China: Bankrupt ant farmers prepare to protest

Shenyang was mobbed today with furious ex-ant farmers, former employees of Yilishen, a media darling and one of China's most well-known brands in the health supplement market, as the company has just closed, taking the huge amounts its peasant-class employees had invested with it. The city's ant farming industry is no stranger to controversy, and neither is the company. Blog posts on the subject were quickly deleted, including most of the ones below, but a larger mass action remains scheduled for November 21.

[Nov. 22 update (futher updates below): video is trickling out, and bloggers are rushing to save it before it gets deleted like this clip which was posted at 11am today and received 37 pages of comments before it was taken down just after 3pm. Here's one from Ku6 user Muxiwen:]

And a slideshow from's Yu Jian entitled ‘The biggest post-Liberation riot in Shenyang since the Cultural Revolution‘, hopefully simulating the video he had deleted yesterday:

NetEase blogger ‘Heartbreak leaves no scars’ relates to the incident through a November 18 post recounting a phone call with a friend that lost nearly all of her savings, ‘hurt is a kind of unspeakable pain’:


One of my sisters gave me a call today, and her voice was really weak and gloomy. She said to me, ‘lil’ sis, Yilishen is done in for, your sis’ hopes have been smashed! I gripped the receiver with my hand and held back a sigh. I couldn't find anything pleasant to say to comfort sis. Faced with the reality of sis’ two or three hundred thousand going down the drain just like that, my few flowery, superficial words of consolation, could they have sounded too limp, too weak? Because you know, for a normal person just getting by on a monthly wage, every little bit put away is like a tooth being pulled out. That was ten years of my sis’ pain and effort! When you place all your money on one bet, how broad-minded would you need to be, when it all went down the drain, to just laugh and say you didn't care? I can feel what sis is feeling right now, but then I have nothing to compare it to. Until now, the only thing I can think of to say to her is: Sis, pull through! No matter what sort of ending you wind up left faced with, whether those several hundred thousand of your hard-earned yuan never come back, or if your losses will mostly be minimized, none of that is important now. Look at what you have now, at least your children have already grown up, you don't need to worry about them; at least your pension combined with your husband's will be four thousand yuan a month; at least the two of you are already over sixty, and still going strong!……..sis, look around you at all the happiness within your reach, and do those worldly possessions still seem important?

Baidu blogger dayongcom also shares a conversation with a friend in an earlier post dated Nov. 16, ‘Risk, risk…’:


Today I had a chat with one friend who's an ant farmer for Yilishen, and he was an even worse mood than I was; you could say he was about to go nuts! Listening to him speak, he's obviously extremely agitated. He really is someone who truly has nothing; he lost his mother when he was still young, and his father was sick year-round, while his father was still alive the government even gave his family ‘special difficulty’ status, but then three years ago he lost his father too. Then the old house he lived in was relocated, I think the government gave him eighty thousand yuan, not enough to buy a new house. From there he started dating a divorced woman, and was living with her all over the place in different rented flats. She was a sales assistant, and women have an easier time finding work; for all the jobs that required higher education, there were always jobs that just went for looks; for a guy who didn't have the looks, he didn't get by so well. And he had a criminal record from somewhere, so the only thing he could find were little two-day gigs here and there. From the money he got for the relocation, except for the bit he used on living expenses, this May he put it all into Yilishen, and made do with what little he got back….then in October this year he suddenly stopped getting any back! They kept giving him the runaround, right up until November 21… with it not being clear where Yilishen Co. is headed, for him, is pure torture! Some people might not see that bit of money as much, it's all he has, and it's his hope for the future… if anything goes wrong with it, how's he gonna live from now on? I don't even dare imagine! Except for consoling him with a few words, there's nothing else I can do, just wish him good luck. How could there be so many brazen fraudsters in today's society?? It's just plain-out playing people, and the government just keeps one eye closed and with the other, lets these things go on…Now it's not clear where Yilishen is headed. If it gets stuck again with illegal financing, the whole country will start calling Liaoning a province of swindlers! So many pitfalls in this society…some people can fall flat a few times and still be okay. But there are others who, when they fall, face serious consequences!

