7 June 2009

Favorite quotes from "factory girls"


在家里没什么事做,所以我出去。 At home there was nothing to do, so I went out.

出去 -- literally "to go out"-- is the Chinese word for leaving your home to work somewhere else. To migrate.

Women make up more than one-third of China's migrants. They tend to be younger than their male counterparts and more likely to be single; they travel farther from home and they stay out longer. They are more motivated to improve themselves and more likely to value migration for its life-changing possibilities. In one survey, men cited higher income as he chief purpose of leaving home, while women aspired to "more experience in life." Unlike men, women had no home to go back to.

Women who had moved up from the assembly line disdained the men back in the village, but city men looked down on them in turn. 高不成低不就。

To die poor is a sin.

The continuing link to a family farm has stabilized China in an age of mass migration. Its cities have not spawned the shantytown slums of so much of the developing world, because the migrant who fails in the city can always return home and find someone there. (...) A married couple might go out together, leaving young children in the care of their aged parents. In the city, a migrant may look desperate, but almost every migrant has a farm to fall back on.


Both of the women were enrolled at Mr. Wu's school. They had shaved their heads to express their commitment, as Buddhist monks did when joining a monastery. To learn English, it was necessary to renounce the world.

She sometimes didn't understand what her students said; occasionally she corrected them when they were in the right. Often she answered their questions incorrectly. But she had the right instinct when it came to teaching, and somewhere along the way she had figured out the secret of learning a foreign language, which started with being unafraid.

The easiest thing in the world is to loose touch with someone.

The only person you can rely on is yourself.

Life plans

She had made up her mind, she told me. "I want to learn English so I can live a happier life."
"I would like a child to grow up to have a happy life and make contribution to society," she said.
"A contribution to society?" I asked her, startled. "What do you mean?"
"I don't mean to be a big scientist or something like that," Chunming said. "How many people can do that? I think if you live a happy life and are a good person, that is a contribution to society."

What did I get out of this book? Most readers highlighted the horrible conditions in the factories, but to me this is nothing new and I know that it is even worse in other countries. Two things shine out for me: the typically Chinese character and how Chinese people deal with things, and the general historic idea of migration which is strengthened in this book by going back to the author's own family who's history started when her ancestor moved to Mandchuria a couple hundred years ago.

Here is my book review on Amazon.com.

I am currently a foreign student in North America (just like the author's grand father), but I am facing the decision whether to return some day or stay here as a migrant. One thing is for sure: I will not go back to my ancestor's village. 家里没有什么做,所以我要出去。 At home there is nothing to do, so I have to go out.


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