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Universal Dream Kid, Guardian of Pictographic Writing of China Ethnic Group

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He Siqi, a 14-year-old nineth grader, was calm when she learned that she was among the 10 universal dream kids selected jointly by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and Xinhua News Agency.

"I've learned to be humble in honor," said the 1.65-meter tall girl with bright eyes.

He Siqi was also one of China's Top 10 Young Pioneers in 2007, compere of Naxi Children's Art Group, third prize winner of a national kick-boxing competition and leading dancer of her school dancing troup.

But she takes greatest pride in preserving the distinctive language of her people, Naxi ethnic group in southwest China's Yunnan Province.

Naxi ethnic group with a population of 280,000 boasts one of the world's few pictographic writing systems in use -- Dongba script which was included by the UNESCO in the Memory of the World Register in 2003.

"Being one of the Naxi ethnic group, I think I shoulder the responsibility to pass on the legacy of our ancestors," He Siqi said.

"My daughter takes every opportunity to learn Dongba script, not only from my father but also from any other senior Dongba, honorific title for sage of Naxi ethnic group. Now she has grasped more than half of the script," said He Yun, He Siqi's father.

He Siqi speaks fluently the Naxi language, a rare example among the children of her age and of the Naxi ethnic group. During the Spring Festival of 2005, He Siqi, conveyed on behalf of her peers of the Naxi ethnic group new year's greetings, both in Naxi language and mandarin Chinese, to children across the globe.

"My daughter is very devoted to the Naxi culture, that's why she learns so much and so quickly," said senior He.

He Siqi spends most of the weekends and holidays reading the Dongba scripts on the walls and doorways of buildings in her hometown -- the Lijiang City with a history of over 900 years, taking notes of the pictographs she doesn't understand and helping puzzled travelers to unravel mysteries.

"The leaps of a steed comes from the teetering of a colt," He Siqi translated her favorite Dongba idiom after saying it in fluent Naxi language.

"I always wanted to learn the idiom. But I couldn't find anyone who knows it until recently when I met a Dongba in his 70s. I was really excited," He Siqi said.

He Siqi and her classmates have set up a study group, formed by students who are keen to learn Dongba pictographic writings, said a teacher surnamed Wang.

He Siqi is also an ardent environmentalist, Wang said. She told her classmates how plastic bags and waste battery can be recycled and put forward suggestions on how to make the best use of stationery and textbooks and encourage them to save every drop of water, said the teacher. "She often leads her classmates to clean up the ancient streets of Lijiang City and water trees and flowers."

"It frightens me to think of my beautiful homeland to be spoiled by pollution," He Siqi said.

(Xinhua News Agency November 15, 2009)