‘How many ants, how much worry?’ asks NetEase blogger Begging in Paradise in a Nov. 20 post:

“蚁力神”不神了,王凤友不灵了.天玺集团大厦将倾.日前养殖业户最为关注最为敏感的话题莫过于此.千千万万家养殖” 黑多刺蚂蚁”的人们最为担心的事终于发生了.

此时此刻同情是没有丝毫作用的,我只能在心底深深地 那些” 黑多刺蚂蚁”的养殖业户,遭遇了这很残酷的事实.几多蚂蚁,基多愁!我感同身受,天庸讳言,这是个难以忍受的煎熬的时段.


“Ant Power” has lost its power, and [Yilishen CEO] Wang Fengyou has lost his groove. Tianxi Group Tower is about to fall. And for the past few days, the ant farmers have been paying attention to nothing but this. What tens of thousands of black ant farmers most feared has now finally happened.

At this point in time, sympathy is of absolutely no use to me, I can only look deep inside myself….those black ant farmers have been met with a most cruel truth. How many ants? How much worry! I fully sympathize, and there's no need to keep silent. This is a hard, tormenting moment to endure.

Recently the word has been that Wang Fengyou's “Tianxi Group” has been running on dangerously low funds, and the conclusion of people's speculation and calm analysis has led them to fear daily that Wang Fengyou is in the hole, and actually getting by with the utmost difficulty, more exhausted than anyone! Anyone who only gets by by tearing the bricks off the east wall just to build the west wall, simply must have a cold and terrible life.

We can only wait and see what happens, and calmly watch how the situation develops.

Not gently, judging from the photos NetEase blogger Diadora posted on the evening of Nov. 20:


Yilishen ant farmers surround the municipal and provincial Party committee building, showing their might! There were over ten thousand gathered, from Benxi, Liaoyang, Dalian, Anshan and other places. The provincial Party committee had already sent out large numbers of riot police, and the surrounding police forces have already moved in!!!

Calmly is not how most people seem to have reacted. From an anonymous and unsympathetic poster with an alleged semi-insider's view, writing on the ChinaByte forum:


Yilishen finally f*****g closed down: farmers don't get any of their hard-earned money back!


How many peasants got trapped into this…..?
Two years ago my family was farming, and so were all the neighbors and relatives around us….
Zhao Benshan is still filming his popular sitcom Liu Laogen and using it to do ads for Yilishen…

[Frequently seen on Chinese television]


It was inevitable that Yilishen would end up here today. I worked as a manager for Yilishen for a bit more than a year, and at the time I could just not figure out why the products sold so poorly; every branch office was in debt, but yet Yilishen seemed like everything was fine, boasting around of its strong earnings. Later on I realized, it was all to keep the people in Liaoning's urban and rural areas at ease about Yilishen, to keep them digging up money to farm more ants. But this kind of spending on high-interest loan has to be paid back sooner or later, and Yilishen even had plans to list on the Hong Kong market, but then the “Viagra” incident came along and ruined that. If they'd succeeded at listing on the market in 2004, Yilishen would've been granted a 1.4 billion RMB loan and been able to leave the problem of funding ant farming behind. Only, man cannot outwit fate, and by that time Yilishen was already unable to back out, could only continue expanding its numbers of farmers, using later buyer-ins’ money to pay back original farmers. Normally something like this wouldn't work in the long-term, but with the Yilishen Co.'s efforts, the government's acquiescence, the media keeping the ball rolling, and ignorant people thinking a pie'd just fallen from the sky, Yilishen ended up where it is today.


Many people are spiteful and complaining, but actually in your ignorance you did all of this to yourselves. Of course the government and media have responsibility as well, but what are you going to do to them? Only raising your awareness will lessen your chances of or stop you from getting duped at all. Yilishen knew that it wanted to keep the feelings of the people stable; just as long as the people felt that nothing was wrong at Yilishen, and they could keep going like this on the long-term. But they mustn't have studied math very well, the reality was that they would have needed exponential growth to keep on going, and this was an unattainable target. Today it finally came to a halt. I pray for those who've just gotten in!

