Man Who Was Kidnapped As A Child Reunites With Mom After Posting Hand-Drawn Map Of His Village Online

Photo: Youtube
Li Jingwei hand drawn map, reunited with family

A man who was abducted in China over 30 years ago was finally reunited with his parents with the help of social media. 

Li Jingwei had been only 4-years-old when he was kidnapped by a man that he knew from his family’s village in southwestern Yunnan province in 1998.

He was taken to live with another family in central Henan province, where he subsequently grew up.

Even when he was young, Li knew that he had been taken far away from his home, and his family, but he had no way of ever returning until he was a lot older.

He didn’t remember his birth name, his parents name, or the name of the village he had been taken from.

The only memories Li had were what his village looked like.

After sharing a hand-drawn image of his hometown, he was reunited with his birth mother.

Using only the power of his own memory and the kindness of others, Li's thirty year disappearance was solved.

It began with sharing the drawing in a video posted on Douyin, China’s version of TikTok.

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“I’m a child who’s looking for his home,” Li said in the video. His drawing of his home village included a school, a bamboo forest, and a pond.

As a child, whenever he was homesick, he would draw a picture of his village, eventually drawing at least once a day, Li told Chinese news outlet The Paper.

“I knew the trees, stones, cows and even which roads turn and where the water flows,” Li said. “I was taken to Henan by a bald neighbor around 1989, when I was about four years old. This is a map of my home area that I have drawn from memory.”

With help from people on the internet, along with authorities, Li’s hometown was narrowed down to Zhaotong, a mountainous city in Yunnan.

Li had been sold to a family who had badly wanted a son in Lankao County in Henan Province, nearly 2,000 km (1242.742 mi) away.

Li Jingwei is one of many victims of China's child abduction problem.

Sons are highly favored in traditional Chinese culture, with many child abduction cases involving young boys being placed onto the black market and sold to a family that really wants one.

The problem was only further exacerbated by the country’s former one-child policy, which meant for decades families who had a second child were given heavy fines, or made to abort pregnancies.

Li was identified through DNA tests, finally leading to an emotional reunion with his mother.

On a phone call before meeting up in-person, the woman accurately described a scar on Li’s chin that he had gotten from falling off of a ladder.

It was on December 28 that the Douyin account of China’s Public Security Ministry’s Anti-Human Trafficking Office confirmed that the pair were related.

Video footage from January 1 showed the anticipated reunion with Li gently removing his mother’s mask to examine her face before breaking down into tears and embracing her.

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“Thirty-three years of waiting, countless nights of yearning, and finally a map hand-drawn from memory, this is the moment of perfect release after 13 days,” Li wrote on his Douyin profile before the reunion. “Thank you everyone who has helped me reunite with my family.”

Li told The Paper, “My mother cried as soon as I got on the phone. After the video call, I recognised her at a glance. My mother and I have the same lips, even my teeth.”

Li said he had been inspired to look for his biological family after seeing other cases of abducted children that ended in reunions.

One case Li mentioned was of Guo Gangtang, who received heavy media attention after searching for his missing son for 24 years. 

Guo traveled more than 300,000 miles by motorbike before finding success in his search.

“When I saw the story of Guo Gangtang, I thought to myself: I should try to find my biological parents … I wanted to see them when they are still alive,” Li said.

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Nia Tipton is a writer living in Brooklyn. She covers pop culture, social justice issues, and trending topics. Follow her on Instagram.