On a fateful day 22 years ago, 24-year-old Qian Fenziang gave birth to a baby girl.
What should have been a happy day for Qian and her husband, Xu Lida, was instead a disaster for the family. They lived in China, which until 2015 had a one-child policy in place, and the couple already had a three-year-old daughter. In fact, Qian had been forced to give birth in secret on a small houseboat, to avoid revealing her second daughter’s existence.
With no way to safely look after their child, the couple left her in a covered vegetable market, in the city of Suzhou. Qian pinned a handwritten note to the baby girl, giving her a name, Jingzhi, and a date of birth.
“We have been forced by poverty and affairs of the world to abandon her,” Qian wrote. “Oh, pity the hearts of fathers and mothers far and near! Thank you for saving our little daughter and taking her into your care.”
But it also included a special message from the mother, who still held on to hopes of seeing her daughter again:
“If the heavens have feelings, if we are brought together by fate, then let us meet again on the Broken Bridge in Hangzhou on the morning of the Qixi Festival in 10 or 20 years from now.”
The Qixi festival is China’s answer to Valentine’s Day, on the seventh day of the seventh month of their lunar calendar. The Broken Bridge is a famous landmark, because it was included in a Chinese romantic poem. It was the perfect time and place to plan for a reunion that must have seemed impossible at the time.
But against all odds, Qian’s wish came true, thanks to her note and stroke of good luck.