Wiping tears away while revealing the living conditions of Beijing “ant people”. When can university students see hope?
This issue is even heavier than 《蜗居》 ["Dwelling Narrowness"], so I hope there will be people who will pay attention to this.
“Ant people” is a description of the university graduates living in the “village in the middle of a city” ["城中村" = ghetto?]. In China, with Beijing’s Tangjiashan Village being the most representative, in this small village that can be run around in less than an hour, there live at least around 100,000 recent graduates, and the majority here are university students. I myself am a member of this group.
Let me first introduce the living environement here. Here, most of the buildings are “tongzilou” [dormitory style, one hall, two sides of rooms], provided specifically for us people who need cheap rental housing. The big units are under 20 square meters, while the small ones are only a few square meters. These units have no quality to speak of, and while those who have seen “Dwelling Narrowness” will definitely have some impression of small apartments, the units we are living in are far worse than those.
Let me first post a photograph. The units are more or less this big. (This person is not me)
A lot of people come to Beijing with their dreams. There are also those who are in Beijing to attend university who, after graduating, decide to remain in Beijing to begin their lives. Whether it is because of their family’s financial situation or the difficulty of finding jobs or other reasons, they can only choose this kind of pay-by-month and cheap dormitory style shared housing building.
Actually, amongst them I am considered relatively lucky, because my job income is relatively normal, whereas there are comrades in Tongjianshan with salaries of only 1000 or not even 1000. Even though it is like this, their jobs aren’t necessarily stable either, with some having to face the predicament of finding a job all over again every so often.
This photo is a full view of Tangjiashan, appearing a bit better in the photo than it is in reality, with only those who are live amongst it being able to experience the characteristic “ant people” atmosphere. This here is probably the best example of a “village in the middle of a city”.
This is Tangjiashan’s road. Every time after it rains, your shoes will become very dirty, and during the summer when there are heavy rains, if you are not wearing slippers or sandals, you need to wear a plastic bag on your legs.
No matter how clean you are, there is no need to wipe/clean your shoes, because when it does not rain, it is really dusty, so even the cleanest shoes will look like you just walked out of a dessert after a few steps.
Although the majority of people living here are all university students, there are also people from various parts of the country here to make a living. Only when seeing how much more bitter and difficult their living situation is can we find a shred of comfort in the deepest deepest part of our hearts, reminding ourselves that life is not easy so we must work hard! There are also people who call us:
“The unkillable young stalwarts!”
Don’t yell at me, but I was born in the city center, never having stepped foot in the countryside. Moreover, I trust there are many people who are just like me. In the past, everyone described us as society’s moths, not knowing how to do anything, but now for our ideals and our survival, we have come to an environemnt we have never been to before, to live a life we have never lived, and for an unknown period of time.
This is a good example of where we eat, the prices relatively cheap compared to other parts of Beijing. However, in Tangjiashan, only breakfast is in high demand, as most people choose to make their meals in their cramped spaces, because this can save a “considerable” amount of money. For a single guy like me, it also means beginning to make one’s own meals…
Except for me, I simply ate two boxes of instant noodles in a month. I’ve heard of people who for one week only ate mantou [buns], but here I want to remind everyone to pay attention to their bodies as a precondition to saving money, because only when your body is healthy can you work well, and only when you work well can you get closer to your ideals/dreams/hopes, so you must not let your body collapse/wear out.
A few more photographs of the living environment.
This photo has bunk beds, like a dorm room, but in the summer, it is over a hundred times more unbearable than a dorm room.
There was a post-doctorate who introduced the concept of “ant people” and conducted in-depth study. During his investigations, he said in Tangjiashan there is a man, who had graduated many years ago and originally had already moved out of Tangjiashan but because of a situation after two years of work once again moved back here. He said he could not control his tears when he looked upon the bed he had once slept in two years ago. The tears were not as a result of his attachment to the bed, but of his frustration with fate.
This photo is of a slightly cleaner one, similar to mine, but mine is far less clean than this one. Because I was already lazy, after going to work, I have even less time to tidy up.
This one, however, is simply like heaven. Looks like one definitely needs a woman in the house.
This photo is of the “ant people’s” biggest headache—-transportation!!
This is the bus stop, and nearly 10,000 people take the bus every morning here. There are over 10 bus lines/routes here, but every bus is already overcrowded when it gets here. Want to crowd on board? Keep reading…
Tangjiashan is located on the fifth ring of Beijing, with the normal commute time to work being around 1-2 hours, but with this many people every morning waiting for the crowded busses to arrive at this stop, each bus on average can only board 4-5 more people. What more, there are even people specially assigned to push us into the bus doors, otherwise the bus doors cannot close!
