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Barry from Australia is a questioning soul who looks at social issues from an alternative point of view and instead of asking, “Why?”, he asks “Why not?” He’s convinced that many of his previous incarnations were spent in China. He feels drawn to the people there; attracted by their rich culture and way of life. If given one wish from God, he’d reply, “I want everyone on Earth to be the same colour, speak the same language, and treat each other as they themselves would like to be treated.”
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My China Trip - Day 22, Part 5 我的中国之行-第22天,第5部分    

By Barry Pittman
4353 Views | 20 Comments | 1/18/2015 1:35:51 PM

On this slow moving day, Tina and I were taking a walk around various areas of Shawan, her home town. Soon we ended up at some sort of historical site, the birthplace and long term residence of Guo Moruo.  He was an acclaimed Chinese author, poet and historian, being born in 1892 and passing away in 1978. 

The fact that this gentleman was both born and resided  in Shawan as far as I later learnt, was about the only real claim to fame that this small town possessed.  In every other aspect, this was an ordinary place filled with ordinary people going about their ordinary lives.

As Tina and I walked back home along the Shawan River (which I later learnt was actually called the Dadu River), we passed a sign stuck on a pole that appeared out of the ordinary.

“What does that say?” I queried.  Tina then looked at it carefully for a short time, reading everything on it.

“Oh, it concerns a missing lady.  It seems maybe she has either fallen or more likely jumped off the bridge here.  Her family are very worried and have posted this sign in case anyone finds anything.”

“You mean, sees her body?”

“Yes” Tina mumured.

A copy of this sign is attached to the bottom of this article for any readers fluent in Chinese to view.  This story did move me.  I felt sorry not so much for the missing lady, who was presumably now tragically deceased, but for her family who as I later learnt, had pasted multiple copies of the notice right down the river in an anguished attempt to if nothing else, find her remains.  This at least would give some type of limited closure to those who were quite obviously grieving.

It’s an undeniable fact of life that when someone dies, they’re now at peace.   It’s the close friends and family who then have to suffer, sometimes for many years or even a lifetime.  The life of the lost soul is indelibly impregnated into the memory of the living, even if only subliminally or subconsciously.

What would have caused this lady to jump from the bridge is a matter of sad conjecture.  My younger brother had committed suicide some years ago, so I felt closer and empathized more fully with this situation than most realized.

There was so much to be thankful for around us.  Yet for a sad minority who felt somehow drawn to take their own life, sometimes life itself became unbearable.  Many must reason that were they to pass away, so much eternal peace and freedom from pain, stress or mental illness would finally and thankfully result. This China trip had helped me to more fully realise than ever before, how fortunate I was.  It wasn’t just an online dating experience or connection to a beautiful Chinese lady, but something much more than this.  Eye opening occurrences were happening around me. I wouldn’t be the same person returning to Australia as the character that had left there a month earlier.

I was continually surprised that most everywhere I travelled, I saw souls less well off than me in a material sense, yet who nevertheless appeared quite happy.  Time after time, day after day. This in turn helped me to focus on my own life, where for many years I’d been on the eat-sleep-work treadmill.  Growing richer in a material sense yet arguably poorer in a moral one.  The more things I possessed, the more I seemingly wanted.  Too much being barely enough.  Way too much being not quite enough, in some sort of wretched, endless cycle. Yet the happiness attained was hollow and superficial, I instinctively sensed this.

One cannot travel in China without continually reflecting on moral issues such as these.  Only the most thick skinned or insensitive soul could fail to be at times mightily touched by what he or she saw in certain sectors of the country.  Western greed and selfishness was proving to be a continuing theme in my long series of blog articles.   I sometimes felt like grabbing every Westerner out there who felt a little hard done by in life and show him around some of the heart breaking sights I’d seen here, until he saw what REAL suffering or genuine penury entailed.

What particularly shook me was the sight of some of the poor souls here, begging on the streets with no legs and arms.  People who were not only blind, but who actually appeared to have no eyes at all, I presumed because they couldn’t afford glass ones.   People who as babies were quite deliberately and cruelly maimed by their parents, in order to maximize future potential begging income for them.

Reflecting upon such outrageous and heinous crimes reflexively took me back to Marlon Brando’s role in that outstanding film, “Apocalypse Now”, where all he could say were the famed words,

“the horror…..   the horror….”

