Chinese migrant workers live in graveyard
It has never occurred to Liu Junfeng that his parents would be living in “a place like that.” However, when he came for the first time to Taizhou, eastern province of Zhejiang, where his parents work, he found one of a few makeshift huts butting on graves would be his sweet home.
Liu Junfeng, 14, is a “bird of passage” originally from Hunan province in central China. This summer, he came to the city of Taizhou to reunite with his parents, who had been missing out on his childhood for years. Liu said that, in the picture he had formed in his minds, the city in which his parents make a living should have been a very modernized place. To have walls around grave plots as his shelter was unthinkable.
The Liu brothers hide behind a gravestone and take a shower. (Xinhua/Pan Kanjun)
For children living in the area, graves have become their favorite haunts. (Xinhua/Pan Kanjun)
The graveyard is half way up a hill in Taizhou’s fringe area. Huts shrouded in tarpaulin inhabited by migrant workers and their children have mushroomed in the past few years. They have come from economically less developed provinces such as Anhui and Henan to Taizhou for temporary jobs. Some of them simply pick and recycle trash.
Liu Junfeng’s father Liu Shengli came 6 years ago. He rode a trike rickshaw transporting goods for the first a few years, then worked at a plastics plant, then drove a motor pedicab before he took on his current job at a ice-making plant. The senior Liu said he can never afford the high rent in the city, so he came to this place after learning about it from his fellow townsmen and spent a little more than 2,000 yuan ($280) and about half a month on making a hut. He and his wife, his daughter and other son have been living in the hut since then.
Liu Junfeng airs their newly washed clothes in the graveyard. (Xinhua/Pan Kanjun)
According to Chinese culture, a deceased person becomes a ghost before being reincarnated in his second life, if he is fortunate and innocent enough. Therefore, any ghost that wanders around because of being unable to continue his life cycle in the form of reincarnation is either wicked or bearing grudges, and therefore a living person is advised to both respect and keep away from ghosts, who will most likely inhabit a graveyard or their old abodes and be the most active and formidable at night. For this reason, all cemeteries in China are located in remote hilly areas on the outskirts of cities.
The necessity to save money has made the family overcome their fear of living next to the graves. “Although we once were afraid, we have got used to it a few months later.” They drink water from the hills and use electricity supplied by plants in the same region, which is a bit more expensive than market rates.
The junior Liu wants to stay here with his parents and siblings. Even though the place is a bit poor, there is no place like home.