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A Chinese Man's Struggle (5)
A Poor Man's Lonely Festival

10 January 2009

The following is an English translation of the core text of a Chinese post currently appeared on China's online forum. The author, a man from poor rural area with college education, tells his true story (as he so claims) of how he struggles with his career and marriage in a big city:

1, I Didn't Want to Give UP
2, I Took up Challenge
3, I Gave Up
4, I Was Left On My Own

by 农笑非
6 Nov 2008

Chinese new year arrived.

I returned home on the eve and told my wife the true reason for my 28-days absence. She reproached me for not letting her know when I was at hospital, but also refrained from letting her parents know about my illness - she didn't want to make them concerned for us. My mother-in-law did not mention about the insurance fees either.

As usual, on the lunar new year's day, the relatives of my wife's extended family would come to pay new year call, and the guests would include my wife's cousins and their husbands. One of the husbands is a Post-PhD research fellow in the United States and becomes the proud of my wife's extended family. I often heard my mother-in-law mentioned him to her friends.

During her busy preparation for the new year's day lunch, my mother-in-law did not forget to tell my wife to buy a set of new clothes for me. My wife was helping doing cooking in kitchen, and just gave me 300 yuans for me to find new clothes for myself.

I understood my shabby appearance would make my in-laws lose face before the relatives.

I wandered in streets with my son. The atmosphere of festivity was thick, and the mood of the crowd buoyant. Watching the streams of the gaily holiday shoppers, I felt so lonely and desolate. Soon my son was drawn to a firecracker's stall and refused to leave empty handed. So I decided not to worry about my new clothes and bought him 120 yuans of firecrackers instead. When we approached home, I pretended to talk to someone on my mobile phone and made sure my wife and in-laws could hear my voice. Once at home, I return 180 yuans to my wife and told her that I had to meet an important business associate who just arrived in the city from Shanghai.

My in-laws said nothing. They understood that I tried to make everyone's life a bit easier, and my wife just silently stuffed a 100-yuan note in my hand. When I walked out the home and closed the door behind me, I heard a loud cry burst out from the other side of the door, which was from my son.

During the entire festival season, I stayed at my brother's rental room alone. My brother returned to the village to spend the festival with our parents. Of course, he would not reveal my true circumstance to them.

The room was tiny and scruffy, containing only a plank bed, a shaky desk and a refurbished laptop, but before leaving, my brother stored enough rice, noodle and oil for me. I lie on bed watching television on the laptop during daytime, and occasionally cooked a bowl of noodle when felt hungry; at night, I ambled through streets and squares watching neo-lights and fireworks, and pondered where my life was going. I dared not to fancy how to be successful, but I did need to think hard how to survive.

The easiest way out might be to return to village and live a life as a peasant again. But I knew it wasn't practical. It isn't a news for a peasant to go to college and move to city, but it will be a scandal for college graduate to return to the farmland.

The tragic truth is that we are constantly unable to manage our lives in our own best interest, but frequently based on other people's expectations.


As the U.S. financial crisis has now affected China, my income has been reduced by half, while work pressure doubled. I work in a state run organisation which used to be an iron rice bowl, but since we now have to sign employment contract, we've lost job security, and my boss loves to intimidate staff with sack. I have to bear all these because I have a family to support.

The pressure in life is both constraints and opportunities. It may bring some people down to their knees, but could also help others to grow stronger and rise up to the occasion.


I swear, if my husband fails in his business, I will keep supporting him.


Now I have no income, and my girlfriend has just given me 200 yuans. I think I'm responsible for this difficult situation because I haven't done my best. And I believe, as long as I do not give up, I will eventually succeed.

I graduated from college two years ago and lost my job 20 days ago, but I'll begin a new job next Monday. I hope it's a good start and I will work hard to keep this position.

My dream is to be able to look after my parents and bring them a better life as they shall deserve.


I am tearful as I'm reading your post.

I was born in 80s as the second child of my parents so my family was severely penalised. Until I went to junior high, those family planning people would still come to demand fines. My parents were very poor and made a great effort to support my high school education, while those heartless folks showed no sympathy for us at all. My mother would scream at them: She's already gown taller than me, and you still want to punish us for bringing her to this world! Each time that would bring great sorrow to my heart, and made me swear inwardly that when I grew up I would work hard to earn a lot of money for my parents.

