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Ode to the countryside

This article was posted by in Features and published

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For the first time ever, China's population is more urban than rural, with 690.8 million people living in urban areas and 656.6 million in the countryside.

This is a hard fact to swallow considering that just 33 years ago, 81 percent of Chinese lived in the countryside. As farmers continue to move to the cities seeking higher incomes and better education, China's unprecedented urbanization continues.

It is unlikely that China will ever again be statistically rural, but the heart of China's culture remains in the countryside. This is evident to anyone living in a Chinese city during Chinese New Year as tens of millions of people abandon their urban lives to return to their rural roots. The following is not meant to mourn the passing of rural China, but to pay tribute to this often ignored side of Chinese society.

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Where meals pull families back together each evening and there's always extra just in case someone else happens by. Where your ass is always sore from sitting on hard little chairs while cracking open handfuls of sunflower seeds and sipping on endless cups of strong tea. Where a pig somehow feeds an entire family for a year with sausage and salted pork and where even yak butter tea can be refreshing. Where every cigarette you refuse plants a seed of distrust and where they won't let you leave until you eat just one more meal.

Where they cook for the pigs before cooking for the family. Where somehow cats befriend dogs, dogs befriend ducks and ducks befriend chickens while cows and buffalo stand around seemingly stupefied by it all. Where the idea that dogs can't eat chicken bones is laughable. Where the proud clucks of a hen that just laid an egg don't go unnoticed by the owner.

Where wearing high heels or a business suit is no reason to stay out of the rice paddies. Where children don't practice the violin for five hours a day and the term 'tiger mom' means nothing more than the mother of a tiger. Where the only traffic is a herd of goats and the only honks are from geese.

Where the ability to chui niu is an art form and "privacy" is a foreign concept. Where you can't help but feel like a wimp when you notice how worn everyone else's hands are and how manicured yours look. Where everything you eat was raised or grown just a short walk away and even the corn cobs don't go to waste. Where a walk to the neighbors' house might take a couple hours.

Where fire still stokes the embers of life for cooking, heating, disposing, fertilizing and as the vehicle to fill the wallets of passed relatives. Where even with barking dogs, clanging cow bells, early rooster calls and roaring tractor motors you somehow sleep sounder than you have in a long time. Where you can still find your way by the light of the moon and the Milky Way spans the entire sky.

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Comments

ibexdev

sweet prose Colin, you have touched the essence of those beautiful people who still gather strength from the good earth. well done. makes me never want to go back to the city!

Excellent. Having lived in the Chinese countryside for many years, this really brings back memories.

Christine

I could see and feel the vision of it all. Praise for the beautiful article, Colin!

laotou00

Ironic - I'm working all my pigu off so I can retire to the countryside...reminds of a story...

Very nice.

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