I’ve said this before but I feel compelled to say it again.  The message is too important to ignore.  Many selfish Westerners rather than bleating about how they need a bigger widescreen TV, a later model car, or an apartment closer to the city, should throw their hands in the air and thank whatever God or whatever life force they believe in, for being born where they were.  As opposed to being forced to eke out a meagre living in the slums of Calcutta, the dark alleys of Bangladesh or in some of the poorer regions of Asia and yes, this includes some sections of China.

Take Tina, for example.  She’d been born in a farmhouse in a rural district, with her father acting as midwife.  This was common enough practice back in those days that were in reality, not so very long ago as Tina was now only 45.

Tina recounted to me that at that time, her father was stony broke, receiving a pittance as a teacher in a local school.  Her mother had a total of four daughters yet whilst they were all still young, she had to live apart from them for five years, working in another town as a servant in order to supplement the family income.  I didn’t say five months here – but five years.  Can you imagine how lonely and despairing the family unit must’ve been through this dark period?  What enormous psychological problems the infant children were at risk of developing?

Tina recounted that during her childhood, sometimes the kids had nothing but rice alone to eat. Meat in particular was for special occasions, a wonderful treat indeed.  She said she used to have wonderful dreams about eating meat.  During one of these exhilarating experiences, her younger sister one day inadvertently woke her up.

“Why did you wake me up?” Tina had cried out.  “I was eating MEAT!”

To be continued - Day 22, Part 6



















蒂娜回忆,在那个时候她的父亲身无分文,领着当地学校微薄的教师工资。她的母亲一共有四个女儿都还年轻,她离家五年作为一个仆人工作在另一个镇以贴补家用。我在这里并没有说5个月 - 是五年,你能想象一个家庭在这段黑暗时期所经历的孤独和绝望吗?处于婴儿期的孩子们在这样的成长环境中,面临巨大的心理创伤的风险有多大啊?


“你为什么把我弄醒?”蒂娜大叫。 “我在吃肉!”


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#2015-05-01 16:14:31 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot


"What particularly shook me was the sight of some of the poor souls here, begging on the streets with no legs and arms. People who were not only blind, but who actually appeared to have no eyes at all, I presumed because they couldn’t afford glass ones. People who as babies were quite deliberately and cruelly maimed by their parents, in order to maximize future potential begging income for them."

I am advised by numerous close Chinese friends that about 95% of the beggars seen in the streets are part of an organized "beggar mafia" in which most of the income rises to the few in control at the top. You see constant instances of women with little babies begging in the streets, and again many friends tell me that usually the children are rented to the organized beggars by real poor people; picked up in the morning and returned late in the evening.

The many beggars who lie near naked in the streets, limbless or worse, are apparently deposited where they lie in the grey of pre-dawn and collected in the silence of late darkness by their owners, people of a morality that is born of the worst slime that one can imagine.

I am strongly urged by my friends to never donate any money to the street beggars, especially the children and the maimed, because to do so is simply to encourage more of this same disgusting and inhumane activity and human slavery of the worst kind. I therefore make a point of trying to always pick up a little food and liquid refreshment and give that to the small kids and cripples, who generally always seem grateful to be given something that they could actually keep and use for themselves.

When it comes to monetary donations of any kind I only give to charitable organizations that I am satisfied are on the up and up. Like my many friends I suggest that members give careful consideration to doing the same, but I'd also be interested in hearing from our many Chinese members as to their thoughts on this.

I am please to advise Barry that your thoughts expressed in this blog very much mirror my own on all counts. Cheers, Mate.

#2015-05-02 12:14:25 by Barry1 @Barry1


"I only give to charitable organizations that I am satisfied are on the up and up. Like my many friends I suggest that members give careful consideration to doing the same, but I'd also be interested in hearing from our many Chinese members as to their thoughts on this."

Thanks for your thoughts, John.

I've noticed by the way that Shawan where Tina lives doesn't have any beggars, nor does Mt Emei or other smaller country towns that I visited. They exist mainly in the large urban cities, including trains and subways there.

I normally give a little money to the beggars that I see but your idea of giving them a drink or something to eat instead is a sound one. The only downside is next time I'm in Shanghai, Nanjing or wherever, I'll have to load my bag up with plenty of bottles and/or biscuits or maybe chewing gum. I'm sure everyone likes chewing gum, yes? Better than chocolates as it won't rot your teeth.

