Chinese Brick Kiln Laborers And Their Children

Brick kiln workers in China.

Brick kiln workers in China.

From a Sina blog:

Kiln workers and their children

Chinese laborers bathing from buckets at a brick kiln in China.
Look at this brick kiln, with its round dome, broad and vast like a palace or castle.
A Chinese brick kiln worker with a dirty face and a tear.
Look at this face, in the roasting heat, bathed in sweat every day.
A little girl, the daughter of brick kiln workers in China.
Look at this kiln worker's pretty daughter, so innocent, yet likewise having to endure hardship (Looking at this picture, I just noticed that her right hand has been burned and disabled).


It’s just by chance that I came to take these photos. A friend, researching online, found a place called Egret Island, in a village called Hengxi. I had planned to take photos of the egrets, but after arriving there not only did I not find them, but found a brick kiln instead. I’ve always wanted to know how bricks are made and to take photos of the process, and thus I ended up spending four weeks there.

Brick Kiln Synopsis:

The kiln seen in this post is a wheel kiln, also known as a ring kiln, a kind of continuous kiln. The locals say it’s the kind that you pay for with your life. The organization and operation of of wheeled kilns, when compared with tunnel kilns, means they produce less, are less efficient, have poorer working conditions, and require more intensive labour. For this reason, in 1999, national industry policy decreed that ceramic wheel kilns were to be eliminated as obsolete designs.

Photography Impressions:

  1. The workers that make a living here (there are also some child laborers between 10 and 20 years old) simply work too hard, every day in the heat they carry tons of unfired bricks and finished product, working day and night. They have no work insurance, or days off. They work every day in the heat, dust and sweat.
  2. The kiln workers’ living conditions are appalling. The kiln’s women and children likewise endure the same hardships on the brickyard.
  3. The red brick kiln looks old, ashy, dusty, and neglected, but speaking as a photographer, once you’ve selected your angle and composition, after using a wide-angle, you will be stunned by the image of the warm domes, a kind of unexpected scale and size.
  4. Of course, as a documentary photographer, the artistry of the picture and the fate of the workers, as well as the ordinary common people’s living conditions, cannot be compared.

Thoughts While Reviewing Photographs:

Looking at the pictures while looking online for information, it turns out that this fiery red kiln was built on what was originally farmland. that the villagers’ complaints have, to this day, not been addressed (see additional image), and that there are signs that the brick kiln also uses child labour (see additional image). After the illegal and serious labor problems of some “black” [illegal] brick kilns in Shanxi province were exposed, it gained the close attention of President Hu Jintao and other high-level leaders of the central government. It looks like in some far-off areas, this problem still exists. But if that’s the case, what about the local party officials under whose nose this is going on? Where are the management practices of the local government with regard to enterprises in the village? Do they even care after they receive payment?

The mountains of Quzhou Hengxi.
Hengxi, Quzhou is a place of beautiful scenery, and looking online, Egret Island is located here. From a distance, that curling mists are beautiful.
A smoke stack rises from a brick factory in Hengxia China.
Upon closer inspection, that curling mist is actually coming from this huge chimney.
A brick kiln in Quzhou, China.
Entering the kiln, a wave of heat hits you. This is what they call, “the kiln you pay for with your life”, which is to say that bricks come and go but there are always bricks that remain to be fired.
Workers stacking bricks at a kiln in China.
Workers piling unfired bricks without stopping.
Carts of brickes to be stacked at a Chinese kiln.
The first cart hasn't even been unloaded yet before the next one has arrived.
Workers stacking bricks at a kiln in China.
Unfired bricks on one side, the finished bricks on the other. Day and night, night and day, the work never finishing.
Sweaty workers take a break wiping themselves down.
Maybe because it was just too hot, or maybe because they were covered in sweat and dust, several kiln workers take a moment to wipe themselves down in a corner.
Chinese kiln workers washing themselves.
Maybe because they knew they were being photographed, they kept their underpants on as they washed, and kept their backs to the camera.
Chinese brick kiln workers washing themselves.
After washing themselves like this, they look much refreshed.
A brick kiln in Quzhou, China.
This is where they work 24 hours a day. It looks like a castle, but it's hot, and dusty.
A Chinese brick kiln worker pulls a cart.
This a worker who carries unfired bricks from outside. An easy job.
The dusty ground of a Chinese brick kiln.
Under such intense labor, no one Working so hard, no one appreciates the shadows of the setting sun or the arcs in the ground made by the wheels.
A 10-year-old Chinese boy boading bricks onto a cart.
This little boy just passed his 10th birthday. Every day he loads up tens of carts. On his little hand are some bleeding cuts.
A little boy pulling a cart at a brick kiln in Hengxia, China.
After loading up the cart, he has to cart them away himself. I don't know how the owner of the kiln can live with himself, employing such a young child.
An elliptical entrance for the coal at the brick kiln.
This is an ellipse-shaped entrance for the brick kiln's coal, around and around, burning without end.
A 5-year-old Chinese girl pumps her own water at a brick kiln in China.
The five-year-old daughter of one of workers pumps her own water.
Another little girl, the daughter of a brick kiln worker, drinking water.
Another kiln worker's daughter is also drinking just-pumped well water.
A mosquito or fly on a little girl's face.
Here there are a lot of mosquitoes and flies, and one has landed on this girl's face.
A little girl at a brick kiln in China.
This girl looks obviously malnourished, like a child without a mother.
Women and children at a brickyard and kiln in Quzhou, China.
The women and children at the brickyard too must endure hardships.
Bricks drying in the sun in China.
Some fired bricks, drying in the sun. This place used to be 30mu of farmland, was from 2003 on was illegally occupied to build a brickyard.

A screenshot of a government website regarding the brick kiln at Hengxi, Quzhou, China.
Coincidentally, this happens to the be the only piece of information about Hengxi Village that can be found on the internet, which is that the Hengxi Village brickyard is illegally occupying farmland (the screenshot is of the Quzhou disciplinary inspection commission website). It appears that this problem has not truly been solved.


Written by maxiewawa

Native English speaker who'd like to make a living from translating some day. Until then continuing to teach English.


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