Kaishan Island, off the coast of Jiangsu province, is mourning its militia sentry director, Wang Jicai, who dedicated his life to watching over China's east coast with his wife. They regarded themselves as the country's first line of defense.
Wang died on Friday at age 59. The cause of death has not been released.
He and his wife, Wang Shihua, were the island's border guards, and were honored by the country as model workers for sticking to the job for 32 years.
"Wang Jicai is the pride of Guanyun county and a hero of our era. He always held the belief that guarding the island was part of protecting the whole nation," Zhu Xingbo, head of the county government, said at Wang's funeral on Monday.
Kaishan Island is small－only 13,000 square meters. But it lies just 12 nautical miles from Yanwei Port on the outskirts of the Yellow Sea near the junction of Japanese and South Korean international waters.
Years ago, there were no telephone, trees, television or internet on the island, and it was often cut off by fierce storms. Six barracks, surrounded by weeds and steep cliffs, are continually battered by fierce winds. Fresh water and food had to be sent by fishing boat from the shore.
The post of Kaishan Island militia sentry was created in 1985, when the previous troops stationed there withdrew because of a military reorganization. The next year, the military asked Wang Jicai, a 26-year-old militia member, to guard it.
When he undertook the duty, he departed for the island with a few bags of clothes and food, and left his wife, Wang Shihua－a primary school teacher－and their newborn daughter in Guanyun.
According to the county government, Wang said he always believed the island was an inalienable part of China. He promised to protect it always. It's a promise he kept. None of his four predecessors stayed longer than 13 days before quitting because of the harsh conditions.
Forty-eight days after he was stationed on the island, Wang's wife came to visit with their daughter. They were trapped there by a typhoon and the woman was unable to sleep because of the sound of crashing waves.
She then determined to look after her husband, so she quit her job, left her daughter with her mother-in-law and went back to the island.
The county government's tribute said the couple raised the Chinese national flag every day on the island, monitored sea and air conditions, rescued people at sea and kept records in the coastal defense log.
In 1987, Wang's wife gave birth to a son on the island. The couple delivered the child themselves.
Constrained by their sense of responsibility, the couple only reunited with their family during five Spring Festivals in the past 32 years.
Now, solar energy and wind power generate electricity on the island. Television, air conditioning and other household appliances are available. The barracks have been renovated and equipped with bathrooms.
The couple successfully planted trees and vegetables in the gaps between rocks, gradually turning a barren island green. It had truly become home.