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Lonely Planet guide to south-west China:


"For an interesting afternoon of conversation, you can try Mr. China's Son Cafe, a cafe opened by an old gentleman who has penned an English-language account of his trials and tribulations during the Cultural Revolution.  This place bills itself as providing 'Food for the Mind', and it delivers; travelers often find themselves chatting with the sociable proprietor for hours.  The inside is a mini-museum of regional culture and the highlights are personal letters from Prince Charles and a photograph of the owner standing near Zhou Enlai.  Best of all, the cafe organizes lots of cultural get-togethers."


The Bradt Travel Guide: China  Yunnan Province


Billed as 'Cultural Exchange Cafe'  this extraordinary place is run by the writer He Liyi whose books, translated into English (Wrong, only the folktales book was translated into Englishi--webmaster's note!) , are available over the counter here. Lots of information printed up on local sights, dos and don'ts of Dali, and other resources. Has email/internet service. Good food and a chance to meet other travellers as well as chat with Mr. Liyi and his son whose English is impeccable. Mr. Liyi was the first Bai (Wrong, not the first Bai--webmaster's note!) in recorded history to go abroad and his life story is a remarkable one that reflects the turmoil and changing fortunes of the country at large. It is well worth buying a copy of his book. Mr. China's Son for an unrivalled account of how the momentous events and policies of the last 30 years in China translated at a local level in Yunnan. Mr. Liyi has permission to reproduce some of his books in Yunnan and usually writes a generous personal introduction to each copy.


(2nd Edition)


Pag 369:  By all means drop in at Mr/. China’s Son Cultural Exchange Café, 67-5 Bo’ai Lu (west side, between Huguo Lu and Renmin Lu). Proprietor He Liyi sells autographed copies of his riveting autobiography (in English), cooks up Western and Bai dishes, helps with practical problems that foreign travelers need solved, and even makes up early morning (6:30am) breakfasts if you order in advance. Uncle Li can also help with tours and bus and airline tickets, and now has an Internet-engaged PC for rent.



Page 361-362:    Mr. China Son's


The most remarkable person in Dali, one of the most remarkable men in China, is Uncle Li. His full name is He Liyi. He was born in a Bai village in 1930. Eventually he became the first Bai in history to go abroad (Wrong, not the first Bai--webmaster's note!). He is home now, proprietor of Mr. China's Son Cultural Exchange Cafe, on Bo’ai Lu. When I first wandered in 3 years ago, he immediately makes me feel at home. His English, Uncle Li's third language after Chinese and Bai, is marvelous. He had learned it from BBC broadcasts after selling a pig to buy a short-wave radio. Upon my return, it was Uncle Li who had changed the least, his café barely altered by the accelerated stream of time all of China seems to be swept up in.


Uncle Li's story is the stuff of 30 novels. In fact, he has published that story, written in English. Mr. China's Son: A Villager's Life appeared in 1993(Westview Press). His autobiography received excellent reviews in America, but, alas, few copies were sold--a pity, since there are no first-person accounts of 20th-century life in rural China to rival it. Uncle Li has been able to reprint a few copies for sale only in Yunnan, which he keeps on hand at his cafe. He opened the cafe on June 22, 1995, having reached the age of retirement. I bought a copy of his book. Uncle Li wrote a long, generous dedication its title page, puffing away on his long-stemmed pipe.


His story is direct, personal and extremely frank.  In the late 1950s he spent years in a labor camp. After his release, he made his living by fetching night soil from public toilets for use as fertilizer. He divorced and remarried. He experienced what he calls "unspeakable humiliation and suffering,” but he is not a bitter man today.  After returning from a summer in England in the late 1980s, he settled into a village life, opened his cafe, and now hosts foreigners who chance his way.


I signed Uncle Li's guest book once again, and I asked after his son He Lujiang, a teacher in the English section of the Dali Medical College in nearby Xiaguan. I remembered how I had once helped Uncle Li with a sign he was writing announcing in English that patrons of Dali’s new “plush toilet” were obliged to pay the attendant 5 mao (about 6 cents) per flush. In fact, the sign had needed no correction. The very next day I saw it posted on the wall when I paid a visit to the RMB 200,000 ($25,000) public lavatory at the west end of Huguo Lu. It was then and it is now the only public toilet in all of Dali that could be described as plush, although there wasn’t and isn’t a piece of tissue paper to be had in the place.


Now, after catching up on the Dali news, drinking a coffee, having a sandwich for lunch, and reading what was posted from all over the world on the café walls, I found that Uncle Li was spending much of his day behind the small counter typing on a manual typewriter the manuscript of a new book, a memoir of village life that takes up and is intertwined with his own continuing life story. I reviewed an episode and came up with a few suggestions, He is always in search of the pungent phrase, which he savors as though words were truly edible.


By late afternoon, the sunshine had moved across the street and I followed it, basking at an outdoor table at another café. After long travels, I was countent to let the sun rise and set on Dali. Leaning back, conversing, eating and drinking. I let the world do the traveling for a change.


A Mistake made by "Let's Go China 2000"



One reporter of the  "Let's Go China 2000" made a mistake. He (She) gave a false report to the editor after he/she visited Mr. China's Son Cultural Cafe. Therefore, on page 560 of this edition appeared the false message: "Mr. China's Son (tele.2678234 )on Boai Lu. Although its namesake is no longer alive, the cafe has an excellent guidebook for travelers and an interesting collection of Bai 'relics' on the side wall. 5 or 6 course Bai meals Y12-14. Open daily 8 am-midnight..."


