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Peasant Girl: My Life Is Miserable Because I Am Poor

On September 6, a poster named 我是农家女(“I Am A Peasant Girl”) posted on Sina: “Late 70s Peasant Girl’s hopeless survival, would rather be a mistress than marry a poor person.”

I know that after seeing this topic, you will all scold me, but may those who have the energy to scold me please carefully finish reading the content below, then consider if I should be scolded.

I was born in a remote hamlet in the north of China. I have heard from someone, who never been to the genuine villages, that the countryside is very nice. But in fact, no public road was built and the nearest bus stop is 20 kilometres away, so we always had to walk on foot or ride a bicycle to get out of the village. The street in the village was made of soil and was not flat. On a sunny day, wind with sound and soil blew you. On a rainy day, rain with the mud poured you. The mud on the road was added with shit from animals raised by villagers, because animals always shit on the road but not in their own country yard to keep it tidy and clean. No fresh vegetables were supplied to the villagers in the whole year because only radishes and cabbage were planted there. It also had sweet potato, if that is a vegetable. So, as dishes, what they could have were only salted radishes and cabbage. Some may ask, why did we not fry? The truth was that there was not much cooking oil for frying because of poverty, so fried dishes were always rare for them except in the case of Spring Festival or when some relatives come for dinner. I remember I had my first “you tiao” [a fried bread stick] in the dining hall at my university. And health care was not ensured either. Take my grandpa for example,  he couldn’t help but wait for death once he fell sick. After he was sent to the hospital ran by the State, they refused to diagnose my grandpa even though we knelt down begging them to cure him. The reason was simply because we did not have 2 yuan for medicine. We could do nothing but see my grandpa die in the hospital. Some may say that the countryside is developing these days. But the truth is that there has been almost no change for my village since I was born. I really cannot say whether change will happen or not in my life.

I was born at the end of the 1970s. We had 5 children, including me, 3 sisters and 1 brother. Some people may wonder why my mother had so many children if my family was so poor? These people may not understand China clearly. These days, only really poor people or rich people can have more than one child, and we belonged to the poor group. In the countryside, in my opinion, there are 2 reasons for having more children. First, no entertainment in the countryside. So after working in the daylight, sometimes having sex on the “kang” (bed made by soil and brick) at night may be the only amusing thing for them. Although they did not want more children, no one told them effective means of contraception. I saw with my own eyes that my mother wanted to abort using tied rope or eating tobacco ash for contraception. The second reason was the traditional concept and environment of the countryside. There must be a man in every home because working in the countryside is so hard that only men can deal with them, so people in the countryside always held the concept that birthing a boy in every generation is necessary for the continuance of the family. If you could not give birth to a boy, you would be looked down upon. Before my brother was born, my mother was always looked down upon by my family members, I was always hit by other children and had the nickname of ‘jue-hu-guo,” meaning “no boy no generation continuance.”

The goodness of the farm is not what you think because of the poor and narrow opinions of countryside life. At that time, there were several children in every family, and every child struggled for subsistence without caring for others. I remembered that when I was 5 years old, my parents had gone to work farming, I took care of my sister at home, and one of my neighbours came to borrow a kitchen knife but also secretly stole a dinner pan. After my parents came back, they found the pan missing, so they went to that neighbour, but failed to get the pan back because my neighbour refused to acknowledge that he took the pan away. The result of this was that I was beat fiercely by my parents and we cooked without the pan for a long period.

And another time when I was 9 years old, I saw a sister-in-law in my village stealing the cotton from  my uncle’s field, then she was caught by my uncle and warned that he would show villagers what she did. In order to prevent this, she promised that she could have sex with my uncle if my uncle would set her free. Then my uncle had sex with her in the field. I did not know what they did when I was 9 years old, but after I realized the meaning of what happened, it made me feel sick every time I thought of it. But, in the end, what they did was discovered and spread in my village. My uncle probably told some people, but that sister-in-law thought I had told my mother and that my mother spread it to the villagers, so she came to the gate of my home and scolded for several days. After that, I was beat by her on my way home and she hurt my mouth. When my mother asked what happened with my mouth, I lied that I was not careful and had a fall. I did not think to tell them the truth because I was afraid that my mother would go quarrel with her and cause a bigger conflict. I knew that, at that time, it was difficult for my mother to raise us. In brief, there are good people and bad people anywhere, and farmers are not synonymous with goodness either.

