Building a Bridge of the Heart between China and the West

By Ramona McKean

This blog is dedicated to the fostering of understanding between the people of China and the people of “the West.” How? By the sharing of personal stories, photos, music, literature and other forms of cultural expression.

My premise is that people are essentially good and like to be understood. When we develop understanding for each other, misperceptions can wash away and friendship becomes a real possibility. Friendship is one of the most precious experiences of life, and I believe it can open the door to miracles. It did for me.

My Connection with China

Ramona McKean and the Warriors

In fall 2014 I’ll be seeing the real Terra Cotta Warriors in Xi’an! (A modern wonder of the world.)

I lived in China twice, first as a teacher and then as a student. Within two months of arriving the first time, I noticed a peculiar aching sensation in my chest. To distract myself, I worked harder, which was an easy thing to do since I had two jobs, but the ache persisted. In fact, it grew. “Why am I so happy, then in no time so sad? Why are my head and heart in a crazy whirl?” I asked myself.

I got my answer one day while chatting with an American colleague. He told me about his life in China, marrying his Chinese girlfriend and becoming a dad. “I haven’t been home for a visit in years,” he said. “There’s plenty I don’t like here, but this country has a mysterious way of getting under my skin. I mean that in a good way. China is my home now. I don’t want to leave.”

“Is it something like falling in love?” I asked.

“Yeah, you could say that.” Then it dawned on me. The ache? I had fallen in love with China.

I’d like to say the romance proceeded smoothly, but like in other passionate relationships, I encountered great pain. The greatest pain was my having to leave China suddenly and unexpectedly, the result of a deadly accident that killed the man beside me and left me in serious condition.

Many have described my survival as nothing short of a miracle. Head-on, no seatbelt, etc. I am convinced that were it not for friendship, I’d not be alive today. Loving devotion, the hands-on kind, from many Chinese friends, and strangers too, made all the difference in the world. Their love helped me to survive two Chinese hospitals, one in an impoverished area, and two risky flights back to Canada. (The story is in my book.) Family and friends in Canada, exceptional medical care and the loving grace of God saw to the rest of my slow healing. Three and a half years later, I was able to return.

For all its problems, I love China, both the land and the people. The richness of the culture fascinates me—from the sound of erhus and other traditional instruments dating back 1000’s of years, to the legends of dragons and phoenixes and the mysterious wisdom of the Tao. A phenomenal amount of goodness resides in that country that we in the West simply do not hear about. Likewise, a tremendous amount of goodness that resides in the West is completely unknown to most Chinese.

So I say “East and West, let’s meet” and get to know each other better. Let’s become friends. Besides, building a bridge of friendship can be rewarding and fun. It’s called Building a Bridge of the Heart.