We had stopped on the old street in the village of Zhaochang (now on the edge of Yibin) to talk to an elderly man and show him the photo book that we carry with us everywhere we go. Like everyone else we have shown the book to, he was excited to see old pictures of their town and grateful that we (outsiders, even) were going to such lengths to preserve their history. Although he himself was not old enough to remember the days when Esther Nelson lived in his village, he was able to confirm to us that there had been a school run by missionaries in the village until 1949. That was an important confirmation for us.
“I also have an old book that you might be interested in,” he said, then ducked into his sleepy nearly-crumbling store. A few minutes later, he motioned us to come in, and led us through and out the back of the shop to the cluttered courtyard of the modest home he shares with his wife. He handed us a large hardback book with the title: Zhaochang Zhen Zhi, 1949-2005 (A Record of the Town of Zhaochang, 1949 - 2005).
At the beginning of book was a chronological list of key events in the village, not since 1949 as one might expect given the title of the book, but since 1900. In that list, for the year 1939, it notes that because of Japanese bombing in the city of Yibin, the Mingde Girls School moved out into the village. This information fit perfectly with what Esther wrote about in her letters of 1939.
We asked the gentlemen who had invited us into his home to see the book where it had come from. Had the village government put it together in 2005 and given everyone a copy? No, he said, “a recycler in another village found it in the trash and thought that someone in this village might like to see it. So he cleaned it up and brought it over here and gave it to me!"
The book that had important information we were looking for ‘happened’ to be saved from the trash and given to the one man in the village we ‘happened’ to stop and chat with!
Par for the course for this trip, as you can see by reading Noel’s latest post, titled “I Remember Her.”