Feature: Going to China, a century apart

Source: Xinhua| 2019-07-17 15:16:19|Editor: Liangyu
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SHANGHAI, July 17 (Xinhua) -- When Ellen E. Touchstone was offered a job at the Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (XJTLU) in the eastern Chinese city of Suzhou in 2012, the American did not hesitate to accept the offer.

"It came from my natural affinity for China: I want to follow my grandparents' footsteps," Touchstone, now 54, said as she recounted a century-long tie between an American family and China.

In 1917, two young Americans, Cary Touchstone and Mabel Ellen Thomas, came to China from U.S. states of Tennessee and Pennsylvania, respectively.

Cary Touchstone served as treasurer and English secretary to the president of the Soochow University in Suzhou, while Thomas became the head nurse at the university's first affiliated hospital. Two years later, they tied the knot at what was then the U.S. consulate in Shanghai.

"Cary and Mabel are my grandparents. More than 100 years later, our family still has a wooden table they brought back from China," Ellen said.

After assuming the post to head the department of international business at XJTLU, Ellen Touchstone contacted archivists at Soochow University to learn more about her grandparents' lives in China.

"It turns out that my grandfather was not only the treasurer of the university but also the instructor of the school's photography club," Ellen said, adding that her grandparents' stories helped her overcome the initial strangeness in a new country and bring her closer to China.

After returning to the U.S. in 1922, the elderly Touchstones took on many jobs in various parts of the U.S., including Arkansas, Pennsylvania and Kentucky. Together, the couple raised four children, including Ellen's father Frank.

"A hundred years ago, in the midst of World War I, my grandparents chose to come to China, becoming pioneers of international exchange in our family," Ellen said. "Over the years, despite the changing international situations, our family members have generally upheld the position of strengthening international cooperation."

"One of our important life principles is that win-win cooperation is far better than zero-sum games. And it certainly started with my grandparents," Ellen said.

In charge of international exchanges and cooperation at XJTLU, Ellen is committed to making foreigners better understand China. In her leisure time, she likes to wear a cheongsam and often celebrates traditional Chinese festivals with her friends.

Ellen said her cousin Jazmine Christian Crever, who will enroll a nursing school in California this fall, has been granted a 10-year visa to China, which will allow her to travel frequently between China and the U.S. in the future.

Sean B. Stein, the U.S. consul general in Shanghai, said the story of the Touchstones is one of many that happened between ordinary American families and China.

"The uniqueness of this story lies in the fact that after nearly a hundred years, the descendants have once again come to China to follow in their ancestors' footsteps and continue their ties with China," Stein said.

"The story, which spans generations and connects the emotions of the Chinese and American people, is still worth being retold today."