Pioneers help education flourish in the west
By Foreigner
Discover Shannxi

XI'AN-In a museum of Xi'an Jiaotong University, a boarding pass with images of books, an ink bottle and a rumbling train stand out among more than 2,000 exhibits.

"March toward science and develop China's northwest," reads a slogan on the pass, which reminds people of an epic journey more than six decades ago. Thousands of academic faculty and students migrated from Shanghai to Xi'an, capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi province, to help build a higher education institution.

It was this ideal that drove Hu Naisai to board a train in 1957 to Xi'an.

"I was very happy then. Although I was heading for the vast and strange northwestern region, I was looking forward to contributing to the national construction as soon as possible," said Hu, an 86-year-old retired professor from the university.

In 1955, China decided to move Jiaotong University, founded in 1896, from Shanghai to Xi'an, in an attempt to boost higher education and industrial development in its less developed west.

Starting from the next year, teachers and students moved to the ancient Chinese capital in batches. The new school was renamed Xi'an Jiaotong University in 1959.

In an inspection tour to Shaanxi, Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, visited Xi'an Jiaotong University and met with 14 professors on April 22, who had been relocated along with the university decades ago.

"I was deeply moved by your letter that struck a chord in me," Xi said, speaking of a letter sent to him by the university's professors, including Hu, two years ago.

He praised the professors for making personal sacrifices for the interest of the country by moving along with the university from Shanghai to Xi'an.

He also encouraged teachers and students of the university to remain true to their original aspiration, continue to draw inspiration from the relocation, pursue their careers in the most-needed places of the country, and pass on the "westward relocation spirit" from generation to generation.

Xi'an lagged far behind Shanghai in the 1950s. The university was located in a sprawling field. Many students failed to recognize the nearby bus blanketed by heavy dust when they walked out of the railway station.

Even worse, upon arrival, most of the teachers and students had trouble adapting to the local climate and food on the Loess Plateau.

"It was very dry in Xi'an. I often had a nosebleed. And for me, eating steamed buns instead of rice was like taking bitter pills," said Tao Wenquan, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences who was enrolled in the university in 1957.

They were not scared off, however. By September 1956, more than 6,000 students, faculty members, administrative staff and others had arrived in Xi'an. A new campus rose straight from a crop field.

For the past six decades, the university has cultivated more than 270,000 educated youth for the country. Around 40 percent of them have chosen to take root in the western region.

A top university in China, it is best known for majors such as energy and power engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and business administration. It now has 40-plus academicians and more than 40,000 students, including over 3,000 from overseas.

What makes the university most proud is the westward relocation spirit, which features a consciousness of the whole, dedication, traditional culture and pioneering work.

Shen Chao, 35, is a professor with the university's School of Electronic and Information Engineering. He started his teaching career at the university in 2014.

"Our team, like our predecessors, always chooses the bumpy road in our research and teaching," Shen said. "The westward relocation spirit inspires us to move forward despite challenges."