Chen Weijiang and Guo Xiushan have accompanied each other for almost 60 years. Both studied in the former Soviet Union, both experienced hardships during the early years after the founding of the People's Republic of China (in 1949), and both have made achievements at their posts. When they were young, they spent much of their lives contributing to the development of their country. Now, both are retired, and they give their warmest love and care to each other, their family members and their friends. As they recall their six decades together, Chen and Guo are grateful they have been living a life with "no regrets," but rather filled with the "best memories."
Life with No Regrets is the title of Chen's autobiography. He writes in the book about both the achievements he has made in his career and the love stories involving him and his wife.
Chen passed the entrance exams to the department of mechanical engineering of Tsinghua University in 1952. Two years later, he was selected, as an exchange student, to study at the department of mechanical engineering of Kharkov Mining Institute, in the then-Soviet Union. After he graduated, in July 1959, Chen returned to China and completed a two-month program, through Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU), for Chinese students who had studied abroad.
It was during that program that Chen reunited with Guo, who used to study Russian with him, in the same class, before they both went to study abroad.
Guo studied pharmacology at a college in Saint Petersburg, in today's Russia. When they were living abroad, Chen and Guo wrote letters to each other occasionally. In 1955, Chen went to Guo's college, to see her and some of their former classmates, when he visited Saint Petersburg for sightseeing. Guo impressed Chen as "a gentle and quiet woman, with good virtues and manners." Meanwhile, Guo was attracted to Chen, whom she thought was a smart young man full of talent.
When they finally reunited after they both returned to China, they felt a "magic bond" had connected them to each other. After they completed the program at BFSU, Chen and Guo decided to marry. At that time, Chen was about to participate in a three-year project in Luoyang, a city in Central China's Henan Province. Guo, though, was assigned to a job in Beijing. The young couple spent 90 yuan (US$13.43) on a wedding banquet, which was attended by their relatives. Chen bought an embroidered blouse and gave it to Guo as a wedding gift. Their families prepared a doublebed sheet and two quilts for the newlyweds. Chen and Guo cut the sheet in half, and each took a piece of "half-sheet" when they parted after the wedding.
2.5 Kilos of Food Coupons
After Chen began working in Luoyang, in 1959, he had a tight work schedule almost daily. Due in part to the poor agricultural production, at that time, and the limited amount of food coupons Chen could receive, he often suffered from hunger. Within six months, he suffered badly from malnutrition, and his health became extremely weak. To help her beloved through the hardest time, Guo did her best to save the food coupons she got every month. She posted the coupons — which were used to exchange 2.5 kilos of grain — to Chen each month. Those coupons helped save Chen's life.
In January 1962, Guo gave birth to their son, Chen Guoxiong. Chen Weijiang had not completed his work at the project in Luoyang, so Guo had to take care of their son on her own. "Since my husband and I were both busy with our work, Guoxiong learned to shoulder some housework when he was merely six years old. He returned from his primary school to home by himself, and he cooked some simple foods for us," Guo recalls. "We seldom quarrel. But if we do, we must be arguing about who should spare time looking after our child," Chen Weijiang adds.
Due in part to the great support he received from his wife, Chen Weijiang made many achievements at his posts. He began working for the State Scientific and Technological Commission (predecessor of the Ministry of Science and Technology) in 1977, and he helped establish the National Remote Sensing Center of China. In 1984, he was dispatched to China National Publications Import and Export (Group) Corporation (also administered by the Ministry of Science and Technology), and
he eventually became the corporation's general manager and Party secretary.
During the 14 years since 1984, Chen Weijiang helped the corporation increase its gross sales and profits by seven times and 10 times, respectively. He visited Taiwan in 1993 to promote cross-Strait communications in the publishing industry.
Between January 2000 and May 2006, Chen Weijiang was the executive vice-chairperson of the Publishers Association of China. He organized a series of competitions and prize-awarding events, and he helped enhance cooperation between publishing houses in China and abroad. In 2002, Chen Weijiang received an honorary medal, presented by Leonid Kuchma, then-President of Ukraine. In January 2010, he was awarded one of the "outstanding persons in the publishing industry over 60 years since the founding of New China."
Warm and Peaceful
When they were both working at their posts, Guo shouldered the majority of the housework, so her husband could better concentrate on making achievements in his career. They seldom had free time to travel together. So after they both retired, Chen Weijiang spent a few years taking Guo to many places in China. The couple had a notebook, in which Chen Weijiang wrote the times, places and distances traveled during each trip.
The couple has two sons, both of whom have established their own families, and both of whom have moved abroad. Chen Weijiang and Guo communicate with their children and grandchildren through video chats every week. The elderly couple visits their children and grandchildren every couple of years. Their children sometimes return to China, so their kids can visit their grandparents.
Now that their children do not live with them, Chen Weijiang and Guo do most of the housework by themselves. Chen Weijiang is responsible for cleaning the house, while Guo washes their clothes. Chen Weijiang likes cooking. He often invites former schoolmates, colleagues and friends to gather at his house. He cooks for his guests and treats them to fresh fruits, delicious tea and other drinks. In his opinion, such friendships are the most precious treasures he has gained in his life.
Chen Weijiang also likes taking photos. When he has guests visiting his home, he often takes photos — by camera or mobile phone — of his visitors. He prints out the photos his guests like, and he gives them the photos as gifts. He also uses certain apps to edit the photos, taken with his mobile phone, into short films and he sends the films to his friends via e-mail or WeChat.
Both Chen Weijiang and Guo believe one is never too old to learn. Chen Weijiang started to learn English when he was 45. He began studying computer when he was older than 60, and he began learning how to use a smart phone after he turned 70. Guo likes playing the piano. The couple believes life will be more vigorous if they are happy to help other people and accept new things.
"The happiness of a person's life originates from the harmony of his/her family, the healthy growth of his/her children, a healthy body and good moods, as well as the friendship he/she gains with others. My grandma, who took care of my siblings and I when we were young kids, has influenced me a lot. The selfless love and care she gave us has made me believe it is important to do good things, and that it is important to always have sympathy for those in need. Therefore, I have taught my children to get along with others with warm hearts."
— Chen Weijiang
(Executive Editor: YE SHAN, Women of China English Monthly April 2017 Issue)
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