A densely-growing clump of bougainvillea was rippling over a corner of the garden wall in a cascade of rosy clouds – at its most appealing now, in late autumn. They immediately identified Mr. Xiao Guiquan’s home for us in the sprawling mountain village.

The courtyard was from the last century, but spacious, bright and clean. Since our visit had been announced, the courtyard was open, with no one at the gate. Having suffered a stroke a few years ago, Mr. Xiao is crippled, and had to wait for us in the middle courtyard.

Entering the living room, we immediately caught sight of two big black-and-white photos hanging on the wall, showing the same woman shaking hands with late Chairman Mao Zedong and late Chairman Liu Shaoqi. We soon learned that the woman, who looked like a farmer in the photos, was none other than Mr. Xiao’s mother, Li Youxiu.

“His mother was an extraordinary woman”, said our companion from the Xingguo Party School before we had even exchanged polite greetings.

Mr. Xiao’s mother was born a poor peasant, and lived a very hard life when she was young. Trained and educated by the Party after liberation, however, she began to thrive. She made her start as the founder of the first mutual-aid team of agricultural workers in Xingguo County, and later acted as deputy county governor of the Xingguo County People’s Government and then vice chair of the Standing Committee of Xingguo County People's Congress. She was outstanding in whatever position she occupied, and her life was a sincere, moving, true and vivid illustration of the struggle of Chinese women.

In speaking of his mother, Mr. Xiao’s eyes shone with affection and happiness. He took great pains to describe how she brought him up, and his work at the Party school and Radio and TV University (RTVU). His stroke had impaired both his freedom of movement and ability to speak, and therefore he gave us a copy of his autobiography, Mother's Teachings (My Life). The following is an excerpt from the book, discussing his time at the RTVU.

In 1985, the Organisation Department of the CPC Xingguo County Committee received a notice from the higher authorities to start an RTVU Management class in the county for Party and Government Officials at the junior-college level at the Party School of the CPC Xingguo County Committee.

The first task was to choose a teacher who had received at least an undergraduate education and was younger than 40. Since I was the only person meeting the requirements, I was the obvious choice, and with that my stars were aligned with those of the RTVU!

The truth, though, is that I did not want to be a teacher then. However, when the Party Organisation Department discussed the "Party Spirit” (of serving the people and the Party’s needs) with me, I had to take the job. I have a stubborn habit of doing whatever I have promised to do as well as I can, and to strive to make a difference.

Since I was now linked to the RTVU, I set out to enrol students. Based on the results of the adult college-entrance examination, 33 students were admitted full-time to the class with the agreement of the Party Organisation Department, and ended up completing their junior-college education. This class was named "the 1985 Junior College Management Class for Party and Government Officials”, and its official seal was “Xingguo Radio and TV University Class”, under the direct administration of the Ganzhou RTVU branch school. It was Xingguo County’s first RTVU class.

Things were very difficult for the new class, in terms of conditions and equipment especially. Since distance teaching was being practised there, obtaining equipment and power were essential, but these were very difficult to get at that time. The Party School was located in Xinwei Village, Gaoxing Township, which had power only every other day. Although a TV set had been donated by the county, it was of little use due to the poor reception and unreliable power. Despite all this, I went hunting for good tutors.

I visited all 3 middle schools in the area, and found excellent teachers, and also turned to the original employers of the students to support their studies. What’s more, in order to facilitate these, I moved the class to the county seat and the power plant.

I sat in on each class, ate at the same table with the students, and lived in the same dormitory as well. When they played ball games, I acted as referee; when they sat for examinations in Ganzhou, I waited for them outside the examination venue with extra stationery, as well as hot water and medicine; when they were in poor health, I visited them in the hospital or at home with the class cadres; and on holidays, I often invited them to my home for dinner. We were together morning and night. We were more than teacher and students, and more than brothers; we were comrades!

The students were also very respectful toward me. They regarded me as their teacher, elder, brother, and comrade. During the spring festival, they were the first to send me New Year’s greetings; when I was in poor health, they were the first to call on me; whenever they had a happy event to celebrate, they would send me an invitation; and when there was good news for my family, they would send their congratulations.

After the students of the 1985 class had graduated, university entrance became more difficult, and there were once more difficulties finding students. At the lowest point, fewer than 10 students were enrolled. Would the class be able to continue?

Having started, however, I was determined not to quit, and felt sure that no difficulty would be so great that it could not be overcome. I insisted on running the class even if only one student could be recruited, and was supported by the leaders. In 1987, with only 7 students, “Xingguo Radio and TV University Class” remained.

In order to enhance our skills, the teachers of Ganzhou RTVU and I visited other provinces several times. Upon returning, I looked through numerous study materials and wrote several exploratory papers, such as On Methods of RTVU Rural Outreach and Training by Way of “Trial Positions”. I presented my work at several seminars on political and ideological work in the city and provincial RTVUs, and won several awards. The RTVU branch school also honored me. Since beginning work as a teacher, I had been selected as a model in almost every academic year, and the classes I taught were also noted for their advanced level.

The year 1995 marked the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the Xingguo RTVU class, and also saw its highest enrolment. I thought back on the graduates of the previous ten years, and how happy and proud I felt to hear of their outstanding performances and progressive promotions at their jobs. Upon my suggestion, for the 10th anniversary, more than 100 students returned to the university to reminisce about the past, talk about their feelings, and look toward the future. It was a commemoration of the affectionate friendships among schoolmates, teachers and students. At that time, I was already in my fifties, and it was to be my last year teaching that class.

My next job involved doing research, and I thought to myself that it was a good opportunity to concentrate on writing articles. However, things did not go as planned. My young successor failed to establish a rapport with the RTVU class due to his lack of experience, and I became its teacher once again. It was probably because our fates had become entwined!

When the time came for me to retire, the Party School asked me to stay on to manage the class; at the same time, the Xingguo Health School invited me to pilot an RTVU senior-nursing class. In order to help the school recruit enough students, I stayed in the county admissions office for more than 20 days, and in order to help the students with their entrance examination, I started a tutorial class soon after the New Year, which was never cancelled on account of weather. I myself took the students to Ganzhou for the examination, and followed up with them throughout the admissions process.

I worked at the Xingguo Health School from 1999 to 2005, completing all my tasks even though my monthly salary never exceeded 130 yuan. In the spring of 2003, I worked for an RTVU business-administration class of more than 60 people at the Party School. It was my last class, and these students became my “last disciples”. Since my time with the RTVU was probably coming to an end, I cherished my time with the students more than ever.

The course of life is fated, and it is a blessing to be able to get along with people. Such serendipity should be cherished throughout one’s life. My mother once said to me: “Whatever one’s status, one must be able to strike a balance. Be serious when it is time for seriousness, and put away what you are doing when it is done. The strength of one person is limited; it is only together that we can accomplish great things.”

It was already late when we left Mr. Xiao’s home. In the courtyard, dominated by greens and grays, we were once again attracted by the clump of dazzling bougainvillea in the corner. We couldn’t help but take a closer look. Its trunk and branches were thick, with knotty roots deep in the black soil; the twisting branches were trying hard to grow over the wall, and the overlapping flowers resembled a brocade, charming and gorgeous…

The bougainvillea, a blooming tree frequently seen in the courtyards of mountainous areas in south Jiangxi, seems to me the symbol of a strong spiritual power. It grows in all soils, and blooms all the time, vigourous in any environment and season, and sticking quietly and tirelessly to its patch of earth.

Isn't it a spiritual symbol of the RTVU, and of people like Mr. Xiao?

By Yin Ji,Ganzhou RTVU, Jiangxi