Photos: Empty chairs become the pain of rural China, especially on Mid-Autumn Day
September 13, 2011Jing Gao9 Commentschildren left behind, empty nests, family register, farmer, hukou, migrant workers, National Bureau of Statistics, peasants, poverty, Social Issues, social welfare, urbanization
Due to the massive urbanization process, the traditional pattern of agrarian life in which men farm and women engage in the weaving and spinning has been tweaked in many rural regions in China. However, restrictions and discriminatory policies on family register (hukou) system, housing, education and other social security have rendered it very difficult for an entire family to relocate from the countryside and gain a foothold in the city. In an effort to bootstrap themselves out of poverty, many peasants have to embark on an arduous adventure alone in the cities and leave their families behind in the villages.
67-year-old Tian Yunxiu and his 65-year-old wife Liu Dezhen in the buckwheat field owned by their village, Ximawan, Jingbian County, Shaanxi province. (By Liu Jie/Xinhua)
Women, children and the senior form the major demographic structure of today’s rural villages. They are nicknamed “Unit 386199,” in which “38” stands for March 3 the International Women’s Day and alludes to women, “61,” the International Children’s Day, represents women, and “99” is the ninth day of the ninth month in Chinese lunar calendar and is observed as a festival for senior citizens. According to a study by China Agriculture University, currently 87 million people are left behind in rural areas, which include 20 million children, 20 million senior citizens and 47 million wives of migrant workers.
The irony is, even though the three major social groups in rural China are named after their respective holidays, having to stay in empty nests has made it hard for them to eke out a living, and celebrating their holidays with their beloved families is a pipe dream.
The Mid-Autumn Day, a traditional Chinese festival to celebrate harvest and family reunion under the full moon on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, falls on September 12 this year. During the ten days leading up to the festival, Liu Jie, a photographer with Xinhua News Agency, trudged from the north of Shaanxi province to its south, and took dozens of family photos of rural residents, where the backbones of the families are missing, and empty chairs sit in their places.
According to figures released by National Bureau of Statistics, the number of Chinese peasants-turned migrant workers totaled 230 million in 2009, whereas their monthly income averages out to be 1,417 yuan ($210). The rural population floods into urban area by means of seeking education, entering the service, and mostly, finding a temporary job, hoping to make more money and be lifted out of poverty.
Cheng Xiaolin and his two children sit in their vegetable plots on a hilltop in the township of Shuanglong, Ankang city, Shaanxi province, Chang Xiaolin’s wife has a job elsewhere and does not live home. (By Liu Jie/Xinhua)
67-year-old Xue Peizhong and his wife Yang Guilan with their grandson at their backyard in the township of Duiziliang, Dingbian County, Shaanxi province. More than ten people in Xue Peizhong’s family have left their farm to either work or go to school in other cities. (By Liu Jie/Xinhua)
68-year-old He Ailang sits alone on a mountain top near his home in the village of Liujiezhuang, Jingbian County, Shaanxi province. He Ailiang’s wife passed away years ago. All his three children have migrated from the country to the town and are making a living there. (By Liu Jie/Xinhua)
Chen Rongying on her farm in front of her house in the township of Shizhuan, Ankang City, Shaanxi province. Her husband and two children have left for a job in the city. (By Liu Jie/Xinhua)
66-year-old Jiao Shuancheng sits by a lake near his home in the township of Lingao, Baishui County, Shaanxi province. His three children are migrant workers in the city. (By Liu Jie/Xinhua)
Hu Ergui in a corn field in her village administered by the township of Bailiu, Xunyang County, Shaainxi. Her husband and two children live and work in the city. (By Liu Jie/Xinhua)
Wu Huiqin and her two-year-old son in front of their house in the village of Shiping, Xunyang County, Shaanxi province. Her husband has left to earn their bread. (By Liu Jie/Xinhua)
56-year-old Di Jinxing and his wife Ju Yulan in the yard in front of their cave dwelling. Their six daughter have left the village either through marriage to an outside family or relocation to the city to get a job. (By Liu Jie/Xinhua)
64-year-old Tian Donglin and his wife by River Luo near their home in the township of Xigu, Baishui County, Shaanxi province. Their three children work and live in the city. (By Liu Jie/Xinhua)
61-year-old Wang Guixian and his wife Zhang Shumei in their front yard in the village of Ximawan, Jingbian County, Shaanxi province. They have four children that are making a living in the city. (By Liu Jie/Xinhua)
87-year-old Liu Shuzhen by the side of the rice paddy field of their village administered by the township of Bailiu, Xunyang County, Shaanxi province. Her husband passed away. Her sons are away. (By Liu Jie/Xinhua)