Finding inspiration in hardship

Adam Hegarty( | Updated: 2016-08-26 12:11

Fancy a free Kindle? Take this Long March quiz.

Retrace the start of the Red Army's Long March - the task was simple, as were my expectations.

After all, it's a story known well. That of 86,000 soldiers - many aged in their early 20s - embarking 82 years ago on a brutal and gruelling year-long trek, which only 7,000 would survive.

Tell the stories many people don't know, I told myself - soldiers dying from hunger and exposure to China's harsh weather, Communist leader Mao Zedong's initial political struggles and debilitating illness, and his wife having to give up her newborn along the way.

After landing at Jiangxi province's Ganzhou airport, I did just that, as we retraced the Red Army's steps through Yudu, Xingguo and Ruijin counties.

But as we did, one thing became abundantly clear. I didn't have to imagine what hardship once looked like here - it was staring right at me. It was just a different kind. Among the region's countless villages are some of the poorest families in east China, and their stories were just as eye-opening.

One in particular was also inspiring.

I met 56-year-old farmer Yang Lanying on the outskirts of Jiecunxiang village, in Xingguo county. She was working at a newly-constructed vegetable farm - part of the government's anti-poverty measures in the region.

She told me that, for years, she'd been earning less than 2,000 yuan a year, selling produce from her rice farm. In my hometown, that's just AU$400.

I wouldn't dare admit to her how quickly I've gone through that much money. Yang, on the other hand, supported herself, a sick husband and two now-adult children. Granted, life's cheaper in the regions, but I can't see myself achieving a similar feat.

At her new job, Yang earns 2,100 yuan a month, and smiled from ear to ear as she told her story. And yet, her wage is a fraction of that earned by those living in cities. I could learn a thing-or-two from Yang Lanying, I thought.

I wasn't short on potential teachers. Over the course of our week-long tour, for every Red Army landmark or museum we visited, there was an under-developed village a short drive away.

Local officials took us to communities they're aiding … and that they are. Constructing farming facilities to create jobs, helping farmers sell produce to more consumers online, and trying to attract local tourists, are undoubtedly improving lives. But even officials admit there's a long way to go.

So, as I write this from the comfort of a hotel room in the province's high-rise capital, Nanchang, I feel I'm about to return home to Beijing with some much-needed perspective.

Fancy a free Kindle? Take this Long March quiz.


Related Stories

Copyright 1995 - 2016 . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349