an american realized his chinese dream
brian linden.(courtesy photo)
by bi weizi & long yun
xilinyuan hotel (linden centre xizhou) in xizhou town, yunnan province, has become something of a tourist attraction in itself and regarded as one of the most photogenic spots in the area. not too long ago, brian linden, owner of the renovated hotel, spent his 60th birthday there and he told s&t daily that, "this is my home.”
he received a scholarship from the chinese government and came to study in beijing in 1984, which was the major turning point in his life. 18 years agohe came back to this country with his wife and children to pursue his dream of creating a boutique hotel, as well as a cultural exchange platform between china and other countries, something he has largely achieved.
“i hope that through my efforts, more people can appreciate the charm of china," he said.
committed to telling true chinese stories
in 1988, after graduation, linden left china and began a career in international education investments, being involved in projects in over 100 countries and regions. but the idea of coming back to china always lingered in the back of his mind. to him, china is his mentor, and he has always been committed to telling the true chinese stories to the outside world as a foreigner who has experienced the reality of a life in the country.
in 2004, linden and his wife gave up their jobs in the u.s., sold their properties, and along with their two sons headed back to china, committing everything he had to his chinese dream. after about two years of research and exploration, the family finally decided to take over yangjia dayuan, a bai ethnic minority building dating back to the qing dynasty, in xizhou, an ethnically diverse town that has served for thousands of years as a crossroad for different cultural traditions, in northwest yunnan province.
linden spent all his savings on repairing and upgrading the old building, employing dozens of local workers, and after 18 months, yangjia dayuan was restored to its former glory. it was given a new lease of life as the xilinyuan hotel, a center in this rural area that would allow people to go beyond the urban experience of china for an intellectual challenge.
“our guests come here and we have activities almost every day, taking people to [see] different things, such as how the government is addressing the pollution in erhai lake. “xilinyuan is a cultural heritage site that needs protection, which serves not only as a tourist site, but also demonstrates china’s cultural traditions to future generations,” said linden.
the book "one village at a time" by brian linden. (courtesy photo)
hope exists everywhere in china
during linden’s stay in xizhou over the last 18 years, he has witnessed the rapid changes happening there. in 2020, all 11 poor counties in dali bai autonomous prefecture in yunnan province were lifted out of poverty. to linden, it was an amazing project.
“beyond dramatic economic changes that have occurred because of poverty alleviation, there is more mental change that i feel among people. i would identify it solely with one word, that is optimism. my neighbors, my farming friends, they all have a desire. they believe that their children will have a better life than they did,” said linden, adding that the local and central government have demonstrated full commitment to make sure everyone has equal opportunities, with infrastructure being built in the most remote areas. villages are connected to the outside world and hope has been brought to every corner in this country.
when talking about his future plans, linden said he wants to do more to help people understand the rural development in china, and also add more stories to the narrative that has been told about this country, so that the world can understand it in a more comprehensive way.