Both alarming and inspiring is the wiki that someone has set up just to keep track of how the larger protest proceeds; an excerpt:

蚁力神要是破产 政府就是罪魁祸首! 一个经营了8年的公司 那么多荣誉那么多光环!明明知道公司的存亡关系到上百万老百姓的死活,政府为什么不帮助蚁力神渡过难关! 明明知道多少人家破人忙 政府完全不顾我们死活! 政府根本就不想扶植蚁力神!任其自生自灭,是政府喝了我们的血!现在还要我们的命!!!!!! 今天打人的警察,我记下了他的警号115951 老爷们明天都带上白酒御寒 到时候坐在省委门口边喝边研究 喝多了就他妈的闹反正都到绝路了,有时间的明天都去,别再家等现成的了,都是我们自己的事情。 没别的办法了.能看见我说的这句话的人都尽最大的能力去沈阳了,也就只剩下去沈阳的这条道了,如果说现在还在想着在家里等的话,那就都别想拿到钱了 现在的情况我想大家都知道,现在就是不怕事闹大就怕事闹小,现在政府都把消息封闭了,

If Yilishen goes bankrupt, then the government will have been an accomplice! For a company that's been in operation for eight years, so much honor, so many blessings! Clearly the company's survival is directly connected to whether several million people live or die, so why doesn't the government help Yilishen pull through?! It's evident how many families stand to be split with everything lost, but the government pays no attention to whether we live or die! The government never intended to support Yilishen! By allowing it to perish on its own, the government is drinking our blood! Now they want our lives too!!!!!! The cop that hit someone today, I got his badge number down, 115951. Dudes, bring your baijiu tomorrow to fight off the cold. When we get to the provincial Party committee building, we can sit and make plans. If we drink too much then we'll fucking rip, we're all in a corner anyhow. Whoever has time tomorrow, come down, don't just sit at home and wait, this is your problem too. There is no other option. Whoever sees what I'm saying here, do everything you can to get to Shenyang, coming to Shenyang is the only road we have left. If you're saying you just want to wait at home, don't bother thinking that you'll get your money back…I think everyone pretty much knows what the situation is now, that we're not afraid of making this too big…we're afraid of making it too small. Now the government has killed all the news…


Forty days! I believe everyone has spent them in an extremely nervous state; we've been anxious for so many days already, and now they're still dragging us farmers along. We absolutely must not compromise; Yilishen never gives money back. From the beginning the government was involved (because the media and internet have all been blocking news about Yilishen, and it's only when the government is involved that this kind of situation can occur). The government wants us farmers to take the losses, this is out of the question. All of us must work together to get our hard-earned money back. Everyone has to come out tomorrow; if we don't make this big enough, if we don't draw enough attention from different parts of society, we don't get anything! We can't let the government not make Yilishen deal with us farmers; the information is in the [QQ?] group (everyone gather more). Everyone needs to let more outside media, news commentary, foreign websites and some news media in the south know about this, especially those big internet forums with heavy traffic (Mop, Sohu, Sina, ChinaNet, CYD, etc.). We all have cameras, video cameras, so bring them and record the government's ugly side. Everybody must work together, don't just sit on the fence and watch or we'll lose our money, and we'll have no way to go on! So what are you afraid of? If they don't give us back our hard-earned money, they better not even think of holding the Olympics!!!!!!!!!!!

Videos posted on several Chinese video sharing websites show a talk Yilishen president Wang Fengyou gave recently under what appears to be heavy police protection; in the comments left below this video, one reader estimates 5,000-6,000 people showed up at the Liaoning province Party committee hall on November 20. Many comments now following that are death threats aimed at Wang timed for Nov. 21, when the first main protest is set to take place:
Update: The video above has been taken down, but there are more. This video from Youku user Angel Bu lists a QQ group for ant farmers to discuss their plight in the comments, as do videos put up by user kefe1:

Update, Nov. 21, 3pm:
MSN Live Spaces blogger YoungDan68 writes this afternoon of trying last night to take the baby home for a diaper change and finding his road completely shut off and himself remains unable to return home for the moment.

