The Chinese internet has been filled with literally thousands of stories of individual heroism from the recent earthquake… from victims, to PLA soldiers, to doctors, to volunteers, there are far too many for us to count or translate.
But this story in particular got the attention of many Chinese. It’s about a small group of poor Chinese peasants who drove across all of China in a rickety tractor in order in order to help in the disaster relief. For this reason, they’ve earned the label “the most bad-ass rescue team”.
This story comes to us from Tianya.
Based on the telephone report of a Tianya netizen volunteering in the earthquake zone, at the scene of the rescue there’s a group of very active peasant farmers. Their actions have moved even PLA soldiers to tears.
They’re villagers from Shandong province, Ju county. The leader’s name is Liu Zhongming, a peasant who usually plants fields. On the night of May 12th, after hearing of the Sichuan earthquake, he called together several others from the same village. They decided they’d immediately set off for Sichuan in order to help. A little after midnight on the morning of May 14th, they packed together their home-made Shandong bread, a few thermos full of water, and Liu Zhongming and 10 other farmers piled into a three-wheel tractor and set off on their trip. On the three-wheel tractor they wrote in uneven characters: “Shandong Ju County Peasant Rescue Volunteers”. Very possibly, they were the first volunteers to set off anywhere after this earthquake.
Because it’s a three-wheel tractor, they can’t travel on expressways. They could only travel on local highways, and constantly had to pay highway and bridge tolls. (There is typically a toll station every 50 km.) All 10 people were squeezed in the back of their little cart; when they were hungry, they ate their bread and drank some water. Just like this, they rushed over 2000 km of roads in three days and three nights. Because they don’t know the local roads, they had to ask directions as they went. On the way they ran into many confused stares and poor directions; many mocked them for their beaten-down vehicle, some said they were using the disaster rescue banner just to avoid paying road toll. Not many believed that these peasants were really on the way to volunteer in Sichuan. But they never stopped, all they wanted to do was get to the destination a little sooner.
Once they got to Sichuan, they threw themselves into the rescue work. They first went to Guangyuan, a few days later to Mianyang, and today they’ve transferred over to An county. They’re busy every day setting up tents, moving rescue supplies. In these few days they’ve setup over 200 tents, and the rescue supplies they’ve helped ferry can’t be counted.
Tianya workers contacted Liu Zhongming by phone. When we asked if they wouldn’t be too tired, he laughed shyly laughed: “we’re farmers, we’re strong.” At this point it was already 9:45 PM on the night of the 22nd, but Liu Zhongming said he still needed to get back to work and move some supplies. As far as when they’d go home, he still wasn’t sure, because “there are still many things to do”. The farming work at home he asked relatives to help out with when he left. When the interview ended, we told him our feelings, and he said: “I feel like there’s so little I can do… ”
In the afternoon, the volunteer Mr. Dan who introduced these peasant volunteers to us said: “They’ve eaten a lot of bitterness to be here. Even the soldiers working on the front lines of the rescue said they were moved to tears by this group of peasants. But all along the path they took traveling here, no one understood them, no one cared about them. After working all these days, their only hope is that they won’t have to pay road and bridge tolls on the way home.”
Let all of us remember the name of this rescue team: “Shandong Province, Ju County, Peasant Rescue Volunteers”, and let’s remember the names of these volunteers: Liu Zhongming, Liu Guangpo, Liu Zhongfu, Liu Zhongting, Liu Zhongcai, Liu Shouhua, Liu Shouqiu, Liu Shouxin, Liu Shougui, Liu Guangrui.
NOTE: I think at Roland at ESWN typically translates 最牛 as “most awesome”; I think “most bad-ass” works better, but perhaps its a little crude. Any Chinese want to vote in on which version is better?