One Man’s Creative Take on Life

Ben Ruhe
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Li Ruo Xin (better known by his nickname Mo Dou Li) is a Beijing kitemaker who lives closer to the Great Wall of China than to the capital. A former technician at the Institute of High Energy Physics in Beijing, he and wife are now retired and living in a new three-story house in Xiang Tang village overlooking a large public park and gorgeous, very close encircling mountains.

Among the creative kitemakers of Beijing, Li takes a backseat to no one. His house shows a creative mind at work----courtyard garden, third-floor greenhouse complete with fish pond, paintings on the wall, self-composed music on the computer, sculptures and kites on shelves. Mo’s appreciation for life shines in his relationship with a pet bird, Lailai (Come-on-in). If he whistles a tune, the bird---one floor up----picks up right on the beat where he leaves off. If he gives a particular command, she gives a harsh squawk. “She asks for food when she’s hungry, knows how to request a bath, tells me when she wants to go to sleep so I can cover her cage to keep out the light and drafts,” he says. “But she doesn’t like fireworks on New Year’s Eve. They keep her awake. The next day, she goes to sleep earlier than usual to catch up.” He says with feeling: “That bird is dear to my heart.”

A visitor is inspired by all this bird-man communication to reveal he himself, having been reared in the country, learned to talk with birds and gives an impromptu demonstration of crowcalling. Silence from the parrot. But not from Li. “Don’t be teaching my bird that nasty American noise,” he says angrily.

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