Wu Chun Jun, A Story of Inspiration

A Story of Inspiration - Wu Chun Jun

While I was working in China I had the opportunity to witness the phenomenal changes in China as a result of their economic growth.

My responsibilities in China resulted in my meeting with a vast variety of people including design engineers, middle and senior corporate managers, senior government officials from Provincial Governors up to the Premier of China.

Almost every Chinese citizen has experienced difficult situations and circumstances during the turbulent years of Chinese history. One individual that I met during my daily walks in Beijing is Wu Chun Jun about whom I wrote about in this article.

Wu Chun Jun is one person who could be an inspiration for anyone trying to cope and overcome their hardships. Personally I find it very satisfying to be able to meet people like him and write a few words about their life.

Ian McKay

Wu Chun Jun

“I am a lucky man. WOW!” an incredible statement recently from Wu Chun Jun, a double amputee.  

He spends 6 months annually on a Beijing sidewalk selling used books and miscellaneous Chinese artifacts. Wu Chun Jun’s right leg was amputated above the knee in the late ‘90s and similarly the left leg in the early 2000’s.

Every day from April to October he sits on a sidewalk on Dong Dao Qiao Street in Beijing selling used books and knick knacks. Regardless of the difficulties with some officials, he remains optimistically in place with a ready smile.

Wu was born in 1973 in Binzhou City, Xin Yu Village, Shandong Province China. He grew up working on his parent’s farm where they grew cotton, wheat, corn, potatoes, and sesame. His mother is still living however his father passed away recently from a heart attack. He has and older and younger sister both married and living in his home town. His older sister has one daughter.

In 1995 Wu started working on fishing boats operating from the port of Huang Hua in Bohai Bay. They usually stayed out on the bay for 10/15 days until they had a sufficient catch of crab, lobster, or fish. For 9 months work on the boats Wu received a total of 2000 rmb, equivalent to US$ 335.00 at present exchange rates. What a measly sum for such difficult work lasting almost three quarters of the year.

In 1999 Wu started to experience problems with his right leg. Initially his right foot became cold and numb. After walking for a few meters he also had pain in his leg. After numerous doctor’s visits and hospital examinations the diagnosis were varied including blood disorders, neurological damage, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Eventually in late 1999 his leg developed gangrene necessitating the amputation of the right leg above the knee. The same condition developed in his left leg in 2001 again resulting in the amputation of that leg in the same year. Gone were the days when he and his girlfriend rode motorcycles.

Wu borrowed money from relatives and friends to pay the costs for the operations, doctors, and hospitals. In order to repay the borrowed money Wu decided in 2002 to travel to Beijing where he started begging for money on a street close to Tiananmen Square. In 2003 he moved to Dong Dai Qiao Street outside the Mexican Wave restaurant. The owners of the restaurant Greg Elliott and Judy Porter treated Wu with kindness, feeding him and providing other comforts when required.

Heikki and Virpi Viitasalo, a Finnish couple started Wu in the used book selling business. Through their generosity with donations of books and other items Wu has survived and managed to start repaying his debt. He is eternally grateful to the Viitasalo’s for treating him with dignity when he first arrived on Dong Dai Qiao. They played cards with him and shared ice cream together while he was trying to get started in Beijing.

Most recently Tim Hilbert, owner of Tim’s Texas Bar-B-Q has provided Wu with meals and a comfortable camping spot for selling books and various sundries. Wu is well liked by all pedestrians, some even providing donations of books and useful items that contribute to his sidewalk store.

As well as feeling lucky Wu is spiritually comfortable, enjoying the opportunity to meet many people each day, and making new friends.

His dream is to visit the grave of Heikki in Helsinki Finland, leave some flowers and pay his respect. Also he wants to travel to Iowa to visit Judy Porter who moved back there after the 2010 closing of their restaurant.

It is an enriching and inspiring experience to know Wu who is the essence of integrity, determination, courage, optimism, and cheerfulness.