I was the first and only female undergraduate in my village. As a girl, it was a miracle that I could get into university from a place where boys could not always get an education. My father made all of this come true. My father is a veteran, his outside experiences led him to send me to be educated. His original intention was that I could read the characters and distinguish the toilet. At that time, we had to go to the school approximately 10 kilometres away. There were dozens of children for primary school, but after graduating from primary school, I was the only one that persisted with studying.

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I had 2 reasons for that, one was that I had worked so hard. I always represented my school to compete with others from primary school to middle school, so my father might get the hope of getting out of the countryside through my excellent performance. Second reason was that when I was in school, I could do some work made of grass at the same time. We called it “cao-bian,” which can be used for the straw making. In that period, a “cao-bian” could sell for 0.2 yuan, and I could knit 5. I never did my homework or notes in class, I earned money when I was at school. This is another reason that I could continue my education. But my 3 other sisters paid the price by dropping their studies for my continued education. My youngest sister went to the brick plant with my father to carry bricks, my thin and weak father pulled the handcart and she assisted him by pushing it. They had to carry the brick to the place 2 kilometres away, and the whole process only could earn them 0.2 yuan.

Then I went to middle school. I lived at school and far away from home, so I stopped knitting the “cao-bian.” I was always the youngest student, because I had skipped several grades. I was also mature for my age because I knew that it is very difficult to get an education, and if I could get out of school early, I could start earning money earlier. So I got into campus at the age of 16.

I chose to go to university because of the existing financial support from the government for students in campus. If you could get a high score, you could pay less for your education. I could get 40 yuan to 60 yuan for living expenses every month. I spent nearly 600 yuan when I got into university. A fat pig my father had been raising for a long time was sold for this 600 yuan. If it was like the present standards, it would have been impossible for me to continue my campus life at that time. Although I got 50 yuan every month, I could save 20 yuan to post back for my family. I ate very simply every day, I never bought clothes and wore the uniform every day. I never used makeup either. The campus life made me realize how degrading being poor was. I had no friends on campus, first because I was younger and did not have similar topics with my dorm-mates. We rarely had a chance to chat with each other because I always came back to the dorm late after working to earn money to live. So, it might be unbelievable to you that I did not recognize all my classmates completely in 4 years’ studying, but this is the truth. They were enjoying their lives on campus but I was making a living. Second reason was the different experience of growing up. At that time, usually only those whose families were well-off could get into university, so my classmates could not understand my life and also looked down upon my dress. I remembered that a mother of my classmates even demanded to adjust the dorm for her daughter, since she thought her baby daughter could not live with a little beggar like me. In fact, my clothes were not dirty, they were tidy and neat but old. I had a strong capacity for self-care, I knew how to dress up myself and clean my clothes, but I was so poor that I could not buy new ones. What I wore was usually given by my relatives. And if it was unsuitable for me, I would pitch it and post back home for sisters. Some clothes had to be re-seamed for others, such as underwear, if it became old. I was good at sewing and I even sewed a beautiful skirt for my sister out of a sheet thrown out by my classmate. The fine working made those who ever looked upon me all supposed that it was as same as the one they bought.

The governmental policy changed when I graduated from university scarcely. They would not take responsibility for the jobs of graduates who had to find jobs by themselves. It was impossible for me to go back to my home town, first reason was that I was no longer suitable for the life of the countryside, another one was that I would be a negative example for the villagers: 4 years’ learning in city resulted in nothing but going back home. This would be their excuse to persuad their children to drop learning. I had to live in the city, and it was impossible for me, not like others, to find a suitable job slowly. I had to find a job that could offer me dinner and a place to live, since I had no money in my pocket and I mustn’t ask for money from my family either, I had to earn money by myself. In order to earn money, I changed several jobs and cities. My mother needed money for medicine, my brother needed money for learning and my sister needed money for skill learning. But, I found what I earned was not enough and was not very much, even thought I was very thrifty.

