Xi'an is the starting point of the ancient Silk Road. The trade route, established more than 2,000 years ago, linked China, Central Asia and Europe.
Xi'an has long attracted people from countries along the Silk Road to move there to study and/or do business.
These foreigners, who have taken root in Xi'an, have helped form a bond that has brought Xi'an and their countries, along the Silk Road, closer through economic, trade and cultural exchanges.
Mambetova Elnura, from Issyk-Kul, in Central Asia's Kyrgyzstan, is one of the foreigners who consider Xi'an to be their second home. Elnura, whose Chinese name is Ye Liya, has been living in Xi'an since 2015. In 2018, she and her husband, Chao Yonglin, a Xi'an native, established a cross-border, e-commerce company that conducts international trade and cultural exchanges.
Love for Ancient City
Elnura has loved both the Chinese language and Chinese culture since she was a child. She studied the Chinese language at Kyrgyz National University named after Jusup Balasagyn, between 2008-2012. After she graduated, in 2012, with a bachelor's degree, she worked as a Chinese-language teacher at the university.
In 2015, she moved to Xian, to begin her master's degree, in business administration, at Chang'an University. "Xi'an, formerly known as Chang'an, presents a successful blend of history and modernity. I fell in love with the city when I first arrived. What impresses me most is the Xi'an Ancient City Wall, situated in the center of the city. The wall represents the long history and profound culture of the city, and it is a witness to the development of the city," Elnura says.
She still remembers the first time she visited Tang West Market Museum, where she saw a map of the ancient Silk Road. "The winding route passed through my home country, and my hometown. I learned relevant historical records showed Suyab Town (Ak-Beshim Ruin, in Kyrgyzstan), an important city on the ancient Silk Road, was the birthplace of Li Bai (701-762), a great poet during the Tang Dynasty (618-907). Monk Xuan Zang (602-664) might have visited my hometown. I never thought China and Kyrgyzstan had such close ties in ancient times," Elnura says.
In June 2016, Chang'an University organized a "silk road" delegation of students to visit Yanliang, known as China Aviation City. It was during that activity that Elnura met Chao.
"I never imagined that I would marry a foreigner. But when love comes, nationality doesn't matter at all. My husband is optimistic and hardworking, and he takes good care of our family," Elnura says.
"I am both a participant and a beneficiary of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). In Xi'an, I have achieved family happiness and career prosperity," Elnura says.
As the BRI continues to progress, Elnura and her husband's company continues to develop steadily. They mainly conduct import and export business with enterprises in Central Asian countries.
"We sell Chinese goods, such as clothes, shoes, socks, toys, electronic products and new-energy vehicles, to Central Asian countries, and we import Kyrgyz-made specialty products, including honey, flour, beef and mutton. Chinese products, of high quality and with reasonable prices, are popular in my home country, and the Kyrgyz-made products are also well-received in the Chinese market," Elnura explains.
Elnura says their cross-border, e-commerce business has benefited greatly from the Chang'an China-Europe freight-train service, which began operating in November 2013.
Chang'an China-Europe freight trains, which depart from or arrive in Xi'an, have made a great contribution to the building of an important channel for international trade, especially given its high efficiency and low cost. Some 77,000 China-Europe freight-train trips have been made during the past 10 years, with stops in 217 cities in 25 European countries, indicate statistics released by the National Development and Reform Commission in September.
In February, the first direct flight between Xi'an and Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan, was launched by China Southern Airlines.
"It takes just over four hours for us to travel between the two cities," Elnura says. She believes the route will boost cross-border tourism in Central Asia, and, in turn, will facilitate deeper exchanges between China and Central Asia.
"We plan to develop a cross-border tourism business in the future. I believe, along with the deepening of BRI and the complete linkage of passenger flight routes from Xi'an to the five countries in Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia will become popular tourist destinations for Chinese," Elnura says.
Elnura is currently studying for her Ph.D., in Chinese linguistics, at Shaanxi Normal University, in Xi'an. Her research focus is the overseas spread of Chinese culture.
"Kyrgyzstan was one of the first countries to support and participate in the BRI. It is the BRI that has changed my life and made my entrepreneurial dream come true. I would like to build a bridge of people-to-people and cultural exchanges between China and Kyrgyzstan, and contribute to the friendship between the two peoples," Elnura says.
Photos Supplied by Interviewee
(Women of China English Monthly October 2023 issue)
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