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I visited where Xi Jinping spent his teenage years

Just before leaving Xi'an in Shaanxi province, I decided to visit Yan'an that served as the Communist Party's revolutionary base for 12 years, to learn more about Chinese Communist Party's history. This is called "Red tourism", and the city was full of university students and Chinese companies, wearing the same T-shirts.

The best part of the trip was visiting Liangjiahe (梁家河), where Xi Jinping lived for 7 years and did hard labor. Liangjiahe is in a narrow valley about 70 miles from Yan'an, and I rode bus for an hour and half to reach Liangjiahe, and paid RMB 20 for the ticket to enter the village.

How old was Xi when he lived in Liangjiahe?

Xi Jinping was 15 years old when he came to Liangjiahe, and he was 22 years old when he left here. He spent 7 years here.

Why did Xi Jinping stay in this village for seven years?

Xi Jinping was sent down to Liangjiahe, as part of a campaign by Mao Tse-tung to force the educated urban youth to experience peasant life.

What did 15-year-old Xi do there?

He ploughed the land, carried manure, took care of the sheep, turned the millstone with donkey.

Where did he stay?

He slept on a straw mat in a cave. It was full of fleas, and Xi suffered a lot. The small room also has drinking flasks, agricultural tools and posters of Mao.

What did young Xi learn after 7 years of hard work?

Through the experience, Xi said he learned how to serve the people. “Many ideas and characteristics of mine were formed [in Liangjiahe],” Xi said in 2004.

Xi left the village in 1975 to attend Tsinghua University in Beijing, and all the village people gathered to send him.

This is the book "Liangjiahe", talking about Xi's life in the village. It says that Xi loved reading books and he read books until he fell asleep.

The book shows the sketch of Xi's home.

And I visited just there. Here, the homes are caves built into the dry hillsides.

Visiting Liangjiahe was such a memorable experience. I was always curious about the life of teenagers sent to countrysides during the Cultural Revolution, and wondered how it impacted their minds. Surely, there is something we can learn from hard experience. I called my mom that night, sharing the experience. Formerly served as a head of urban farming in Gangdong district in Seoul, she is expert in urban farming. We talked about the importance of farming experience, and learning to grow food by ourselves.

"South Korea's food self-sufficiency is low. We are hugely depending on imported food," she said.

I found that South Korea's self-sufficiency rate of grain, excluding feed for animals, dropped to 48.4 percent in 2016, from 55.6 percent in 2010.

"Through the experience [in Liangjiahe], President Xi understands how important is agriculture. I heard that when the local farmers wanted to focus more on tourism, Xi said that they should never put aside agriculture."

My mom is born in countryside of Daegu province, and she naturally learned how to grow food in the farmland. On the other hand, I lived in the city all my life. My mom wishes to moved to suburban area outside of Seoul, where she can make a small farm and grow food. She wants to teach my future children the happiness of spending time in the farmland, and live with nature.

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