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Farming district jumps to rhythm of iconic three-wheelers

By Zhao Ruinan | China Daily | Updated: 2024-06-17 07:32
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Zhao Ruinan

It was around 9 pm on May 14, three hours after completing two full days of interviews and I wandered near my hotel in Luoyang's Yanshi District like a character from The Walking Dead TV series.

This is my "me moment", the time to recharge before my brain and spine give out. But I soon made an important discovery: the streets of Yanshi are teeming with sanbengzi, or three-wheelers.

A sense of curiosity hit me so I went to a side street to count them. In a narrow 200-meter stretch, there were 34 parked tricycles. Some were being used to sell fruit and barbecued food while others were equipped with makeshift canopies and used as transportation.

The number didn't include the two that roared past me. The scene of vibrant life revealed why "mentioning tricycles inevitably brings up Yanshi". Beyond factories and international fame, these tricycles are integral to the locals' lives.

I recalled my interview in the countryside in the morning. An elderly couple, both in their 70s, drove an electric tricycle to treat saplings in fields. They worked from 6 am until nearly 10 am. Bought for 3,000 yuan ($414) and in use for over a decade, the three-wheeler showed signs of wear, but they found it indispensable.

They didn't understand what an interview is and what a journalist usually does, they just thought I was a talkative tourist. Their children worked in Zhengzhou, the capital city of Henan province, and they rarely interacted with outsiders, so they kindly invited me to eat lunch with them at their home.

I asked how I'd find their house in the village. The old lady, in her thick Henan accent, patted my shoulder and pointed to a bend in the field's path. "See that? Turn there, and you'll find the village. My name is Wang Sujuan. Just shout out my name at the entrance and you'll find the way to the home."

If I hadn't needed to rejoin my team, I might have impulsively accepted the offer.

That day, I spent the whole morning standing by the field. Many tricycles drove past me. Some carried sacks of seedlings, others had family members in the back.

There is no doubt that tricycles have many uses for the farmers in Mangling township. These moving vehicles helped me get a taste of local life in Yanshi.

But one thing for sure is that the people here can't live without them.

Is traveling for work tiring? Extremely. My body aches and begs for mercy. Is interviewing troublesome? Yes, it's often said that interviewing is thrilling but sorting through the material and structuring a decent story are some kind of torture.

Yet, these "me moments" and precious encounters offer glimpses into a broader, more vibrant life, a life riding on the flow of the sanbengzi. During these travels, I see myself as a conduit, sharing the relationships and stories I see, hear, and feel. It's enough to ease the toil of my travels.

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