Also this afternoon are several photos taken yesterday and today from Ycul blogger Wen Xuan, who writes that ant farmers began gathering at the Yilishen HQ, which has since been taken over by the People's Armed Police, around 10 am on Nov. 19, creating a very chaotic scene wherein no-one it seems was hurt. Today, Nov.21, she writes, about 10,000 people had gathered at the provincial Party committee hall by around 1:30 pm:

Update2, Nov. 21, 10pm:
Same old whack-a-mole approach; information surrounding what's going on in Shenyang keeps getting deleted at a rate just a little bit faster than bloggers are able to spread it around(forgot to take into account that Bullog is back, see links in Chinese below). Ycul's Wen Xuan (see above) is back with another post. She asks:

How could so many people get caught up in this? How could such an obvious lie propagate as long as it has? I'd ask you to check out the recently published investigative report from Vanguard China's “Investigation”, “Yilishen, the insanity behind the 15 billion raised!” put out by Chengdu Media Group.

Some interesting information is being collected on the Beijing DVD bbs; among what can now been seen there is background to how Yilishen products ended up being banned in the USA, an explanation of how Yilishen outsources its bee-raising needs, and enough statistics to make a newspaper editor quit drinking coffee; a short example:

目前蚁力神养殖专业户的年发展速度已经超过40%,在册养殖专业户的数量为27 万户,平均每户投入资金4.2 万元,总金额上百亿元,涉及到的家庭人口100 万

Yilishen's cultivation professionals’ annual rate of growth is at present over 40%, with over 270,000 ‘cultivation professionals’ listed, with an average investment of 42,000 RMB each, for a total over over 10 billion RMB, affecting over 100,000 people.

The Free China blogger at MSN Live Spaces posted some photos just before noon today:

The Aboluowang blogger has added a few others:

And even more can be found, for now, at the Yilishen8 blog hosted by NetEase:

Update, Nov. 2223:
最近消息 (latest news):
谁用谁知道? (Wang Xiaofeng!)
[1510报童] (1510!)
沈阳蚁力神事件照片综合 (photo slideshow round-up, and this blog has been on top of the story)
[G2G] Re: “蚁力神”被和谐了!!!
‘Natural’ viagra arouses farmers’ anger
超级链接综合 Comprehensive round-up
谁愿意去沈阳越俎代庖报道蚁力神养殖户的相关情况? Who's willing to go to Shenyang and poke around to find out and report on the ant farmers’ situation? (Zola!)
新纪录 A new record (of deletion) (He Caitou!)
沈阳万人抗议“蚁力神”欺诈 包围省府 Ten thousand Shenyangers protest the Yilishen scam, surround the provincial government
中国速度 ChinaSpeed
蚁力神到底怎么了 Just what did Yilishen do?
蚁力神王奉友是否被抓的最新消息 The latest news on whether or not Yilishen CEO Wang Fenyou has been arrested
蚁力神倒塌,沈阳蚁农暴动 Yilishen collapses, Shenyang's ant farmers revolt
一个天大的赌局该收场了 One astronomical gamble ends badly
蚁力神的事情 Yilishen's affairs
蚁力神功能性灭绝 Yilishen's effectiveness has evaporated
谁封谁知道 Who's deleting, no-one knows (a pun on the Yilishen product slogan, ‘who's using it, no-one knows) (Buchong!)
赵本山葛优,蚂蚁上树 The ants are marching up the tree upon which Zhao Benshan sits (Han Han!)
搜集关于沈阳事件的现场图片文字 A collection of photos and writings from the scene of the Shenyang Incident (Beifeng!)














More from ESWN:

Once upon a time, there came along a company named Yilishen (蟻力神) in China. The company sells health and food products that derived from ants. But how does the company ensure that it gets an adequate supply of ants from which to extract the ingredients required for their products?

Yilishen actually used the well-known behavior of ants by recruiting massive numbers of ant farmers. Each ant farmer signs up with the company with an initial fee of 10,000 yuan, and then he gets supplied with the company ant-breeding equipment. The ant farmer gets paid for the number of ants produced at a price that ensures him a good profit if he meets the quota. Hundreds of thousands of people sign up.

The ability of the company to pay the ant farmers requires that enough of the ant-based products are being sold. If the sales exceeds the supply, all is well. If the sales is lower than the supply, it is hell to pay.