As soon as I graduated from junior high, I immediately started work, and at the first month, I received 1,500 yuans of payment, of which I sent 1,400 yuans to my parents. With only 100 yuans in my pocket, I experienced a great financial difficulties, and had no money to see doctor when I was sick. But I had no regrets as I knew I had helped my parents.

After changed several jobs, I began to earn more, but still I sent the most of them back to my parents since my dad was diagnosed for lung disease and needed money for treatment. Once I was terribly sick, but I neither could afford to go to hospital nor took a break. Sometimes I was so tired that I felt I just wanted to leave my job and go home. But of course, I know I must not. I need to help my parents and make them feel proud of me before our relatives and fellow villagers.


Hi, whoduthinkur, my experience is fairly similar to yours. I was born as a second child, and have worked for five years, still I don't have any saving yet, as I sent all my money to my poor parents since they are quite ill. I just left my previous job due to my own misjudgment, and each day I spent most of time looking for work online. There aren't many vacancies available nowadays and sometimes I feel I'm going to break down completely. Often I woke up in the midnight, lying on the bed and crying my heart out. However, when my parents phone me, I had to pretend everything is okay and I am still working, because I don't want to make them worried for me.


I'm 27 and live in a tiny house which would not even allow me to turnaround without bumping into something. Nevertheless, I still have to pay 500 yuans of monthly rental fee - Hangzhou is an expensive city to live - on top of 2000 yuans a month to repay the debt we borrowed for our wedding. Each day after work I just go home straight way, since I don't have much money in my pocket, and I haven't bought a clothes for years. When got sick, I grinded my teeth to get through it as I couldn't afford hospital bills. Your post brings tears into my eyes.


I'm pretending I'm at work, but in fact I am in an Internet bar reading your post.

My son is just ten-month old and financially looked after by my parents, as my wife is also unemployed.

Each Tuesday, Friday and Saturday I rush around searching for jobs, but forever see the same folks pretending hiring new staff - seems they never find anyone.

农笑非 7 Nov 2008

The day flew by so fast and soon the Chinese new year festival was over, by then everyone would return to his former position in life and I had to find my place to go.

I knew there was no real opportunity for me in waste disposal business, since I possess no expertise or equipments. But apart from that, what else I could do?

I saw only one solution for me: to work in a construction field as a manual labourer.

6, I Became A Peasant Labourer

(Chinese text:

Prev: A Philanthropic Facade for the CIA
Next: A Fireworks Show


188 Million People Are Rushing Home for Chinese New Year Festival

30 Dec 2008 in Beijing railway station, a peasant worker on his way to return to his village for Chinese New Year festival 2009 on 26 January

30 Dec 2008 in Beijing railway station, college students on their way home for Chinese New Year holiday

(Source of info and original photos by: 新华网 文涛摄)

Let's Share Good Times and Bad Moments

For the first time in history, Chinese government is to provide living subsidy for Chinese new year festival to the unemployed, low income earners, elderlies in rural areas without age pensions and other disadvantaged groups. The total cost is estimated to be around 9 billion yuans. (Source of info: 陈朴,中广网)

舜峰人 (

A relative of mine is an amputee and got her false leg installed for free at a state run hospital. Her husband isn't well and can't work so they are dependent on government subsidies. Another relative kindly offered his own job to her elder son and now the son has bought a flat in a county town and brought his parents to live with him.

My relative also helps on living costs by selling fruits. When I returned China for visit, I witnessed some naughty kids grabbed fruits from her stall and ran away, and all she could do was to curse the little villains. But at home, her son takes good care of her and her husband, and would bring rice bowls to his seniors with both hands at each meal to mark his respect. So on the whole, she is doing okay.

Attitude Counts

A HR manager of an insurance company let three new recruits to describe a glass of water on a table.


The glass is half full

The first man said, "It's half full". The HRM thought he was an optimist and sent him to sell insurance policies.

第一个人说:“杯里有半杯水。” 人事部经理觉得他是个乐观主义者,便安排他去推销保险。

The glass is half empty

The second man said, "It's half empty". The HRM thought he was a pessimist and set him to review the insurance claims.


The third man said, "It's twice too big".

"Congratulations," the HRM shook hands with the man. "You are appointed as their payroll officer."


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