Xihaigu, Ningxia Hui autonomous region, was labeled the "most unfit place for human settlement" by the United Nations in 1972 because of its barren land, droughts and fragile ecological environment. Things started to change when Minning town was established in 1997 near the Yellow River. It would be the new home of people transplanted from harsh Xihaigu.
Wu Juan was among the people who were relocated to Minning, and she embarked on a new life. In 1999, at age 7, she moved to Minning's Wuhe village with members of her family.
As a child, Wu was shy. When she met strangers, she would stand in a corner instead of communicating. The time she most loved was Spring Festival, as it was the only time in a year that her parents would return from the city with candy and new clothes.
Her interest in public speaking was triggered by her English teacher.
"It's pleasant to listen to you reading English," the teacher would say, firing her interest and enthusiasm. She worked hard and was eventually admitted by the English department at Shandong University.
Wu returned to Yinchuan, Ningxia, in 2016 to work at the Han Meilin Art Museum, where she introduced the works of Han, a renowned Chinese artist, in English to foreigners. Many were surprised to learn of Han Meilin's artistic range, from painting to sculpture, Wu said
When Wu exhibited Han's art in Italy in 2016, she was impressed by the elderly Italian visitors who would stand and study for a long time. They showed great interest in Chinese art, Wu said.
In her spare time, Wu works as an online English tutor.
"If the children of Ningxia can speak fluent English, it will help them see the world and communicate with foreigners," she said.