My brother’s high tuition fees of 10 thousand yuan scared me and my family extraordinarily. We could not get the certificate of loan because the village head did not want to attest to our poverty. Only those who were orphans or only had a single parent without self-reliance could get the certificate, but my family did not belong to those categories because I had graduated from university and had a job to earn money. In fact, the reason of this was so simple. The village head envied 2 undergraduates in my family and he deliberately wanted to make it difficult for my family because he was always the king of the village. I could not borrow money from my neighbours firstly because they were so poor too, second because they were not fervent and kind-hearted in that kind of environment. If you were poorer than your neighbours or relatives, they would look down upon you because they were afraid that you would come to borrow money; but if you were rich, they would come to please you for benefits from you. My family was poor because of the high tuition fees of my brother. Guys without education went out to work for construction and earned some money, and if it was busy in the village, they could come back for busy season. But I and my brother could do nothing after graduating from university because we had not enough power to do some works in the countryside.

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After that, I followed my father to the university where my brother was studying and brought some presents to seek help from the vice-chancellor. He promised us to let us pay the tuition fees by stages. However, the money was not enough either. At that time, I feel how difficult a person subsisted, I even thought of suicide. I just wanted to study hard to find a good job and earn money for my family before, but in fact, a girl from the village, without good-looks and English skills (in schools of villages, English was not a course), trying to find a good job was so difficult. I was not willing to indulge myself, so I felt everything was meaningless without aims. The idea of suicide always emerged in my brain, but if you wanted to die, you had to choose some way that benefited yourself. In order to get enough money for my brother and my family, I could sacrifice my life. Finally, being hit by a car was my choice. In a tangled street, I found an expensive car to collide with, I also put my ID in pocket, if this would come true, my family would get some compensation from the owner of the expensive car who would never care about it. This idea, however, was so impudent, I did really. When I went to collide with the car, the driver stopped his car quickly without injuring me. Instead of dying after being hit by a car, I was beaten damnably by him. But after his angry hitting, he took me to the hospital. What I said may be beyond someone, but everything I have described is the truth, I described the whole story so simply, but this is the truth and most valuable memory in my life. The driver sent me to the hospital and asked me if I wanted to die. I nodded my head and told him my story, then he gave me five thousands yuan and left. This was the man I met who helped me the most, I did not know what his name was or what he did, but I always wanted to find him to thank him. But before I found him, he was detained by police for drug trade. I got his name after the police came to find me when investigating him, and the name I will remember for my whole life. Please do not suspect the truth of this story, though I may not have described everything very well. After the case was published on the local newspaper I knew he got life imprisonment, and I remembered the police that investigated me. Then I went to jail to find him, I got nothing but was conned 100yuan by the police who were working in the jail. Up to now, I did not know the place where he was kept.

I am in Shanghai now, I came here because I heard the salaries here are high. But as a girl who is from the countryside, nearly at the age of 30 and without English skills, finding a job with high salary is almost impossible. Even as an officer in a company, the salary was only 1800 yuan without bonus. I share a rented apartment with others and have to pay 600 yuan every month for it. I also had to post 800 yuan to my family and that left me 400 yuan for my daily life, including dinner, traffic and others expenses. In order to save money, I always have one meal a day. The most terrible thing for me is being sick. Once I had fallen sick, not only did I lose my salary, I also failed to pay the rent and medicine cost. The medicine cost in Shanghai is high. I fainted and was sent to the hospital because of malnutrition. After I got to the hospital, I woke up and the doctors said I was OK. But doctors checked me a lot and gave me a bill of more than 1000 yuan. It really was a dreadful bill for me. Now, I lost my job because of China national identity card. I was fired during the Olympic Games period because I got my national identity card when I was in school and now it is expired. I even went back to my village to keep my hukou, but they refused me for the reason that my hukou did not belong there because of my education. Then, I went to the town for that, but I got nothing either. So I just have the hukou booklet which cost me 200 yuan. Without a job, my financial resources will be cut off and I may be evicted by my landlord since I cannot pay the rent, and I may die of hunger. Before my death, I summarize my miserable life was just because of poverty.

