Pinehurst Welcomes China Delegation
Pinehurst Mayor Ginsey Fallon wanted to give the first visitors from its sister city in China as grand a welcome from the village, as Zhi Jiang had given her delegation on their recent trip.
It was a tough proposition, as North Carolina’s sister state — Hunan Province — had greeted state Sen. Harris Blake, Fallon and others in great style — tours, banquets and scholarships for a number of students to attend summer camp in the fabled mountains on which Avatar’s floating peaks had been modeled.
Five distinguished visitors from Zhi Jiang arrived at the Carolina Hotel late Saturday evening after their flight landed at RDU. Lian Xie, a professor at N.C. State University whose home state is Hunan, met them at the airport.
Xie has been working with Blake to form the Carolina China Council, a nonprofit agency to facilitate economic and cultural connections, encourage tourism and build the friendly ties between Hunan and the Carolinas.
Blake and Xie met when the family of Lt. Robert Hoyle Upchurch asked Blake to help with arrangement to return the body of Flying Tiger to High Falls for burial. He was long listed as missing in action after his P-40 Tomahawk was last seen in fog-shrouded mountains during World War II.
In 2005, DNA identified the remains of a Flying Tiger fighter pilot who had been buried with full honors near Guidong in southern Hunan. For more than six decades ,the Chinese had honored their “American Pilot” with flowers each year.
China sent representatives from its embassy to his final services in 2006, and the following year, Blake led a delegation to dedicate a memorial park and monument on the mountainside where Upchurch had been buried.
Robbins formed a sister-city tie with Zhaixian Town near Guidong, and a series of delegations from Hunan have since visited North Carolina, often making the trip to High Falls United Methodist Church to pay respects at the grave of the Flying Tiger of Guidong.
On Sunday afternoon, Fallon and Village Manager Andy Wilkinson joined their visitors in Carthage at the new Peking Wok Chinese restaurant named “The Flying Tiger” and explored its gallery of historic photographs and images from the days of that war.
For more read Wednesday's print edition of The Pilot.
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