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A 60,000-word journey across 150 years that started with a bottle of baijiu

By Ai Yan, Guo Zijia


When Yu Tantan bumped into a British businessman at a lecture in Wuhan, he had no idea of the journey he was embarking on.

Impressed by the stories told by Simon Haworth about his family's history of connections with China, Yu, senior editor of the Yangtze River Daily, invited him to deliver a lecture at a program dedicated to fostering a learning-oriented community for people who are local residents in Wuhan.

The event was so successful that the pair opened up a bottle of baijiu. By the time it was empty, their friendship was sealed.

A journey through words

Some of the stories they shared that night had lit a flame inside Yu, and he yearned to discover more about the 150-year relationship between the Haworth family and China.

Four visits to the UK followed, allowing Yu to explore a treasure trove of photos, diaries and souvenirs at the Haworth family home in Cheshire. Through his conversations and research at Cambridge University, he compiled around 60,000 words of notes which became his book 'Cambridge Notes'.


Secrets in the attic

Haworth himself firstly discovered his family's deep ties with China in the attic of the old house, through his grandmother's diaries dating back to 1874. Yu remembers visiting the property as like "stepping into a living museum."

"Every artifact and painting had its own story," he told CGTN.

The family's first recorded interaction with China began with Simon's great-great-grandfather who worked there as a silk trader in 1874. The relationship continues to the present day as Simon has set up start-ups in Wuhan City among other ventures.

"While writing the book, I hope that more Chinese readers can get to know about the UK through my book and Simon's story, and meanwhile Europeans and British people can get to know China," said Yu.

And he believes the story that began all those years ago is still not at its end.

"[Haworth] has been helping his children to learn about Chinese culture, history, and even sent his youngest daughter to learn Chinese," Yu said. "I believe Simon's family will pass on their stories with China to the next generation."

A 60,000-word journey across 150 years that started with a bottle of baijiu

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