Giving money is so much more convenient, but if the beggar himself doesn't receive all of it, then indeed, giving a donation of food or drink would be ultimately more kind to them.

Good advice, John. (y)

#2015-05-04 00:31:57 by xingyu66 @xingyu66


#2015-05-04 16:16:00 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

@Barry1 - Chewing gum won't rot your teeth? I don't chew myself, but I would have thought that most chewing gum would be deadly for teeth.

I don't so much carry stuff around as such. Generally when I see someone who I think is genuinely needy, which is usually disabled people or mothers with small children, I will grab something from the nearest street vendor or small cafe or shop. I try to make it something that is actually nutritious, like a good soup, or fruit, or some milk. But in any event the best thing I can find that is immediately handy.

@xingyu66 - I am responding based on the computer translation of your comment so forgive me if this response doesn't make sense.

I am aware of the beggar mafia being guilty of maiming many innocent children and even adults, and then forcing them to spend their lives suffering immensely. I hope that your government is tracking them down and ending their truly disgusting and heart-wrenching trade, and I hope as well that your government inflicts upon them a form of punishment that causes them to spend as many years as possible in a living hell similar to the ones their victims have suffered.

#2015-05-04 20:20:45 by paulfox1 @paulfox1

@johnabbot and @xingyu66
I agree with both of you here and I must say that there are far too many of them in my city. However, I have not seen disabled beggars, only annoying ones!

As a foreigner in a 'small city' such as this (only 4 million people) we essentially stick out like the proverbial 'sore-thumb' in a sea of Chinese faces, so sometimes it pays to be 'quiet' in certain circumstances. However, I find it difficult to keep 'quiet' when these annoying people keep hassling me.

This weekend (just gone) was May-Day Holiday and the beggars were out 'in force' rattling their begging bowls as people battled to walk down the streets.
Yangzhou, like many other Chinese cities, is extremely old (celebrates its 2500 year anniversary this year) and is a destination for many holiday-makers from surrounding cities - so this last weekend was extremely busy!

Having ignored at least a dozen beggars on my way to get some lunch on Saturday, I finally found a table at one of my favourite little 'back-street cafes'
I had gone there with an American colleague - a young maths teacher from my school.
I ordered one of my favourite dishes, a noodle soup with pork called 'qing Jiao rou si mian' and just as it arrived at my table, an old lady beggar came into the café. The boss was busy serving customers and before he had chance to kick her out she was bashing my arm with her begging bowl.
I told her to 'go away' but she persisted. Her begging bowl held a few coins and a couple of 5 yuan notes
It became obvious that she wasn't going away easily as she continued to thump her plastic begging bowl on my upper left arm
Now I don't have a problem using chopsticks, but I DO have a problem when it comes to gripping food very tightly
Using all the strength in my fingers, I lifted as many wet noodles as I could and as I moved them towards my mouth I quickly changed direction and dumped the lot into her begging bowl, thus soaking the 2 x 5 yuan notes
I looked deep into her eyes with a blank expression as she finally backed away and went out of the café muttering something in local language that I couldn't understand

Round one to me!

Yesterday (Sunday) was the last day of the holiday and the town was particularly busy. I met a friend for lunch and then I decided I wanted to go to a particular supermarket (that sells imported goods)
Getting a taxi was totally out of the question so I decided to get the bus
In order to get to this supermarket I needed to walk about a kilometre to the bus stop before taking the 40-minute trip (20 mins in a taxi)

So after a pleasant shopping experience buying much of my favourite British and Australian food (no Vegemite - sorry Barry!) it was back on the bus because trying to get a taxi was just a waste of time
As I neared the traffic roundabout where I knew the bus would turn left (and I needed to turn right) I got off the bus carrying 2 rather heavy bags of shopping
One km is an easy walk, but with 2 x bags of shopping it's a real pain in the backside
There is one particular beggar in our city who has a monkey on a leash. There's nothing physically wrong with him, he's in his 50's or 60's but he uses the monkey to get money out of people
He carries his begging bowl, walks up to the unsuspecting 'punter' and instructs the monkey to jump onto your leg and hang on for dear life
No matter how hard you kick and shake your leg, you cannot shake the monkey off until his master instructs it to get down - after you have put money into the begging bowl

I have had 2 run-ins with this guy in the past and have never given him money
Now as I say, I'm a foreigner here, so I stick out like a sore thumb.
As I walked along the street in 99% humidity carrying two fairly heavy bags of shopping (mainly due to the excessive number of bottles of Australian wine), he let the monkey loose on my leg, knowing that I had no 'free hand'

He had a wry smile on his face as I told him to get the f*cking monkey off my leg. He just stood there shaking his begging bowl as I frantically tried to shake the filthy dirty monkey off my lower limb. - No chance!