I rented an apartment with 3 other girls when I first came to Shanghai. But we have completely different lives after several years. One of us has become a concubine to a man from Hong Kong. She lives in a top house, wears famous brands, has expensive dinners, and she gets spending money of 10,000 yuan per month. Another one went on the streets in the night clubs. She will not worry about her bread and cheese, however, being a prostitute is always disgusting. The third one married a guy from the countryside, they worked hard together and earn 5000 yuan a month. Although they have to rent an apartment, they feel happy. Their biggest dream is to earn enough money to buy a house in their hometown. It is just a dream to buy a house in Shanghai for them. But now, her husband is ill and was fired by his company. He is recuperating at home now. There are no safeguards for people who do not belong to this city so she has to pay the rent, water and gas fee. She also has to spend money for her husband’s medicine with her little salary. Working during the day, washing and making dinner at evening, the difficult life changed her a lot. They do not dare to have a baby because they can not afford the cost of raising a baby. It is so hard for her but her husband’s mother always asks for money, because it was very difficult for his family to help her husband graduate from university, so they need her to return what they have paid for that. This girl once told me that if you want to marry, you had better not marry a poor man, because 2 poor people will only get a poorer life, so you should marry a man who has an apartment and you would not have to fear eviction at any time. I am not a concubine because I have no chance to be. But if someone wants me, I think I will be a concubine for him. What I ask for is not so high, I just want to find a place to live and have every meal. I think this is better than a prostitute.

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Comments from Sina:

legend张:

Terrible fate. However, being open-minded, if you want to be a concubine, you still need to find a good man.

chutianpeng1:

Were all concubines and mistresses forced by reality to be what they are? If they were really forced to be helpless, then perhaps they deserve some sympathy; otherwise if your life has not been forced to that level, just lead a normal life!

老头 (lao tou):

After reading your experience, I feel very bad, I also am similar to you, but I am very willing to help you, please contact me after reading this message, QQ351720201.

缘思梦境 (yuan si meng jing):

Ai! This is just how society is these days, without money you are nothing, with money you are part of the elites. Good luck! I will always support you.

一杯咖啡半包烟 (yi bei ka fe ban bao yan):

You have also been scared by poverty. To be honest, who is willing to be a concubine/mistress?

济南浪溪河 (jin an lang xi he):

Life really is hopeless sometimes, I can understand your suffering, hope you can stay strong, strong, and more strong.

tgrwf1:

To tell the truth, you writing this kind of hing as a Chinese university graduate is embarrassing to Chinese university graduates.
Second, according to when you said you were born and when you went to university, you should have graduated before 2000. At that time, the number of university graduates were not many, and many could participate in exams for local government positions. Those test subjects should not have been difficult for a humanities student, so why did you not participate in this kind of test?
You so-called university student makes people suspicious.

xxx2608:

A female university graduate, and you are afraid of dying of hunger? My child suffers from congenital immunodeficiency disease, cannot be cured, must depend on injected immunoglobulin his whole life, an injection once every four week, each injection needs 3 immunoglobulin, each 400 yuan, the dosage increasing with his age and weight. We are from the countryside, without any insurance, we are the truly helpless!

霜冷青河 (shuang leng qing he):

Those who are criticizing the poster have never personally experienced what she has gone through. I completely understand and completely sympathize with the lou zhu’s circumstances. Lou zhu, if you are free we can talk, I will risk my life to help you once.

到底是鬼装的人 (dao di shi gui zhuang de ren):

All I want to say is, at the time when you first got into university, China did not yet have many university students, right? If so, finding a job simply was effortless. (For example, according to your educational qualifications) Why can you not support yourself? This is obviously a problem with your ability, you cannot blame others or society!

