe!
My first visited to Chapchal had left me a deep impression. By then I was a just a student with strong interests in the culture as well as in the history of my nation. By chance of visiting Dunhuang for inspection and painting, I went further west to a place called Chapchal, where as my father had said full of my Xibo fellows… Even up to now I could not forget my traveling experience that time: two days on train during which I had to sleep on the floor of the train under the seats, and two days on coach where I could not even straighten my legs…
During the years later, I had been to Chapchal again for a couple of times. And the longest time of my staying there was about half a year in 1995. Soon after my first visit to Chapchal, I gradually acquainted with Chengzhi and Pi, my two Xibo young fellows who were both passionately devoted to the nation as well as the culture of Xibo. Over the past ten years more, we always cared and encouraged each other, like brothers