Map Drawn From Memory Helps Man Reunite with Family Decades After Kidnapping

A Chinese man who was abducted more than 30 years ago has been reunited with his biological mother after drawing a map of his childhood village from memory.

Li Jingwei was just four years old when he was kidnapped by a man he knew from his family’s village in southwestern Yunnan province in China. It was 1988, and he was taken to live with another family in central Henan province, where he grew up.

Although he was a young child, Jingwei still understood he had been taken far from home. He did not remember his birth name, his parents’ names or the name of his village, but he did remember what his village looked like: growing trees, grazing cows, turning roads and flowing rivers. Jingwei also remembered rice paddies, ponds and bamboo shoots near his home. 

As a child, when he was homesick, he would draw pictures of his village. Eventually, he began drawing it once a day, according to a state-run news outlet The Paper.

Recently, thanks to the success of other kidnapped children in China, such as Guo Xinzhen, who was abducted in 1997 as a two-year-old and reunited with his parents last summer, Jingwei decided to have another go at finding his parents. His daily drawings paid off: his sketch displayed an extraordinary level of detail, including winding paths, houses and highways. There was even a label depicting where water buffalo lived.

“So many years have passed, I don’t know if anyone in my family is looking for me,” Jingwei said in a video posted to the Chinese video platform Douyin. “I want to be able to see my parents again while they are still here.”

The photo of the hand drawn map went viral on social media, and it garnered the attention of the Ministry of Public Security, which got involved in the investigation. Soon, authorities were able to locate Jingwei’s birth mother in Zhaotong, Yunnan. DNA samples were taken to confirm their relation.

A video of the reunion, which was shared widely by state media and on social media, shows Jingwei falling to his mother’s feet and the pair embracing in tears, surrounded by supporters and other members of his birth family. “I’ve finally found my baby,” said Jingwei’s mother.

Image source: BBC