吾苯善良 (wu ben shan liang):

Poverty chills ambition, are you even willing to accept a wealthy but uncharitable man who keeps mistresses?
If you cannot solve the problem of survival–go be a concubine or mistress–if you cannot solve the problem of dignity–what is the point of surviving?
A person who is ignorant can only be happy! But you have knowledge, can you be happy selling your dignity?
Look before you leap.

barry:

I support you, you have integrity. As a 80s generation university student, I profoundly know that this society requires us to have academic qualifications and skills, so I resigned from a stable job in a state owned enterprise. A person who does not think about the future will have problems with the present. Even though I am very poor right now, I have several opportunities to choose from, because I work very hard, spending almost 15 hours every day learning, so I am full of confidence for my future. No matter what, do not give up hope.

青砖客 (qing zhuan ke):

A lot of writing.
I can relate to your emotions. This world may indeed be this brutal.
We have a teacher who once said: The poor will get poorer, the rich will get richer.
So if lou zhu really has no other choice, and has thought to go become a prostitute, then it can be considered a choice of last resort.

danzhu12:

What is a university diploma worth? Do not think that going to college will automatically result in a good job! In reality, this diploma only gives you a foundation/platform. How high you can jump, how far, depends on your own ability and diligence. Of course, your family background and luck are also important. Today’s university students, actually not just university students, even the children of peasant families who have never gone to college, are all already different from those 20 years ago, with less down to earth, less able to bear headships, etc. character.  But these are exactly what is needed to enter society and what is needed to be successful (except for those with advantageous family backgrounds)!

diaochayuan2008:

My wife is from the countryside, her family is very poor, and up to now her old father of over 60-years-old must work, her mother manages the farm at home, everyday eating vegetables (no meat). She is not very pretty, but has a lot of will, studied hard, got a scholarship. I was attracted to this, to her getting a good diploma and then finding a good job. Marrying her, I am very satisfied.
If you are so afraid of being poor that you can throw away everything and use supporting the family as an excuse to go become a concubine/mistress, then go, and see what the result is. I can tell you a precedent: getting rid of all previous concubines/mistresses, being gotten rid of, made a toy, no dignity,  you may not fear not having food or clothes but you can only feed yourself, or even having to find for your your own food or clothes, or reversed the man uses the money you earn.

lyf_0103:

The essence of man is an animal with thoughts.
Living is to do something meaningful, not to covet a life of pleasure.
Lou zhu cannot find a job, the feeling of being unemployed I can understand.
But you must live with integrity. This way an employer will accept you. If you lose your dignity, who will employ you? Ask yourself, who would date employ you?

The Sina topic has so far been viewed over 1.5 million times with almost 5,000 comments, and has been reposted on other BBS forums like Sohu.

An update to this post can be found here: CCTV Investigates Peasant Girl’s BBS Forum Post

See also:

Note: These images are not related to the above story, poster, or comments. They are from a series of pictures titled on QQ News in 2007 called “The real lives of the poor people’s children.”

Written by Shaohua

Shao-hua is a Chemical/Project Engineer for the German Linde Group, and one of the largest gas and engineering companies. His working site is a Linde Group plant in Taiyuan of Shanxi province.

He graduated from Xi'an Jiaotong University in 2006 with a major in Chemical Engineering. he soon found a job with the Linde Group as an Operation Trainee working for their joint venture with TISCO (Taiyuan Iron Steel Company), one of China's largest steel producers. As a employee of a international company, English is a very important tool for communications. In order to improve his English level, he particularly enjoys reading western media such as the Economist and the Guardian, which are his favorites, and he especially focuses on opinions of China. he became a translator for chinaSMACK in September, 2008, and posted his first and second articles with the help of Fauna.

His biggest dream is to go to the Linde Group in Germany and experience what is truly international. he is now working hard to make this come true, not only through my English, but also through my professional knowledge.

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