Recently, Yilishen suddenly discontinued buying from the the ant farmers as well as the payments. The rumor was that the company was bankrupt and the senior company officials have esconded. Several tens of thousands ant farmers converged to the company headquarters in Shenyang to protest without effect. So last night, the protestors switched their target and surrounded the Liaoning provincial party committee's office and broke through the police cordon to wave banners and chant slogan. The police are on full alert. Meanwhile, all discussions about Yilishen and the demonstrations have been disappeared from the mainland Chinese Internet.


  • Thank you John for translating these posts before they disappeared.

    Do ants soaked in tea really help against arthritis? I was never aware that ants were farmed.

    Good luck to the farmers!

  • Mark

    This is gonna be the most seriouse incident ever happened in China. Hundreds of thousands of common people in Liaoning have invested billions of their entire saving onto this alleged fortune legend. I am not sure whether the boss Mr.Wang Fengyou could make it, but I pray it for God, blessing all those innocent people get their money back, please. Otherwise there’ll be a huge number of tragedies take place throughout whole Liaoning Province even northeast China. Hope local/central government could do something instead of killing all the related info on web.

    God bless our people!!

  • 到此一游…操~~
    [Just passing through…f***~~]

  • 过客

    [I saw a few photos on Bullog Int’l, and searched my way here (all news has been shut down, very few things can be found now, even less of anything useful, just a bit that’s been cached, but just freezes, comes right back with a “the item you are searching for cannot be found”), and while I was searching through old posts, I noticed that the Rabbit King and Old Black had begun exposing the truth that Yilishen had begun illegally raising funds over a year ago. It seems not many people believed them then, but now it’s all come true, only for all those farmers, I don’t dare think of what the consequences have been…]

  • Pingback: 蚁力神事件

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  • Thanks Solana. I don’t know how effective Yilishen’s products are…it seems a lot of people see the name and think ‘soft viagra,’ or something like that.

    @Mark, couldn’t agree with you more. I’ve read conflicting reports today, one batch saying that the government has just committed itself to minimizing the ant-farmers’ losses, and others saying that the government has wiped its hands clean of the whole affair, saying it has nothing to do with Yilishen (contrary to what many believe), and thus no responsibility to dig it or the people left desperate out of the hole they are in. Anyone reading from Shenyang who has a clearer idea of what’s going on..?

  • 就是一个不靠谱的东西啊,老百姓啊……
    [This is just totally not cool. The common people, aye….]

  • 山大王

    早几年看广告我就觉得是忽悠人 中国目前的保健品市场是架构在暴利与谎言的榨血机器 一边引诱那些被贫穷折磨的抬不起头看天张不开嘴喘气的低层人民掏空心血来购买发财的养殖品 一边以十数倍的本利差价卖给那些有病治不好于是不得不偏信广告虚假宣传的可怜国人
    这个事件是中国无序而混乱的保健市场的揭示 如果政府不对此严加管制 还会有更多的百姓血泪空流 会有更多的群情激愤!
    也许早就有了 只是我们的耳朵和眼睛都被蒙着
    [When I first saw tv commercial a few years ago, I just thought they were pulling one over on people…..China’s health supplement market at present is built on a blood-squeezing contraption of violence and lies. On one hand seducing those people on the bottom rungs so tortured by poverty they can’t lift their heads even to look at the sky or gasp for a breath of air into digging dry their blood-and-tears-earned money to the cultivation product that’s gonna make them rich, at the same time putting out false ads to market your product, selling it at ten times the original price to those poor people who it will never cure
    This incident just reveals how disorderly and chaotic China’s health supplement market is…if the government doesn’t strengthen supervision, the blood and sweat of a whole lot more people is going to flow, and there will be even more mob fury!
    Maybe there has been for a long time…only our ears and eyes have been sealed shut.]

  • […] 点此链接进 (国内相关站点已全部封闭。globalvoicesonline暂时还能打开。) […]

  • 服了,连外国人都发言了,好啊,世界都知道了,好,不知道你人看没看见啊
    [No way, even foreigners are onto this…great! The world knows, good. I didn’t know you all would see this…]

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