Jiyue Zhang, Personal Reflections


My discovery of rafting was both good fortune and luck. In 1985 China experienced reform and opened the My discovery of rafting was both good fortune and luck. In 1985 China experienced reform and opened the doors to foreign expeditions. A group of Americans wanted to raft the Yangtze River. After three years of negotiations, the team finally received government permission under the condition that it had to be a joint SINO-USA expedition. This was China's most famous river and the government felt the country must be represented.

River rafting was absolutely new to China, so the contract specified that the Americans would train the Chinese team members. By luck I had the privilege of being selected and in 1985 completed an intensive three month raft training program, on 8 rivers in the US. I had found my passion.

1986 was a Chinese rafting "New Year". Besides our SINO-USA Expedition, a number of Chinese teams attempted the river. The race to be first down China's most famous river was a major media event. Regardless of the dangerous rapids and their lack of experience, no one retreated and in the summer of 1986, China's first rafting year, 10 people lost their lives on the Upper Yangtze. I personally had a close call on the final class 6 rapid that ended our expedition, as I was nearly being crushed between a heavy overturned raft and a wall.

Being selected to represent my country on the first rafting trip was luck and surviving that final rapid was luck but the terrifying memory of that final rapid has since been buried beneath the beautiful plateau landscape and the lovely Tibetan people I met. Luck can open your eyes or it can close them, but either way, it changes the way you see the world.

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