Originally published on Nov 16, 2009
According to the Ministry of Public Security, more than 50 million foreigners exit or enter the country on average every year, while another 5 million live here. Of these, about half-a-million call China home.
Many have enriched Chinese lives with their contributions in business, education, medical care and disaster relief.
China Right There, a recent bilingual documentary on Tianjin TV highlighted the lives of 100 expatriates who have been living here since the founding of New China in 1949. The crew traversed the length and breadth of the country recording their everyday lives.
Now, 13 of them have been picked to be honored with the "You Bring Charm to China" award, presented jointly by Tianjin TV and Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV, and supported by China Daily.
The awards were presented on Saturday at Kerry Centre Shangri-La Hotel, witnessed by representatives from the United Nations, leaders of China's major diplomatic institutions and by distinguished overseas Chinese.
Domestic and overseas artists put up a gala show and the whole ceremony was broadcast live to audiences at home and abroad.
We profile one of them here:
Viginia Anami, 65, an American-Japanese historian
Although she was born and raised in the United States, Viginia Anami was always full of curiosity about China and other Asian countries, with her father often bringing home many gifts from Asian countries when she was young.
When she married Koreshige Anami, the former Japanese Ambassador to China in 1970 and began living in China in 1983, this attachment grew deeper.
Her story in China can be traced to a book, Ennin's Diary of Travels in China. Ennin, better known in Japan as Jikaku Daishi, was an authority on Japan's Buddhist history and accompanied the last batch of Japanese envoys to China, during the Tang Dynasty (AD 608-907).
He left his footprints in many provinces such as today's Jiangsu, Shandong and Hebei and Henan. His travel records rank among the world's best travelogues, and are a key source of information on Tang life.
Anami read the book when she was a student at Harvard University in the 1980s. She was deeply moved by it and decided to retrace Ennin's route through China.
She traveled more than 10,000 km and visited almost every place that Ennin referred to in his diary. In the course of her travels, between 2001 and 2006, she studied many historical relics, Buddhist shrines and folk customs.
In 2007, she published a book based on her experiences, along with a collection of more than 200 photos, in three languages - Chinese, English and Japanese.
"Ennin's records testify to the culture exchanges between China and Japan and can form the basis for developing and improving relations between the two countries today," says Anami.
"Following his (Ennin's) path during the past 25 years has helped me understand more about Chinese and Japanese cultures," she adds.
Influenced by her mother-in-law, Anami also became interested in Buddhism. She has tried to visit every ancient temple in Beijing, but few still stand.
However many of these sites, she found, were surrounded by ancient trees. Convinced that these trees tell a story, she began visiting all the suburbs and outskirts of Beijing, snapping pictures of trees and compiling them into a wonderful picture book, The Magnificent Trees of Beijing.
"I now teach Chinese history in a university in Japan. I have never really separated from China, and Beijing."