A sculpture of Wobaxi in front of a pedestrian street in Hejing town [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com]
The air was quite thick and humid in Beijing when we weaved a path to our flight and in minutes we were off to Xinjiang. 7 hours and 3000 miles from Beijing, we finally arrived at Hejing, one Mongolian Autonomous Town in Xinjiang.
Our expectation was naturally high as our task for this trip is to go to Bayanbulak Grasslands to report on a horse race. However, we were disappointed when we didn't see any grasslands or horses in the town. Our guide, a local official, told us that it would be five or six hours' drive from here to Bayanbulak and he suggested we look around the town before we head towards the grasslands.
Before dark fell, we enjoyed a short walk near our hotel, which is located in the centre of the town. Like the name of the town, Hejing, which literally means peaceful and quiet, it actually is. We were excited to see the clouds clearing momentarily, giving vast glimpses of the blue sky, which is rarely seen in Beijing. It was not as hot as Beijing, and people sauntered on the streets leisurely. As we walked around Jiexin Park, we saw a sculpture. Our guide told us that the figure of the sculpture is Wobaxi, a great Mongolian hero. And he told us his legendary story - Return to the East.
"Return to the East" is a period of Mongol history in China. The Mongols are one of the 13 most ancient ethnic groups established in Xinjiang, and Turgut is one of the tribes of Mongols. In 1630, to avoid the threat of another increasingly powerful tribe, the Turgut tribe commander led his people to settle in what is today the Volga River Basin. However, Tsarist Russia didn't treat the Turgut cordially, turning their lives into a nightmare.
In 1761, Wobaxi became the Turguts' commander. He felt it was his obligation to lead his people out of misery and return to their motherland. On January 1, 1771, Wobaxi led his troops to attack their Russian enemies and took 170,000 people setting out for the east. They crossed the frozen Ural River, passed snow-covered Kazakstan Grassland, and broke away from the attack of Russians. After eight months of bitter struggle and sacrifice, the Turgut people finally returned to Xinjiang. Some of them then settled in Hejing and Bayanbulak Grasslands, starting their new lives.
The successors of Wobaxi and his people took his return as a great contribution to the development of China, a multinational country. The epic feat is also recorded in history.
Now there are three sculptures of Wobaxi in Hejing town, standing quietly in its pristine glory and watching over the fast development of this small town. Much has changed over the centuries but what remains unchanged is that everyone in the town knows Wobaxi's legend, and every parent educates their children to be as patriotic and perseverant as him.
Darkness set in. With respect to Wobaxi, we returned to the hotel gratefully. I believe something exceedingly charming must hide inside the tiny town, which deserves lengthy explorations by journalists like us.
A sculpture of Wobaxi in Jiexin Park in Hejing town [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com]
The desolate Gobi Desert, which covers parts of northern and northwestern China, and southern Mongolia. In the distance is Tianshan Mountain, which is renowned for its natural beauty. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com]