The following is a story about an interracial couple. The husband Lao Bai is an Estonian and the wife Pei Hua is a Beijinger.
“The chemistry is good between us. We seldom contradicted each other in over twenty years,” said Pei Hua.
“No contradiction between us?” Lao Bai said with contempt. Then the couple gazed at each other with a smile.
“He loves the Chinese food I cook and I love the Estonian food he cooks. He often says I cook better than chefs,” Pei Hua continued.
“That’s because you are clever and you only cook dishes that you do better than chefs do,” Lao Bai retorted. Then he shouted to a friend not far away, “Do you have beer? I’d like a can of beer.”
Lao Bai and Pei Hua. [Photo provided to Qianlong]
One is gentle and stable, while the other is carefree and humorous. Lao Bai once worked with the National Library of Estonia on ancient book restoration. In early 1990s Pei Hua happened to pass by Lao Bai’s antique shop. She found an ancient Chinese coin and examined it carefully. Seeing an East Asian face, Lao Bai asked if she knew the coin. Pei Hua, a Chinese major, gave a long talk on it. After the encounter, they got close to each other. The coin became their go-between and 26 years have passed since they got married.
A railway between Kazakhstan and Xinjiang in China was newly opened before they knew each other, and Lao Bai immediately got visas and traveled along the ancient Silk Road. He went as far as Suifenhe in northeast China and across Inner Mongolia before arriving in Russia. The journey took him about a month. Lao Bai said, “We Europeans have longed for the Silk Road. That’s a cultural passage.”
“He had made a thorough study of Oriental history. Then he followed me to Beijing happily for he could drive wherever he wanted to go,” said Pei Hua. Lao Bai resumed, “One needs not only to read ten thousand books but also to travel ten thousand miles.”
Many years ago, Lao Bai took Pei Hua to Inner Mongolia to visit the ruins of the Yuan capital – Xanadu. Back then the ruins were not under protection and surrounded by wasteland. “He knew what each part of the ruins was like in the past and could tell which brick of the local houses was removed from the ruins,” Pei Hua said.
Lao Bai enjoys a serene life and thus the couple moved to Changping. In spare time, they would go out for a drive and frequent the gathering place of artists in Songzhuang and antique markets where they have made many friends. Gradually they came up with an idea – building a Chinese city in Estonia.
“We hope there are not only Chinese restaurants but also traditional Chinese medicine within the Chinese city, which can become a symbol of Chinese culture and a post for Chinese artists in another country,” Lao Bai said. “Estonia and Northern European countries are neighbors separated by a stretch of sea and it is not far away from Central and Eastern Europe. Besides, the consumption level is not very high in Estonia and it fits to serve as a cultural exchange hub.”
The couple, a Beijing local with a natural love for Chinese culture and a fan of Oriental history and culture, hopes to make their own contributions to the cultural exchange along the new Silk Road.