I put the bag of groceries in my right hand onto the ground, put my hand in my pocket and pulled out a one yuan coin which I then dropped into his bowl
He looked at me disappointed but released the monkey and walked away.
Just then my phone rang so I stayed where I was to take the call

After a few minutes I picked up my bag and continued on my way. After a 100m or so there was a little public seating area and 'my friend' with the monkey was taking a breather with.....guess who ???? Another beggar with another monkey!

I saw them sitting together chatting (I assume about their day's takings so far)

I couldn't stop the urge after I saw 'my friend' look at me and say something to his mate with the other monkey
I didn't hear it but by the look in his eye I reckoned it was something like 'Haha, got that foreign prick at last!"

I took a deep breath, turned a sharp right and walked over to the pair of them

As they sat side by side on the wooden bench I put down my 2 bags of shopping, looked at 'my friend' deep in his eyes and told him in no uncertain terms right in front of his 'mate' that if he ever pulled a stunt like that again I would kill his f*cking monkey and he would be out of a job (new monkeys don't come cheap)

I'll be very surprised if either of them bother me again, and there's enough 'other punters' in this city for it not to make me feel worried about any repercussions

As I picked up my bags I had a strange feeling of happiness and trepidation - but what was said was said and there was no going back

As for the rest of the beggars, carry an open packet of cigarettes in your pocket and when they come knocking just drop a ciggie into their bowl

#2015-05-04 21:53:55 by Barry1 @Barry1






但是,这样的暴行是不容被忽视的,希望谈论他们的暴行,引起人们的重视,可能有助于改善这些可恶的恶行。 (doh)

#2015-05-04 21:58:29 by Barry1 @Barry1


"I would have thought that most chewing gum would be deadly for teeth."

I only ever use sugar-free gum. But maybe this isn't available in China?

But yes, I agree with your comments about buying something nutritious or tasty for the poor beggars. I'll bear this in mind for the future, thank you. They can't be simply ignored, as so many average citizens seem to do there.

#2015-05-04 23:36:55 by xingyu66 @xingyu66


#2015-05-04 23:42:32 by belle777 @belle777

Hi John,
What your friends told you about the beggar mafia are true, I have been cheated several times before, also some teenagers look like students, they approached me and told me their trouble so I gave them some money to solve the problem, but the next times I found they were still there, I actually suspect some kids are controlled by their families, like family mafia.
Sometimes one kid come to the people for money, and if this people give her, then suddenly there is a group of kids coming out and ask for money, and the worst they may grasp this people's wallet and run, that is real dangerous.
I also feel so sad for those disable beggars and the problem is you can't know if they are born disable or not, actually I still can't believe as human someone would make them disable to be a beggar, I did hear about this kind of rumor, but I can't stand the idea, I think if it is true, those evils should go to the hell.
I once did a silly thing, I saw a man wearing broken clothes and laying in the street with close eyes, I thought maybe he was starving and going to die, so I went to the nearby shop to buy the bread and water, I patted him, when he open his eyes I put the things near him and going to leave, he threw the water and bread at me, I was so scared and run away, and my sister warned me not to do this kind of stupid thing again, because that man may have some metal problem and he may hurt me.
Now I only give money to old people begging in the street, I think most of the old people are not controlled by mafia, they are just unlucky in life, once I was eating with my ex outside a restaurant, an old lady in poor clothes carried a big bowl, she didn't ask for money, she asked if we can give her the leftover food, I wanted to cry and I gave her all the money I had in the pocket, I didn't give her the leftover food, that is not the right thing to do, actually I didn't take much money with me that day, and I asked my ex to give me some money, I wanted to give more money to the old lady, but he said I was too naive and didn't give me the money and the male waiters wanted to drive the old lady away.
I think many Chinese men are cold hearted by some reason, and they are obsessed with the idea to become rich, they think if they are rich, they can do whatever they want, and it seems western men are more caring and soft hearted on the poor people than many of the Chinese men

#2015-05-05 08:58:43 by surpurisena @surpurisena


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