Left-behind rural woman poisoned herself and three kids, another tragedy in hollowed rural China

March 31, 2012Jing Gao2 Comments, , , , , , ,

From NetEase & Mop

On March 27, a 27-year-old woman in Sichuan province attempted to kill herself and her children with toxic herbicide, after she was severely depressed by the prospect of having to bring up their three young children alone while her husband is a thousand miles away. All four were still in hospital. The three children’s kidneys are failing, whereas the young mother is in critical condition.

Tang sweetened Paraquat, the toxic herbicide, with sugar before forcing it down her children’s throats. Then She drank the poison herself. Li Heyuan, her husband, is a rural migrant worker in Fuzhou, southeastern Fujian Province. He hurried back to the hospital near their hometown in Dazhu county, Sichuan province on March 29 after he learned of the news.

Ministry of Tofu translated a photo essay last year about women, children and the elderly left behind in rural China, which received much media attention and critical acclaim.


Li was saddened by the sight of all his beloved ones lying in the hospital.


Tang Chengfang, the mother, still in coma

Li and Tang married 9 years ago and had been living in Fuzhou since then. Li worked as a carpenter, and Tang stayed with him as a housewife. They left their two children to Li’s father and sister-in-law to take care. During this Spring Festival (Chinese New Year), Tang gave birth to their third child and took the baby boy back to their hometown. Since then, Tang and Li could only stay connected via phone contact. According to Li, Tang often complained to him over the phone that raising the three children is too tiring for her to handle.


Li called his wife once every three days and thought this could alleviate his wife’s moodiness. He said that while he makes more than 3,000 yuan a month in Fuzhou, he only uses several hundred and sent all the rest to his wife. He said the only purpose of his hard work is “to make his family happy.”


On March 29, 7-year-old daughter of the couple received dialysis.

According to the doctor, 5 milliliters of Paraquat can be fatal. Their two daughters, respectively 7 years old and 5 years old, might have taken in 7 ml or more. The youngest son, only 8-month-old, had the most herbicide because of his inability to resist.


The 8-month-old son kept vomiting and crying while receiving dialysis.

7-year-old daughter

5-year-old daughter

8-month-old son

Mass urbanization process in China has opened up more job opportunities in the cities. 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, which contributed to China’s Empty Chair syndrome – the backbone of a rural family missing from family gatherings, a social problem more salient and serious than Empty Nest syndrome in the West. 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.

A study by Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows that China has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. Seventy-five percent of suicide cases occur in rural areas, three times the number of suicides committed in cities. China is also the only country where more women than men committed suicide.

According to the study, a distinct characteristic of Chinese suicide attempters is that, unlike their foreign counterparts, who often suffered from chronic clinical depression, Chinese who decided to put an end to their life often had no mental illness, and broke down because of imminent, acute pressure.

The rural population, due to family disputes, lack of education, poverty, and isolation, deal poorly with difficulties. The prevalence of pesticide in rural households facilitates self-administered death.


China’s suicide rate among rural elderly people is four to five times that of the world’s average. The news has it that in Jingshan area of Hubei province, ‘suicide houses’ and ‘suicide caves’ are found. A considerable number of elderly people left behind refused to become a burden to their children working elsewhere as migrant workers and went to caves or deserted houses to quietly take their own lives.

Selected comments from NetEase

姑苏城外人 [网易江苏省苏州市网友]:2012-03-31 10:15:32 发表
Wine and meat rot behind vermilion gates while at the roadside people freeze to death. (Coming from Poet Du Fu’s verse)

网易广东省东莞市网友 ip:121.13.*.*2012-03-31 10:44:57 发表
A society that eats humans.

黄易试用工 [网易浙江省杭州市网友]:2012-03-31 10:33:53 发表
Even a vicious tiger will not eat its cubs. This damned bitch, if you want to die, at least keep your miserable kids away from the trouble.

网易山东省网友 [shanjie115] 的原贴:2
(In reply to the previous comment) You won’t understand it!!! This is a cannibal society. Everything is so expensive, so the mother is really cornered and hopeless. There are three children. Just do the math, how much money will it cost each month? How much money can a migrant worker possibly earn? This is a faithful reflection of the bottom of the society.

网易湖南省娄底市网友 [twrb20888] 的原贴:3
(In reply to the previous comment)Three? They knew clearly that they cannot afford to raise them, and they still kept procreating? It’s lucky that they didn’t have seven or eight kids. But I guess that this man would not stop procreating until he had a son. Well, to peasants, a son is the family legacy. They insist on having a son no matter how many children that will bring. A typical family that is ill-educated and has no knowledge or a plan for life.

网易上海市网友 [myposter] 的原贴:4
(In reply to the previous comment) The one on the third floor (referring to the third commenter in the thread), his words are typical of people ignorant of rural life.

(The idea that) Raising a son to provide for old age mainly stems from lack of social safety nets.

网易江西省手机网友 ip:182.84.*.*2012-03-31 23:50:22 发表
Carpentry is a very tiring job. If you are not in good circumstances, just don’t give birth to so many children. Marrying such a wife is really bad luck.

jasonzjknit [网易亚太地区网友]:2012-03-31 23:18:49 发表
May Buddha bless their entire family with happiness!

网易浙江省网友 [震旦西西] 的原贴:1
It’s postpartum depression, or in plain words, an illness.

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2 comments to “Left-behind rural woman poisoned herself and three kids, another tragedy in hollowed rural China”

  1. [...] Bronnen: Beijing Review, China Daily, NWCCW, Ministery of Tofu [...]

  2. Cleo | May 25, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    Those are very attractive children. I think Chinese babies are too obedient so that thousands of generations of Chinese don’t think child rearing in a cold distant way is difficult or destructive. How do you bring three children into the world when you can’t even earn enough of a living for yourself. Are you really trying to create an early retirement plan because your children will love you enough to remit their salary so you can retire early?

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