Liangjiahe: where Xi Jinping lived in a humble cave at a young age

China 24

To look at what kind of leader Xi Jinping has become, we only need to look at his past. Living in a cave under difficult conditions decades ago, he thrived from the hardship.

CGTN’s Sean Callebs reports from Liangjiahe, where Xi Jinping spent seven years as a teenager.

Primitive looking caves, and the surrounding soft dirt mountains, tell just part of the story of the hard life that gave Xi Jinping his foundation for the future.

“I could tell he was different,” Liu Jinlian, a Liangjiahe resident says. “He was nice to the people.”

Nearly half a century ago, Liu arrived in Liangjiahe as a sent down youth. It was only a couple of months after Xi Jinping arrived.

“He was not afraid to lead,” Liu says. “As a young man, he knew how to plan and he could endure suffering and hardships.”

Xi and the others here endured a simple but harsh life – working in fields scratching a life out of the region’s unforgiving environment.

Liu never left and still lives in a small cave and greets visitors – selling books, some food, shoes, and other small items from a cave fashioned into a tiny store.

“When he came, he brought a white suitcase packed with books,” Liu recalls.

The books freed his mind, and today, some of the books remain on display in one of the three caves where Xi lived.

He was a skinny teenager, an outcast, banned. His family shamed. But Xi grew and developed there and won the respect of the people.

Today, thousands come to see the humble and harsh life style that helped shaped China’s President. Visitors get a better understanding of Xi’s fervent fight against poverty. It’s also where Xi developed his touch with the common people

“Our tour guide just told us that people from well-off families could hardly bear the rough time, but Xi made it,” Jiang Miao, a tourist says. “As the Chinese saying goes – the harder you work, the better you will get.”

“I was deeply impressed after coming here,” Wang Lichun, another tourist says. “As you can see, these old-generation revolutionists had fought for decades in such tough circumstances to turn China from a poor country into a world power.”

As much as anything, people are lured here to show their commitment to China’s political future.

Shi Chunyang followed Xi as Party Secretary here, decades ago.

“He speaks and acts realistically and practically,” Shi says. “He is very composed, which means he only speaks after thorough consideration.”

There are Xi slogans and Xi photos. People learn how Xi helped build a dam, dig a well, and develop methane for communal use. It’s a tourist site that continues to blossom.

Liu Jinlian shows off a cherished photo of a recent visit, when she tried to give her old friend a pair of shoes. But, Xi insisted he pay.

“He knew how to plan and was committed to do a good job on whatever he planned,” – a trait Liu says Xi still has today.