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“Pupils take up books, pens, and hand-stoves”

I was really moved by the following images, from Hunan Province’s Chaping township where the region is hit by a severe cold storm. The images appeared today in China Daily, entitled, “Pupils take up books, pens, and hand-stoves.”

My heart felt warmed by these young students as they were unwavering in their learning, lunch, and commute, despite the economic and bitter cold conditions dealt them.

I once used hand stoves too while growing up in China. The image of the classroom with the student desks and chairs scratched and worn reminds me exactly the conditions during my elementary school years in China. I have written about Project Hope (see “希望工程 (Project Hope), bringing education to China’s rural poor“) in the past, and I am reminded again China is still very poor.

The Chinese New Year is also fast approaching. I remember the hand stoves were really handy for lighting up firecrackers. We used firecrackers on everything we could get our hands on, including cow dung. One of our favorite games was to huddle around a cow dung, light a firecracker inserted into it, and see who can’t escape the splatter.

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  1. r v
    January 7th, 2011 at 17:49 | #1

    That’s the Chinese spirit to endure hardship.

    Not to brag, but I think my generation was lucky, even if I lived through the end of the Cultural Revolution.

    And then, I think these kids are luckier than I was.

    I remember my elementary school classroom didn’t have concrete slab floors, only dirt floors. And we didn’t have “hand-stoves.”

  2. January 7th, 2011 at 22:50 | #2

    @r v

    I don’t mean to brag, but I also remembered cooking 甘薯 on the hand stoves. They were great!

    It really sucks to be poor. Looking at the pictures again, I really see the drive and determination to push forward. Knowing how big the gap is, the Chinese are not going to relent – until at least they narrow the comfort gap with the developed countries.

  3. tc
    January 8th, 2011 at 13:31 | #3

    With all the hand stoves burning coal in the classroom, how do the kids handle the carbon monoxide?

  4. r v
    January 8th, 2011 at 13:40 | #4

    In old classrooms, they had chimneys running to outside by the ceiling.

  5. January 8th, 2011 at 22:32 | #5

    This is but a glimpse into the harsh life of rural China. My hairdresser came from Mainland China. Thirty years here in the States, she still works 7 days a week. She tells me it’s nothing, since she’s from rural China…

  6. SilentChinese
    January 10th, 2011 at 07:59 | #6

    to take a cue from Whooper.

    my nurture (or Yin) side urges me to donate money to build a heater for their classrooms.

    my tough (or Yang) side tells me this is what makes these kids work hard. that adversity builds character, and when they grow up they will take whatever life throw at them and throw it back.

  7. wwww1234
    January 10th, 2011 at 21:04 | #7


    poverty and deprivation as a motivation engine to me is still a complicated issue.

    perhaps there are better alternative Yangs, when available.


  8. SilentChinese
    January 11th, 2011 at 11:01 | #8


    oh please, save the tissues.

    adversity builds character.

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