Encouragement and Encounters Across the Strait

两岸相遇  彼此激励

In December 2015, seven youth facilitators from mainland China arrived in Taiwan for a two-month internship; Liang Shaoxiong was among this third cohort of the exchange programme. Earlier that year, Shaoxiong and his family had left Beijing, where he had worked with Beijing Liang Shuming Rural Reconstruction Centre, and moved to Yongji, a village in Shanxi Province, to begin exploring rural regeneration and eco-agriculture. He was apprehensive about going away, leaving his family and his colleagues behind when everything was still so new. But he finally made his mind up to go, and he has never regretted it.
“My awareness and perspectives took a huge leap in those two months. It amazed me that so many young people were returning to rural areas and engaging in all sorts of ecological agricultural initiatives. I saw sustainable living in practice. I saw it take root.”

Shaoxiong had the chance to connect with many people, from a range of organisations. One of the deepest connections was with Lai Chin-Sung who founded the Ko-Tong Rice Club in 2004. They became close friends, even though they are a generation apart. Like Shaoxiong, Chin-sung had moved from the city to a village (Yilan) and has been linking urban and rural sectors: he invites urban consumers to buy shares in his eco-friendly rice, and people who love the rural life to consider becoming eco-farmers. There has been a lot of new energy and innovation, as well as trust, as Chin-sung’s vision has grown.

Shaoxiong’s internship allowed time for lighter exchanges too – he has a great recipe for noodles and hosted sessions on how to make the speciality. Good homemade food always brings people closer!

When Shaoxiong returned to Shanxi, he got to work with his team. They built pigsties with fermented beds and later rebuilt a traditional village house to use as their base, renting it for 20 years. Shaoxiong has definitely made up his mind to stay in Yongli and is practising eco-agriculture with other farmers in the community.

Every year, an intern from Yilan, Taiwan, is invited to come to Shanxi and share their farming experiences with the Yongji community. Shaoxiong wants his Taiwanese friends to have a closer understanding of the mainland, and his local partners in mainland China to have the same with Taiwan. When Lai Chin-Sung visited Yongji in 2017, the highlight was reconnecting with Shaoxiong. They both felt very moved and encouraged by each other’s persistent practice – a sense of deep acknowledgement, appreciation and love filled the encounter.

Chan Yuzhun of Taiwan Tse-Xin Organic Agriculture Foundation was the invited guest in 2019. Her very first trip to mainland China had been two years before, as an intern in the fourth cohort. She worked with Beijing Liang Shuming Rural Reconstruction Centre for one and a half months. That experience made a huge impact on Yuzhun’s life: “It inspired me to reflect on my work and on my personal growth in a new light. My perspectives changed on so many things and I learned many new strategies for action.”

On her second visit, Yuzhun witnessed such positivity: more and more, young people were coming to work as eco-farmers in Yongji, and Shaoxiong’s team was growing steadily. A colleague of Yuzhun’s would soon arrive in Yongji, in the fifth cohort of interns, and the two men felt a deep sense of inspiration and solidarity – a new Cross-Strait round of learning and dialogue would begin, expanding from previous rounds, and weaving a widening, interconnected web.

(from Annual Report 2018-2019