A Career in Geological Sciences Leading to International Stage
—Interview with Academician of the International Academy of Ecology & Life Protection Sciences, Gong Qiaoyu
Despite being 66 years old, academician Gong Qiaoyu is still busy working in the field of international ecological protection and sustainable development. Despite also having multiple titles and responsibilities, she is still hale and hearty, managing her tight schedule with disciplined fervor.
As an academician of the International Academy of Ecology & Life Protection Sciences, Gong Qiaoyu is a senior engineer in the realm of geological surveys and exploration, a leading expert for the Olympics project bidding group, the standing director of the China Developing Economy & Strategy Commission, standing director of the China Association of Women Entrepreneurs and founder of the Loyalty, Filial Piety and Rejuvenation Fund of Peking University.
When looking back at Gong Qiaoyu’s life, her journey exemplifies enterprising spirit and hard work. She became a teacher at 16 years old and later had the opportunity to become a college student. She served as a front-line ecology worker after graduation and has since become an academician of the International Academy of Ecology &
Life Protection Sciences. However, when asked for her comments on her life experiences, she simply said that she following the natural course and concentrated on doing her favorite thing, and that this was the key to her success. Gong Qiaoyu summarized her focus in life as “working hard, compromise, being grateful and making friends”.
Connecting with hydrology and sticking with it
“My parents taught me to work hard, to be nice to others and to be grateful to those helping me.” During the interview, Gong Qiaoyu mentioned that she always tried to keep her parents’ teachings in mind and has benefited a lot from this.
After graduation from the Xi’an School of Geology in 1976, Gong Qiaoyu engaged in geological field testing for Shaanxi Geology and Mining Bureau for more than 10 years; she later became an engineer in the Beijing Urban Engineering Design & Research Institute Co., Ltd., serving as deputy director and director of the department of production and operations. She was involved in many key projects concerned with urban water supply, agricultural and industrial water supply and city construction in Beijing, Xi’an, Hunan, Chongqing, Yunnan, Ningbo, Xishuangbanna, Tengchong, Guizhou and Fujian.
Gong once also served as an engineer as part of the first and second hydrology team in Shaanxi Province, which was mainly responsible for surveys regarding the comprehensive development, utilization and treatment of underground water of the Loess Plateau organized by the State Scientific and Technological Commission and the State Development Planning Commission. In order to solve the local drought issue, she and the geological work team successfully drilled many deep water wells after careful exploration. Upon seeing clear water gushing out of the well, the local villagers could not help but cheer with excitement. The most unforgettable thing to Gong Qiaoyu was a woman in her late 70s, who, with the help of her grandson, drank the water from the newly-drilled well and said, “this is the sweetest water I have ever tasted in my life,” with tears streaming down her face. Local people all praised Gong Qiaoyu’s ability to detect water underground. “The experience was unforgettable. Although it is very tiresome and difficult to look for water, I decided to commit my entire life to the cause after seeing the excitement of local people at having access to water.”
With years of field exploration experience and a rigorous academic background, Gong Qiaoyu has made remarkable achievements in the academic field and has won many big awards, both at home and abroad. The paper “Comprehensive Development and Utilization of Groundwater Resources in the Loess Plateau” based on her hydrological survey in Shaanxi Province won the first-grade progress award which was awarded by the State Science and Technology Commission. She was only 35 years old at the time. In 2014, the Fujian Luoyuanwan Coastal New City Project, a smart city construction project that was being overseen under the technical guidance of Gong Qiaoyu, won the award for “most livable new coastal city in the world”. In 1991, she transferred her job from Shaanxi to Beijing. During her survey of the Beijing Beiyuan residential district, she acutely found geological fault problems and proposed appropriate solutions, which gained wide attention from the industry. She wrote a paper entitled “Survey of the Quaternary Fault Strike in the Beiyuan Residential Area of Beijing”, which was included in the Chinese Science and Technology Development Classic Library, and won a first-place international award for science and technology talent.
Winning multiple awards and performing well on the international stage
Academician Gong Qiaoyu has won many honors and awards across the 50 year span of her career. She has been honored as a “Chinese heroine” by the CPC Organization Department and the former State Administration of Radio, Film and Television; in 2003, she was awarded the “Chinese honorable woman” medal by Peng Peiyuan, president of the All-China Women’s Federation; in 2004, she was given the title of “outstanding entrepreneurial woman” by the China Association of Women Enterprises; in 2005, she was recommended to attend the 60th anniversary ceremony of the founding of the United Nations; in 2008, she was awarded the academician certificate of the International Academy of Ecology & Life Protection Sciences. Kofi Annan, then Secretary General of the United Nations, and Mr. Brown, President of the Friends of the United Nations, received Gong Qiaoyu many times, encouraging her to make greater efforts in the field of global ecological protection; in 2017, she won the seventh global “Chinese Science Award”; in 2018, she attended a forum organized by the International Academy of Ecology & Life Protection Sciences in St. Petersburg, Russia, and won the prestigious medal for education; in 2020, she was hired as the co-chairman of the World Harmony Foundation.
Gong Qiaoyu is quite calm about all the honors she has received. She said, “I never think about awards when I am working. I would have no opportunity to study and serve the people without the nourishment given to me by my country. These honors also represent higher requirements for me.”
