A man who was kidnapped in China as a child and sold to a trafficking ring was reunited with his mother after 30 years thanks to a map he drew of his hometown, just as he kept it in his memory.

Li Jingwei, a 37-year-old father, was four years old when a neighbor kidnapped him from his hometown in China’s Yunnan province, and he ended up living with another family about 1600 km away in Henan province, where he grew up, The Guardian reported

Li’s reunion with his birth mother was made possible thanks to a map he managed to draw of his home village, which he shared last December 24 on the social video network Douyin (known outside China as TikTok), in the hope of finding the family he had been torn away from in 1982, when he was 4 years old.

Drawing that Li Jingwei remembered from his native village, which he shared last Dec. 24 on the social video network Douyin. (Video Capture: Live Update / YouTube)

DNA tests confirmed that Jingwei was the woman’s missing son and the two were reunited on Saturday, January 1, New Year’s Day, in an emotional reunion outside a Henan police station.

Li recounted that as a child he repeatedly drew pictures of his hometown, which helped him keep it in his memory. “I knew the trees, stones, cows and even which roads turn and where the water flows,” Jingwei told Chinese news outlet, The Paper.

While he did not remember his hometown or his home address, certain elements in his drawing, such as a school, a bamboo forest and a pond were key to police comparing the map to Yunnan, the village where there was a woman whose son had gone missing.

A few days before the reunion mother and son spoke virtually. “My mother cried as soon as I got on the phone,” Li said, recounting that he recognized her immediately. “My mother and I have the same lips, even my teeth,” he added. 

Speaking about the kidnapping, Li said he was abducted by a bald man. He knew him and had tricked him by offering him candy. He further told that the adoptive family treated him very well. He said they taught him “the principles of being a human” since he was a child, so that he could “study hard and become a talent in the future.”

Child abductions are common in China, and Li found inspiration to search for his family, in a case that gained notoriety, that of Guo Gangtang, who after searching for 24 years for his missing son, traveling almost 500,000 km by motorcycle, found him.

“When I saw the story of Guo Gangtang, I thought to myself: I should try to find my biological parents … I wanted to see them when they are still alive,” Li said.

“Thirty-three years of waiting, countless nights of yearning, and finally a map hand-drawn from memory, this is the moment of perfect release after 13 days,” Li wrote on his Douyin profile before the reunion. “Thank you to everyone who helped me reunite with my family.”

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