For centuries, the ancient Silk Road has been floating in the long river of history like a golden silk ribbon. Now, high-speed railways and roads have replaced the once busy camels and horses, transforming the old silk road, under the Belt and Road Initiative,into a fast lane connecting Asia and Europe.
SILK ROAD DREAM OF UZBEK "ZHANG QIAN"
Uzbek young man Munisov Zarkamol lived in Samarkand, a 3,000-year-old city nicknamed the "Pearl of the Orient" on the ancient Silk Road.
From childhood, Zarkamol has been obsessed with China and the Chinese culture thanks to his mother. After studying day and night for almost a decade, he got enrolled at Samarkand State Institute of Foreign Languages in 2011 and chose the Chinese language as his major.
The learning process was not easy. Zarkamol remembered that he couldn't tell the difference between two Chinese characters with similar sounds in his first listening class. However, after years of patient tutoring by his Chinese teachers, he managed to conquer the language obstacles one by one.
From his first speech in Chinese, first song in Chinese, first stage role as the famous Chinese diplomat of the Han Dynasty Zhang Qian, to his first tasting of Chinese food, first experience with Chinese customs, Zarkamol has been intrigued by the rich Chinese culture, and aspired to learn more.
In 2015, the young man took part in the 14th "Chinese Bridge" Proficiency Competition for Foreign College Students and made it to the final round as one of the top ten contestants. After the competition, he was offered an opportunity to study International Relations and Diplomacy at Shanghai University with a Confucius Institute scholarship.
Coming from Samarkand and having such a close relationship with China, Zarkamol has a long-time dream of becoming a civil diplomat connecting Uzbek and Chinese people, just as Zhang Qian did 2,000 years ago.
With the implementation of China's Belt and Road Initiative, his dream is coming true.
IRANIAN GIRL'S CHINA DREAM
Similar to Zarkamol, Iranian girl Nasim Kharkanghamsari's interest in China was aroused by her father during her childhood. "He would point to the Silk Road, and told me that Iran and China have been friends since ancient times...I would frequently envision ancient people with long gowns and Mandarin jackets riding camels and walking in the desert, carrying spices," she said.
Eight years ago, after Nasim graduated from high school, the only university in Iran which has a Chinese major was recruiting students, once in three years. She immediately signed up for it and was enrolled.
"It's like everything was arranged by destiny, just like that. Fate matched me up with the Chinese language," she said.
Four years of college passed by quickly, and Nasim graduated. Her Chinese improved a lot and she found a pretty good job. However, she still felt something missing in her life.
"I asked myself many times: Is this the life I want? Where is the Silk Road I had dreamed of? I wanted to truly follow the route, learn skills, and shoulder the responsibility and mission of a cultural envoy. I was unable to find inner peace."
After convincing her parents, she applied for a Confucius Institute scholarship and prepared to go to China for further study.
During the pursuit of her "China dream," something surprising happened. A young man of a higher grade expressed his love to Nasim, and decided to go to China with her. They are now happily married in China.
"I wish to thank the Silk Road and the Chinese language as they have given me this life and love," Nasim said.
(Munisov Zarkamol and Nasim Kharkanghamsari also contributed to the story)