If you want to squeeze onto the bus, you must accomplish the following points:
1. You can’t be afraid to die, and chase after the bus door before the bus has stopped.
2. You must have a combination of strength and speed, able to push aside the surrounding people before the moment the bus door opens and jump on.
3. You must have luck, because no matter how hard you try, you will sometimes still encounter an even stronger opponent, and sometimes the bus will not even stop.
I have waited over two hours without getting on a bus before.
And every day there will be incidents of people falling down while crowding. In such a chaotic situation, who still pays attention to whether or not there are people underneath their feet?
I heard that there was a girl who had fallen during the crowding and was stepped on by many people. I don’t even know what to say…
I’ll stop posting for now, it is a little unbearable continuing.
These photographs were all reposted from elsewhere, but the content was all written by me. Moreover, it is all the truth. If anyone wants to see, I will go back and take some even more realistic photos.
Why come here to struggle [pursue a life/career] is something that is difficult to explain. There will be some who succeed and it is destined that some will fail too, but we at least still have a measure of perseverance, and perhaps our faith today will be useful for a lifetime.
“The undefeatable young stalwarts” have a difficult live, but they are very persevering/long-suffering.
I’ll stop here. I’m lucky I can use a computer to type, because if I were using a pen to write, I might be unable to hold back my tears, and my writing would have been wasted if the tears fell on the paper.
Comments from Mop:
I see a street full of family planning clinics and love hotels. University students these days need some ambition, why is it necessary to live in Beijing or Shanghai? To put it simply, in these cities, for powerless students, there are already no more opportunities. The way out/forward for future university students is to live in small cities to develop their career.
Although I am not like the LZ and the people above working in distant places [away from their hometown], struggling for their own ideal [life], but as a post-80s generation university graduate, I feel it is very difficult for us, and I sympathize with you guys, and at the same time support your diligent efforts to rise up…
I graduate this year in Shenzhen. The situation is about the same, very perplexing~~no matter where.
Being so miserable in Beijing, maybe going home would be a bit better.
I heard this from a co-worker.
For a time after he graduated, he went to Guangzhou, but had not yet found a job.
Guangzhou’s summers are unbearable, and he and his school truly could not endure it, so they jointly spent 8 kuai and bought a tiny ceiling fan from a street vendor,
so the two of them could both enjoy the bit of slight cool.
At this moment, his schoolmate sighed and said:
Tell me, we haven’t yet found jobs yet we’ve already spent this money, are we being too luxurious?
Pretty much most people who just arrived in Beijing have lived in those kind of places, and I trust things will. Everything is difficult in the beginning, right? Hope you will get out of the “sea of misery” soon.
Lou zhu, don’t be sad, I too just graduated, so feelings are particularly intense. Since you’ve already decided to stay in Beijing, isn’t it all for your future? Remember how the Communist Party stayed in the Yanan caves for several years when they were fighting for the country? Stay strong and I believe happiness will come knocking on your door!
After comparing with the LZ, I’ve realized how lucky I am, and regret the sad realities…an unspeakable society…
I don’t get it, what is great about Beijing?
Not a local yet still struggling to go there, unable to eat well, unable to live well, and jobs are hard to find. Even if you find a job, then what? The cost of living is high, so after food and shelter, what little money are you able to save?
Is it just so that when you go home for Chinese New Year’s you can boast: I live in Beijing?
I support the lou zhu, I too am living in Tangjiashan.
Every day I have to get out of bed at 6am to go to work.
By the time I get back, it is already 8pm.
It feels even more tiring than the last year of high school.
When I was in school, I used to think how great it would be to begin working after graduating, but upon exiting the school gates I felt that reality was too brutal. Lou zhu, jia you! I too just graduated. I feel the same way. Reading your post, I have an indescribable feeling in my heart. Perhaps university students are just like this post, never able to get the majority’s attention.
my life was like a videotape,
I must find the part of the tape when I was 22-years-old.
I must restart, restart recording.
I would have chosen
to be with my lover,
gone back home,
buy a small home,
to be with my children,
to be with my dad and mom together,
and live a calm and stable life.
Maybe this kind of life
is what I really want.
Why bother? Making a living away from home in Beijing? Your salary will never catch up to the increase of housing prices. Trying to set down roots in Beijing without owning a house/apartment is essentially not setting down roots in Beijing!
Have you graduated from university? What was your life situation, experiences, and feelings after graduating and began working in the world?