Gong Qiaoyu explained that three of the UN sustainable development goals are related to water. The available fresh water on earth accounts for 2.7% of the total global water resources. Among China’s 640 major cities, 300 face water shortages, which is seriously insufficient for the annual water consumption per capita of 230 million people. At the same time, drinking water pollution is becoming more and more serious, and the prospects of the water environment are becoming worrisome. She has expressed the sentiment in many international situations that people need to work together to protect water resources and promote ecological civilization. On the basis of the rational development of water resources, we must respect nature and science, and should make full use of renewable energy.
Due to her outstanding contributions in the professional field, Gong Qiaoyu was invited to attend the conferences of UN Sustainable Development every year, especially in 2010, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017, she made keynote speeches at the United Nations Conferences on Sustainable Development. Regarding this, she said: “I spoke on behalf of China, starting from the water that I am familiar with, in order to let the world know about China’s God of Water, Gonggong. I wanted them to understand that China has had the concept and practices of water control since ancient times. This also drew attention to China’s endeavors and achievements in the management of the ecology.”
On February 20, 2020, the International Astronomical Union voted to name the dwarf planet 2007 OR10 the “Gonggong star”, making this the only major celestial body in the solar system named in Chinese so far. Three candidate gods, including the Chinese water god Gonggong, the European winter goddess Holle and the Nordic God Vili, were the options presented in an online vote. In the end, the red-haired Chinese water god Gonggong won. Gong Qiaoyu explained: “this dwarf planet was initially known as snow white, but later astronomical observations found that its surface appears red. It fits the name very well. Of course this success would be impossible without our previous work publicizing the image of ‘Gonggong’. It also falls in line with the beautiful vision of building a community with a shared destiny for mankind.”
When asked to give her comments about China’s ecological protection work, Gong Qiaoyu said, “our country currently attaches great importance to ecological protection. The fourteenth Five-year plan also has shed light on this issue. What we need to do now is to protect the places that have not been damaged, and then promote ecological work slowly. We can’t go back down the road of ‘destroy-then-remedy’. Last year, the novel coronavirus pandemic affected our work deeply. However, we will never stop working. We hope to build a world-class ecological base, set up an international academician park, strengthen international ecological civilization communications and ensure the implementation of projects. I believe that the essence of Chinese traditional culture will benefit the world. ”
Providing moral support and giving back to society
Gong Qiaoyu has always believed that loyalty and filial piety represent the traditional virtues of the Chinese people and should not be discarded at any time. Therefore, on the occasion of her 60th birthday, as an initiator and the first donator, she proposed and invested RMB 1 million to set up the “Zhenxing science and technology loyalty and filial piety scholarship” in the College of Engineering of Peking University to support female students excelling in both morals and studies. It is the first scholarship of this kind in Peking University, and it represents an innovation in social donations. It is said that up to now, 60 female college students, master students and doctors have already won this award. Gong Qiaoyu said: “This donation not only serves as a commemoration to my mother, but is also a way of returning the favor to society. I hope this donation will encourage and help more women to achieve success and promote Chinese good virtues” This initiative has recognized by the UN Woman and she hopes this could be promoted in the world.
Besides caring for the next generation of talent, Gong Qiaoyu has also spared no effort in protecting ecological civilization. In 2013, Gong Qiaoyu learned that Gonggong town of Miyun District, Beijing had been submerged by a reservoir area. After social investigations, field visits and expert evaluation, she finally concluded that Bulaotun town in Miyun, Beijing was one of the original places where Gonggong lived, the forefather of the Gong family. In fact, she had actually uncovered the legendary “Gonggong city site”. She believes that the building of Miyun Reservoir at the site of “Gonggong city” is also a reference to the water-control achievements of Gonggong. In July of 2020, the water god worship ceremony was selected into the list of the sixth batches of intangible culture heritage of Miyun District. On World Water Day, which occurs on March 22 every year, representatives of the Gong and Hong families from dozens of provinces and cities came together in Bulaotun town. They combined the water god worship ceremony with a history of around 1,000 years with the local folk custom of protecting the capital’s water sources, which enriched the connotations of worshipping the water god Gonggong. They also formulated a protection plan and facilitated local peoples’ participation in the water god sacrifice. Such as, they worked with Bulaotun town government to build a water god Gonggong folk culture square and promoted the Yanluo Village folk culture village cultural tourism project. The establishment of a folk culture village holds great significance for the protection of Beijing’s water resources and the promotion of the economic development of Miyun.
In addition, under Gong Qiaoyu’s advocacy, it took six years to build a new Gong Family Temple, which required a total investment of more than RMB 6 million. She also worked to build Fujian’s Niutian Village into a scenic spot featuring red tourism, recreational leisure and health care services, and same was also built into a cultural education base to inherit and promote family culture and traditions. A documentary entitled “The Posterity of the God of Water”, which is being prepared and overseen by her, is currently being filmed.
Regarding her plans and expectations for the year 2021, Gong Qiaoyu emphasized that the commitment and goal of the International Academy of Ecology & Life Protection Sciences is “ecological civilization, and a safe life”. China currently has 27 academicians, living all over the world. However, everyone’s common wish is to do more for their motherland and to achieve the sustainable development goals set by the United Nations. In addition, last year, at the online conference of the 75th celebration ceremony of the founding of the United Nations, Gong Qiaoyu proposed the establishment of the “Chairman Mao Day” in order to commemorate his great thoughts and achievements. She hopes that it could be successful.