A Winter Day in Baitian “陋室铭”

On a gloomy winter day in 2009, I visited Huanru Chen and Lanjiao Huang, who live in a dingy 10×12 room in a village in Guangdong, the richest province in South China. Though I knew about them, I was still shocked by what I saw that day. It is not the same picture presented by the media reports about China’s economic growth.

It was a typical winter day in Huanru and Lanjiao’s life. There was little to do and they tried to warm themselves by staying in bed, half covered by a quilt.  And there was little I could do, except listening to their complaints about life and revealing their living environment, proof of their struggles.

Huanru and Lianjiao lost their old house  to the  re-routed Bejing-Guangzhou railway track in 1995. Now half of their old house is under the railway, the other half unrecognizable. The compensation they received for the old house was far from sufficient, not enough to build or buy a new house.

They could have moved in with either of their sons, but they chose not to.

The older son is an irresponsible gambler, the cause of fights in the family. The situation worsened when the gambler lost his only son to drowning. Their younger son is mentally ill, and must be institutionalized from time to time.

The old couple decided to move to an abandoned  storage room in their village. It was at first a temporary shelter.  But when their grandson drowned, they spent all their savings adopting a grandson so that the family line could be continued.  As they live on limited incomes, mainly from growing vegetables, they don’t see any hope of ever moving to a better home. They will probably spend the rest of their lives in this gloomy 10×12 room, which serves as their bedroom, living room, kitchen and toilet.

Huanru and Lanjiao, who share a family tree with my family (I should call them cousin according to the family tree), live in the suburb of Heyuan, a city only two hours away from Guangzhou, the third metropolis in China.




This entry was posted in p-journal and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.