Teacher Xie

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I once used to have a teacher whose last name was Xie 谢. He held class on Thursdays, and we called him Teacher Xie 谢老师.

Teacher Xie, though a gifted cinematographer and a household name in the Beijing advertisement industry, seemed like a very angry young man. His favorite words during class were “Fuck! 我肏!” and “Badass! 牛屄!” (a combination of the characters for “cow 牛” and “cunt 屄”, interestingly forming a slang expression that is best translated into something like “badass” or “awesome”). He stayed with us for a semester, then he got busted on national TV for doing narcotics.

But it’s a different Teacher Xie I was going to talk to you about today.

This is Xie Jianguang 谢建光 from Ningbo 宁波, a place not too far from Shanghai.

Teacher Xie

I chose to call him Teacher Xie – because he is a true master of walking.

…while certain others run around whining about this and that, and taking sassy pictures with digital cameras, this good man has been walking around China ever since 1983, quietly and modestly.

“I’ve been everywhere” Teacher Xie says and swirls his arms around – then he laughs: “and I’ve eaten just about everything.”

He stopped carrying a backpack at some point during the nineties. That’s when he got Linda:

Teacher Xie's cart

Wanna know something funny? Linda didn’t even have a name until today.

“What’s the name of that cart of yours?” I had asked, and Teacher Xie had looked at me in surprise: “Does it have to have a name?”

Why of course! Any good vessel required a good name!

Teacher Xie thought for a while, then he said: “can you pick a name for me? Maybe something from your country?”

I took a closer look at the cart, examining its body…

cart with newspaper clippings

…and its interior:

inside of the cart

It had to be a girl’s name of course…

I thought of plump bodies and round smiling faces, of friendliness and good health. I thought of milk and butter and eggs and bread, and I thought of wooden interiors capturing the warmth and protecting it…



Teacher Xie wanted to know what the name meant, and when I told him that I had thought of a Big Swedish Mama he laughed and asked me to write it down for him.

Teacher Xie is not a tall man:

group picture with Simba

But he’s a big man at heart, who has been trying to spread his ideals of nuclear disarmament and environmental protection wherever he goes.

More facts about Teacher Xie, he:

– is 49 years old.

– lights the next cigarette with the last one.

– comes from the countryside.

– has only done 5 years of elementary school.

– has spoken in universities on numerous occasions during his travels.

– has a liking for German philosophy, especially Nietzsche and Kant.

– doesn’t believe in any religion, but likes to study them.

– got lost for several weeks in the plains of Inner Mongolia once, living on wild herbs and river water.

– wants to stop walking when he is 65, then retire and find a nice lady to settle down with.

– thinks that tomorrow might just be the day he will meet that special lady and stop walking.

– gets money from friends and supporters, helps out as a carpenter whenever he needs quick cash.

– has lost his both his index fingers while working as a carpenter.

– calls himself “the biggest fool under the sun 天下第一疯”

serious Teacher Xie

…and he always has a valuable piece of advice:

“Listen, lad” Teacher Xie told me when we had dinner that night outside of a restaurant, “just try not to be too foolish. Of course you want to walk all the way home, and I respect that. Hey, I’d be the first to go with you if there was a chance that I could ever get the visa! But you German people just have to learn how to be a bit more flexible!

What are you going to do when you reach the Tianshan 天山 mountain range in the west of Xinjiang this winter, when it’s -30°C out there and you just can’t walk across? You’re going to have to find another way then, maybe even take a car or something.

Just remember: you’ve set the rules by yourself, and you’re always free to change them.

You can’t put yourself in danger. And try not to take too long! The way I see it, your girl is going to wait for you for a while, but nobody can wait forever. What if you finally make it home after five years, and she has already run off with someone else? – So you think you’re so awesome for walking all the way and sticking to your principles, but what good is that? It ain’t shit!!” he says, and then he laughs, leaning back, lighting another cigarette.

We took another picture with Teacher Xie’s shades on:

shady Teacher Xie

“Man, I just look so cool, don’t I?”

He said and laughed.

  • Hermann

    kluger mann. wahrscheinlich bist du seit november unterwegs, um ihn zu treffen. vor allem, was die freiheit deiner wahl in bezug auf die fortbewegung angeht. folge ihm. und auch der rat in bezug auf das mädchen ist richtig. ich habe in rio de janeiro mal einen engländer getroffen, der mit einem sarg auf vier rädern unterwegs war. so eine art fahrradsarg. er schlief in diesem sarg, er hatte alles drin und drumherum, was er so brauchte, und er hat es hingekriegt, sich seine überfahrt nach europa von irgendjemand sponsorn zu lassen. grüße


  • Norbert

    Grossartige Geschichte! Danke…


  • Florian

    Hahaha, was für eine geile und abgefahrene Geschichte. Vielleicht die beste bisher! Sehr schön – gar nicht mal so abwegig. Hast Du mal die Reisen von Klaus Bednarz gesehen oder gelesen? Also der Mann vom WDR. Der hat ja auch schon so einiges von der Welt gesehen und darüber tolle Reiseberichte verfasst! Hat sich dabei unter anderem wandernd, aber eben auch anders fortbewegt, z.B. per Schiff… Nun gut, ich denke Wandern sollte schon die Maxime bleiben – so bleibst Du Deiner Eigen treu -, aber wenn es denn mal einen Ort gibt, an dem es gar nicht mehr anders geht, dann ist das halt so… Manchmal muss man eben Kompromisse machen, um ein Ziel zu erreichen, das sich sonst unter Umständen nicht erreichen lässt.


  • ggia

    I am reading your blog 2 weeks now.. and it is a pleasure to read all your stories ;-).. incredible person the teacher Xie that you met!!


