Canadian anthropologist, lifelong friend of China celebrates 103rd birthday
Isabel Crook celebrates her 103rd birthday with her family, former students and old friends in Beijing Foreign Studies University on Saturday, December 15, 2018. [Photo: China Plus]
This year marks the 40th anniversary of China's reform and opening up. As a witness of this historical period, 103-year-old Isabel Crook, a foreign teacher working in China, had just celebrated her birthday and received a special gift from the Chinese government.
CRI's Huang Yue has more.
Hundreds of people, including her family, former students and old friends, gathered in Beijing Foreign Studies University on Saturday to celebrate Isabel Crook's 103rd birthday.
"I just like to say I'm very happy about these birthday greetings being given to me. That's very friendly and warm, and…(they are)good friends."
Isabel Crook was born in 1915 to Canadian missionary parents in Sichuan Province.
She began as a Methodist Canadian Christian in China but became a communist in 1942.
Over the decades, she did her life's work in the country, ranging from education to anthropology.
Zhang Jianguo, director of the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs, also attended the birthday ceremony and brought Isabel a special birthday gift from the Chinese government – the award of "The Most Influential Foreign Expat during 40 Years of China's Reform and Opening up", to commend her commitment and dedication.
A documentary featuring Isabel's life story also premiered during Saturday's celebration. It was filmed at Bailuding in the city of Pengzhou, Sichuan Province, where Isabel was born and raised.
Gong Changhua, Deputy Mayor of the city, says he and his collegues were deeply touched by Isabel's story so they decided to make a documentary about her life.
"At first, we were just very curious why a foreigner would choose to live in such a small town, so we came to Beijing to visit Isabel and learnt a lot of her stories, which impressed us a lot. We didn't expect a small town like Bailu could have such profound influence on her whole life. We should pass on her stories with this documentary."
Gong adds that he also climbed the mountain where Isabel used to live where she took detailed notes on people's lives and living conditions as an anthropologist.
Fu Han, director of the documentary, is also Isabel's personal friend for nearly a decade. She says she made up her mind to produce the documentary after Isabel accidentally had a fall.
"I have known Isabel for almost a decade and she has been in good health all these years. However, she accidentally had a fall last summer and had five stitches for her head wound. I found that she spoke slower and her memories are fading gradually. So I think I should take the responsibility to produce a documentary to tell her life story."
After the founding of the People's Republic of China, Isabel and her husband taught at the Beijing Foreign Studies University, then named the Beijing Foreign Languages Institute, the leading foreign language university in China and known as the "cradle of diplomats". She retired in 1980.
"The Most Influential Foreign Expat during 40 Years of China's Reform and Opening up" award was announced earlier this year in Shenzhen. A total of 40 foreign expats are on the list.
For CRI, this is Huang Yue.
Click here for more about Isabel Crook.