We shocked to get  to know this and contacted to the publisher.  The following is a message from the editor of the new version. Although she mentioned "We will send an official letter of apology by mail..." July 19, 2001, we still have not received it when we make this web page. The following are the editor's message and our reply:



From:  Elizabeth Ann Little

Email:  elittle@fas.harvard.edu

Time:  2001/7/19


Dear Mr. He,


My name is Elizabeth Little, and I am the new editor of Let's Go: China. We received an email from Micky Sadoff regarding the horrible, but unintentional mistake in the 2001 guide. Our book is updated every year by an entirely new staff, and this year's researcher in Dali had informed us of the mistake. We have already made the change in the book, and we regret the pain and suffering that the mistake has caused you and your family. We are sure that the previous researcher had no harmful intentions and that it was an honest, however damaging, mistake. We will send an official letter of apology by mail, and we promise to send you a copy of the new, corrected guide when it is published this November.


If there is anything else we can do to help you, please don't hesitate to email us directly. Again, our most sincere apologies and thank you for bringing this to our attention.


Yours truly,

Elizabeth Little

Editor, Let's Go: China 2002



From: Mr. China’s Son

Time: 2001/7/30


Dear Ms. Little,


We live and work in an out-of-the-way poor corner of China, but we understand how busy an editor must be.  Therefore, I'll try to be as brief as I can.  My name is He Li-yi.  I belong to Bai people of Yunnan.  Before 1989 I taught English at my home county's mountain-corner junior middle school.  This year I'm 72, but I'm still learning the difficulties in running a cafe here in Dali.


It was an honor and really quite a big happy event to hear some friendly words (completely different from your last edition's mistake by your previous researcher).   What a relief it was to know you are now aware of the mistake.  On behalf of our 6-member family,  I would like to thank you for your nice (01-7-19) letter.


2/3 of your information (on page 560) of the 2000 edition of Let's Go: China was accurate, for which we were grateful.  The other 1/3(...no longer alive ) was quite brief, but it worked like a sharp knife.  This knife 'killed' the other good 2/3.  This "to kill Dali's Mr. He with a PEN" was unbearable.  In many ways it looked like a heavy thunderbolt out of a clear blue sky.  Our sadness was beyond the greatest writer's words.  To us Bai people, to falsely report a person's death is the same as wishing that person's death or wishing him/her and the family ill will and bad luck.  Many of our relatives and friends suggested that we take a formal legal action.  But I didn't want to do that.  Because after all, nobody in the world is perfect.  We are not an exception.  People do make mistakes at times.  Year after year, I'm a man who always likes to turn big problems into small ones and small problems to no problem at all.  In 1958 my country put a 'square peg' (me) into a round 'hole' (a wrong punishment). !  Nevertheless, in 1979, when they came to apologize, I forgave them.  In our particular case, in my own opinion, the old editor bore 0.5% of the responsibility for the mistake.  The fake-information writer should bear the other 95% of the responsibility.


Your (former) fake-information-writer's false-information has spread to a portion of American universities & colleges.  It has already hurt our business too.  I have a pile of annoying cases to report, but no time to tell you each. Please allow me just to give you two examples:  On June 22 & 23, six students (from a university in Kentucky) were planning to visit me, but one of their group pointed at Page 560 and the result was they gave up coming to visit me.  The 2nd example happened to the College of Dupage.  Prof. Ellen Johnson and Jane Wu also learned of my 'death' but were skeptical of the report.  Before their 23-member group left the US, they sent me an E-mail to confirm everything.  Immediately I replied, confirming that I was still alive and well.  Now we are happy to tell you, on the 16th of August, they will come to meet me face to face again.


You said you had made a change (for the next new edition).  This sounded very good to me.  Actually, we are just a small cafe, located in a back street, but we are particularly outstanding in cultural exchange. Frankly speaking, I am not a businessman.  The main reason I opened this cafe was to meet readers who had read my autobiography, Mr. China's Son.  Our cafe is not so big, but very unique.   We stress cultural exchange, and the main business is to give a hand to young students and supply travelers with some "FOOD FOR THE MIND."   We opened in June 1995, but since its features are so unique, it was mentioned in '96 edition of Lonely Planet.  Later many other guide books began recommending the cafe.   Last June 18th or 19th, a middle-aged lady dropped in, looked at me for a while, and asked: "Are you Mr. China's Son?"  "Yes! Welcome! Take a seat...," I replied. Instead of sitting down, she pointed at page 560 of your guidebook.  The wrong information was a shock to all of us. She told me that she had read my book before, but when she read  "Let's Go: China," she thought I had passed away.  But on her way, she had heard many people talking about my book and my caf?  Someone even showed her copies of Mr. China's Son that I had recently sold and signed.  That was why she came, to check out the situation.


In order to correct the mistake in a quicker way, I'm wondering if you could possibly make just a little more room to add the website address of our cafe at the end of your short text.  This would also help us to let more people get to know our cultural-exchange cafe.


Our URL address is: http://www.homestead.com/yndali/homepage2.html By the way, if you have time, you are welcome to have a look at it.


I understand that the mistake was unintentional, but we would like to know who on earth reported my demise?   We hope that the researcher might be able to tell us the reason why he/she wrote it like that.  Is it possible to do this extra favor for our He Family?


All right, I think that's about all for today's first letter.  Thank you again for taking the time to read my wordy Chinglish (Chinese-English) letter.  I look forward to hearing from you again and to seeing the new edition of your guidebook.


Your new Bai-friend

He Li-yi  (2001/7/30)




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