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June 16, 2021

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‘Source of power’ at Party memorial

EDITOR’S note:
President Xi Jinping has urged everyone to follow their hearts rather than chase money or position. This series introduces Shanghai residents who pour their hearts and souls into their chosen work, whether they are designing rockets, practicing medicine or caring for the less fortunate.

Flight attendants, firefighters, students and the son of a revolutionist comprise the new volunteer team at the Memorial of the Fourth National Congress of the Communist Party of China, which reopened after a renovation on May 31.

The memorial, in northeastern Shanghai’s Hongkou District, has recruited more than 2,000 volunteer guides from all walks of life since it initially opened in 2012 to commemorate the historic meeting, known as a great catalyst for social changes in the Republican of China period (1912-1949).

The volunteers, aged between 7 and over 90, have served more than 180,000 visitors with some 20,000 hours of explanation services. The team has been named as the “Source of Power” with the reopening of the memorial to further promote revolutionary and voluntary spirits.

Ye Xiaoming, 72, is one of the earliest and oldest volunteers at the memorial. His father Ye Renlong was an underground Party member who operated a secret telegraph station at home until the liberation of Shanghai in May 1949.

After retirement, Ye Xiaoming often came to view the historical photos and exhibits about his father at the memorial. He later applied to become a volunteer to share the story of his father with visitors.

“My parents rarely talked, maybe a habit made after serving as secret Party members for years,” Ye said.

He learnt their stories by reading some old documents and material left  by them.

His father set up the secret station at 62 Tanggu Road and opened a vehicle repair store on the ground floor as a disguise. Ye Renlong took charge of the auto repairs and covered for telegraph transmitters working upstairs. His wife socialized with neighbors and dealt with Kuomintang spies and police.

The information sent from Ye’s home played a key role during the crossing Yangtze River and liberation of Shanghai campaigns.

Other secret stations were found and destroyed, including a nearby one run by famous martyr Li Bai. Ye’s parents managed to operate the station till the city’s liberation in 1949.

Before retirement, Ye served as the senior economist at a tool factory in southwest Chongqing and Party secretary of a Shanghai neighborhood committee.

Ye still comes to guide visitors once every week. The exhibition about his father is the key section for him to share.

“I think it is my duty to promote the spirits of the revolutionists and protect the history from being forgotten,” Ye said.

Apart from Ye, a group of flight attendants from China Eastern Airlines has become the most popular guides at the memorial.

Thirty-six attendants were selected from more than 5,000 air crew of the Shanghai-based carrier in August 2020 to become China’s first guide team made up of airline staff.

They include the crew members who served the medical teams in the fight against the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, then epicenter of the epidemic in central China’s Hubei Province, last year and outstanding youth from the Lingyan, China Eastern’s elite flight attendant team.

“We spend most our leisure time from tight flight schedules to prepare commentary and serve visitors,” said Li Yi, a chief flight attendant and leader of the airline’s volunteer team at the memorial.

It takes more than two hours to shuttle from the city’s Pudong or Hongqiao airports, where most of the flight attendants live nearby, to the memorial, but all the members are enthusiastic to participate, Li said.

Zhang Yutong, another volunteer from China Eastern, prepared a scene play with other flight attendants with acting experience. They stage the drama at the memorial during celebrations as well as to other young staff at the airline.

“We’d like to promote the history and spirit of the Party both in and outside the memorial,” Zhang said.

“The local flight attendants of the carrier are 27 years old on average, and the Party stories have become a major inspiration and guidance to them.”

Sometimes, the volunteer attendants share stories they learnt from the memorial to passengers in the air, especially on the flights to key historic bases of the Party, such as Yan’an in northwest Shaanxi Province and Jinggangshan in east Jiangxi Province, according to Li.

Guo Taizi, a junior middle school student, is among the youngest volunteers at the memorial. He is a member of the “Little Red Flower” volunteer team, composed of 33 elementary and middle school students selected from over 100 local applicants aged between 7 and 14 years old. After studying a text about the Long March of the Red Army in the fourth grade, Guo began applying to become a volunteer at various local Party memorials or former residences of Party members.

He has been serving at over a dozen memorial sites, such as the former residences of Chairman Mao Zedong, Premier Zhou Enlai, writer Lu Xun and revolutionist Liu Changsheng.

“The spirits of the Party members such as perseverance and utter devotion are inspiring me at school,” said Guo.

He played Chen Duxiu, one of the founders and early leaders of the CPC, during a stage drama for the reopening ceremony of the memorial.

“I have good memories, courage and speech experiences from the voluntary services,” said Guo.

He also encouraged classmates to apply to be volunteers at Party memorial sites. More than a dozen of his classmates have been serving as volunteers.

Firefighters from the Hongkou District Fire Station are among the first batch of volunteers recruited from the public. The fire station at 560 Wusong Road, known as China’s first modern fire station, was established in 1866.

More than a dozen firefighters have been serving as guides as well as flag-raisers since the memorial initially opened in 2012. The firefighters have served nearly 10,000 visitors and some 120 flag-raising ceremonies.

Yang Qi, a former squad leader at the fire station, not only served as a guide but also a trainer for other volunteers at the memorial.

“I always feel proud when visitors look enlightened after hearing my explanations,” said Yang. “I am also happy to share my experience with other volunteers.”

Though Yang retired from the station in 2016, he said the volunteer spirits he learnt at the memorial would benefit him for life.


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