  • claudia

    mann, christoph, das war der erbaulichste und für mich bereicherndste blog-eintrag so far!
    wie weise her xie ist.



  • Mallory

    This man is very wise and you should keep him in your mind as your teacher.


  • Steven

    You two both are my idols!


  • John

    A very fortunate meeting for you! A wise man knows from whom to learn, and recognizes when it is time to listen. Listen to him!! Learn from him! I hope you can spend more time with your new Teacher Xie. Remember what Confucius said: "Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers."


  • Charlene

    wow, what a great man.


  • Alfredo

    This guy is a genius!
    Also interesting to realize that it is not true that the Chinese are (1) always working, all of them, or (2) if they ever go on vacation, they do so in a big group.


  • Patrick

    moin chris. scheint ja ein sehr interessanter mensch zu sein der lehrer.

    ich bin nun auch wieder online und werde deine reise nun täglich von hier aus begleiten 😉

    und er hat recht verdammt…dont be foolish.

    walk safe und komm heil wieder.

    and remember fettschwein is watching u…so dont fuck up


  • Corinna

    Ein sehr weiser, lebenserfahrener Gutmensch, der Herr Xie!


    Viele liebe Grüße aus der Ferne,


  • Christoph

    Sandra: 🙂
    Hermann: Haha, ein Sarg??
    Norbert: Dank ihm!
    Florian: A-Team oder MacGyver, das ist hier die Frage…
    ggia: I think so too – welcome to the way!
    claudia: Auf jeden Fall lacht er viel.
    Mallory: And a teacher he is!
    Steven: Haha, I'm a 小朋友,而已!
    John: Hehe, wise men with long beards!
    Charlene: Some might even say 牛屄.
    Alfredo: Yes, he definitely proves a point!
    Patrick: Alter, gut dass du wieder da bist!
    Corinna: Gutmensch? …da muss ich erst mal drüber meditieren…


  • wzh314



  • Osvaldo

    You are a fantastic your lessons encourage me to do something similar in Mexico, thanks a lot and greetings.


  • Christoph

    wzh314: 在德国慕尼黑读过两年汉学,后来在北京呆两年,中国哥们儿很多,所以可以说有一些基本的了解吧:)你们家山丹我很喜欢,可能今年夏天还要去一趟看看!
    Osvaldo: Thanks, dude!


  • Marsha

    I admire brave, adventurous people like you. Most persons would never think to break away from their comfortably constructed lifestyle to experience new sensations or explore past their daily routines. You are a very plucky young man ! Shall we call you Lionheart ?!


  • Fletcher


    I just finished watching your video and thoroughly enjoyed it. Its great to see another persons joy from there travels. And as for Teacher Xie, he sounds like an amazing bloke. One who would be wonderful to spend an evening with getting pissed and listening to him tell stories of his adventures. Your both inspirational, just like the great Christopher Mccandless.

    My question to you and you teacher is; I would like to travel like this as soon as I get out of school, although your video is an inspiration in it self, is there anything I should do? why do I keep procrastinating, should I just chuck some shit in a bag and go for it?



  • zhangxin



  • zhudengyu

    I want to make friends with you. But my English isn’t good.I’m a student,and i want to study English.But my English isn’t good until now.When i learn your trip. I though you are a man that have a positive man.So i want to make friends with you.And if i have a chance,i’m very will to join your trip. And welcome you to China.
    Your best friend zhudengyu


  • ahmet

    what a badass 🙂
    hail to you, teacher xie!


  • huang

    Xie is a great guy, as far as i know, he is still on his way.
    I have no idea whether it is the best way for someone to find the true meaning of the life(if this is the key question concerning the fundamental happiness lays in people’s deep heart), but the courage and indomitable behavior truly inspiring.


  • Stella

    I would think “天下第一疯” means more like “the BEST madman under the sun” rather than “the FIRST madman under the sun” 🙂

    Bro, did you use sunscreen at all? 😛


  • Milk cup

    Hey!saw you at YouTube once, you are really a


  • mostafa from Tehran-IRAN

    Our humble & great master “Teacher Xie” has a really pure soul! He is the greatest and most innocent explorer of all time…I love him guys!


  • roger

    you both are so crazy !正在读你的【徒步中国】,和你的blog一起读,感觉挺不可思议的。每次看你的视频,听到你说“hello,我是老雷”,都有一种莫名的感动。


  • Matt

    Teacher Xie has passed away, RIP.


  • 读到这里的时候,看到的新闻是谢老一月份已经去世了,被你们的精神所震撼….阻碍人前进的从来不是自己的脚步,而是自己的思想和灵魂。


  • luanyue

    老雷啊 老雷,你一定要健健康康的徒步下去,不要出现意外,你是我的精神支柱。我也喜欢徒步,我想徒步中国,也像你一样拉一台小车环游世界,可没有勇气迈出第一步。


  • Mit Doshi

    Xie !! Man 🙂 Your Spirit of the Adventure was just outstanding. Congratulations !! And god bless you.


  • Deniz Yanikoz

    In fact, you are the teacher Xie. You have the soul of teaching, Xie Jianguang is a very experienced man that can be an example to you in your teaching way. Even he’s done and ready to retire as i see. As a result dear Christoph, you need more good examples in your way improving your potential. Keep walking…


  • Mehrab Shaleen

    Wisdom is both easy and hard to come across


  • Ethan W

    He passed away in early 2018 in Heilongjiang, doing what he loved. Rip, I wish more people knew his story. People think he is mad and crazy, but he was just living life the way it should be.


  • Joshua

    Blessings for these two wise wanderers
    Philosophers meet on the road of life

    How did he pass ?


  • Masaki Ling



  • Randall

    I’m here in 2022. God bless Mr. Xie. A true inspiration.


  • Sebastian

    Thank you for that story ^^


  • congzheng zou

    great men !


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