In the first episode Liang Jia He (Chinese: 梁家河篇) of the series Chairman Xi's Beginning (Chinese: 習總書記的初心), Xi said (in Mandarin Chinese)

因爲我那時候,抗 200 斤麥子,十里山路不換肩的

... because I, at that time, carried 200 jin of wheat, and walked 10 li of mountain road without switching shoulders.

The video is on YouTube, uploaded by CCTV's official account. The above claim appears at 1'23".

One Chinese jin is half a kilogram and one Chinese li is half a kilometer, so Xi said he carried 100 kg of wheat and walked 5 km. This seems rather impractical as a man himself rarely weighs 100 kg, and walking 5 km of bumpy mountain road without switching shoulders adds another level of harshness.

The Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily ridiculed the claim, as did Voice of America.

Is it true that Xi actually did this?

  • 12
    Is that maybe like western's version "walked to school, in the snow and rain, up hill, both ways"? In other words, it's a joke about tough childhood?
    – fredsbend
    Sep 20 '20 at 16:24
  • @fredsbend - I was just about to say the same thing :)
    – colmde
    Sep 23 '20 at 11:21

Rigorously verifying or refuting the claim seems rather difficult. It appears more likely that the anecdote is exaggerated, and not strictly true as stated.

The most persuasive argument I found comes from a YouTube video, wherein three muscular men attempt to replicate this feat. Together, the three men made it 550 meters. Going up stairs was slow and difficult, and eventually the pole holding the weight broke.

screenshot of the three men and the 100kg weight

For a visual comparison, here is a photo of Xi Jinping in 1972 (when Xi Jinping was 19) which is within the relevant time period (1969 to 1975):

Xi Jinping in 1972
新华社刊发习近平系列照片, 2012 (cropped and resized).

The only other evidenced argument I found was in some Chinese-language news articles (Huanqiu and VOA) which indicate the actual weight was in the ballpark of 30kg (60斤). My understanding is that they base their argument on receipts from c. 1972 (rediscovered in 2013) which list the weight of the purchase as 29.5kg (59斤), such as the following:

receipt for 59斤 (<30kg)
习近平:我人生第一步所学到的都是在梁家河, 2018. (Click image to enlarge; another photo of this receipt is available here.)

In this receipt, we can clearly see the date 30 December 1972, the recipient 习近平 (Xi Jinping), and 净重 ("net weight") of 59斤 (29.5kg). However, this doesn't exclude the possibility that Xi Jinping carried something else.

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