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China:国殇; survival stories in QUAKE

We live in Shenzhen.

Yesterday, when my mom was in a taxi home, she heard the driver muttering, “I have stopped my work for the entire 2 last days.”

“Why so?” curiously asking.

After a while of silence, he sighed: “I have been riveted by the TV, watching closely what was happening in Sichuan about the earthquake, not feeling like to budge at all…”

Listening to my mom tell about a common cab driver in a coastal city thousands of miles away from the epicenter, nevertheless pouring all his attention to another part of the country, I understand why the quake this time should be called a trauma of the whole China ——no matter where one is, what one does, he/she has been in these days mentally and even physically, a lot of them, connected to where people have been suffering the most.

Thrilled, panicked, confused, poor at utterance, then bursting into an emotional crack, finally into deep pathos, this mental process might have stricken a great many of the 1.3 billion Chinese in these days, regardless of the remoteness of their being from the epicenter.

At this point, all Chinese are all the same. That’s why shortly after the quake, a saying emerged on hundreds of net forums, websites, and text messages:

At this moment, we are all Sichuaners.

Survival stories————————————-School came to be where funerals happened.

Shattered schools formed the most agonizing pictures in this earthquake. Their easy collapses took thousands of innocent children away. The authority has promised to check who should be responsible for these shoddy constructions.

Beichuan middle school

A shattered school

Precious young lives were buried by such a low quality, but also a lot got saved, primarily, by their teachers.

Among those names tied to the crisis and unforgotten by China, teachers’ take up a notable place. They brought hope to children.

girl teacher

This girl teacher is only 20. In the school in Shifang where she worked, she ran time after time into the 3-story teaching building to save the best she could. While at the last time she got buried forever. 13 students were saved by her.

In Shifang as well, a reporter from Chongqing recorded how a girl got her life saved by a teacher.


Wang Zhouming is a young teacher, who takes charge of 50 students. When the tremor occurred, he led the students to escape from 2 ways, the front and back door separately. Exactly at the time when the house crumbling to dust, he rushed to a girl and pushed her away, hit dead by a crossbeam on the head himself.

At the same school, another teacher protected 3 girls with her own body.

Moreover, in a middle school at Deyang, Hanwan town(德阳,汉汪镇), a rescue crew described what he saw on the relic:


When we found him (a teacher), he stretched his arms lying on the desk, with 4 students protected under his body. They are all alive, except the teacher.

In a report from China-army net, a journalist told what he witnessed at a kindergarten in Beichuan county, where so far over 8000 have been killed.


…..Very soon, the girl named Cheng-siyu was rescued. But the soldiers were then stunned at the scene——right around the kid 3 statue-like female teachers were embosoming her. Obviously, they protected the kid at the last moment of their life.

Beichuan (北川)county, a devastated town, a dead place, fell down in the quake waves. Troops spent quite a few hours before they managed to enter the town due to the landslide and broken roads.

How a journalist described such a flattened place is here


I followed huge rocks and creeped upon mud with my hands and legs, taking hours trying to down to the county meters below. I could hardly believe what was exposed in front of me: not a single house is intact, most of them flattened, all the mess, and a few relics still smoking. Trucks and rescuers rowed past.
A more grisly fact is that under every huge debris there could be trapped people. As far as I know, only 4000 of the total 10000 here have survived.

beichuan county

The town witnessed numerous touching, saddening moments.

In the first days the town is hardly accessible, because the roads had not yet been repaired.

Thus little rescue was available. But even before the first soldier managed to rush in, 7 teachers had led 72 students to fight a way out, along a winding path in the mountains to the world outside. They marched for 6 hours, during which they had to avoid all the falling rocks and periodic aftershocks, and pouring rain.

7 72

The 72 kids were finally safe.

The thirst for survival drove many to risk all the adversity to struggle a way out. A couple went further than the teachers and students aforementioned. After collecting some money from their shattered house, the couple spent 30 hours trudging through 6 mountains and running to the world outside.

And so were this pair of children!

sister and brother
The brother, Zhang-jiwan, carried his 3-year-old sister on the back, and rushed out of Beichuan County. They had spent 12 hours before the reporter took the picture and helped them to Mainyang. Their parents were migrant workers, not at home. Their grandparents were too old to walk fast. The boy thus took the responsibility like a man.

Over 1 thousand victims have escaped from their hometown, Beichuan, on feet through the mountains, under falling rocks and rain, to find the new hope of life.

Also in Beichuan.

So many flesh monuments have explained what human nature is.

A personal note of a journalist writes:

在县城一处倒塌的房前,一面平移了四五米的墙壁死死地压在两个大人身上,大人身下又护着一位小女 孩。人们纷纷谈论,将孩子护在身下的肯定是小女孩的家长,危难关头.

In a collapsed house in the county, a shifting wall tightly pressed upon two adults, with one little girl lying under them. People talked over, that it must be the parents that protected their child at the crisis.

People sacrificed  more or less for their life.

Yue-yue, a girl whose primary school of totally 500 children was destroyed by a landslide, got buried for 3 days. Her left leg was pressed under the relic, unable to be moved out. The rescuers had to make the tough decision to amputate the leg.

Chen, the doctor, heard Yue-yue imploring: please!Just don’t cut off my leg.”

20 minutes, after the necessary surgery, she was pulled out. And Yue-yue asked,” Am I the bravest?”

Chen couldn’t help but covered his eyes……

But her schoolmate Fan-quanyan was not so lucky. After 60 hours being trapped under the relic, she was saved. But shortly after 10 minutes, not even before the crowd could take time to celebrate, her breath ceased.

A tall and strong soldier kneeled down by her, saying,” sorry, I am so sorry…..”
fan quanyan

And the following pictures were taken exactly one day (7 hours, actually) before the earthquake.

senior3 kids 1
senior3 kids 2
The senior 3 kids of Beichuan middle school were taking a chance to relax, as the fate-determined college entrance exam was approaching.

People found the pictures from a blog of Mr. Tang, a teacher there. After the quake, though thousands of anxious netizens were waiting for this blogger, the blog was not updated. People came to moan that the kids were never more, only their smiling preserved. The middle school had 1200 students buried in this tremor.

But finally, reporters from South Metropolis Daily found the teacher, and the great news is, all the kids on the pictures were safe! Their building narrowly escaped the disaster.

How many more survival stories should I account to record so deep a cut on China but so strong a will of Chinese for survival? It’ll never be sufficient.

What could have supported those victims’ will of survival after being buried under the relic for tens of hours, in a confined space, without sustenance, without a slight voice from outside, and without any light?It might be just a bottle of Coke.

The boy, Xue-Xiao, 17, was finally rescued out after 80 hours stranded. His first words are: “I want a Coke…”
“Sure, soon!” rescuers answered.
“And cool Coke.” He added.
coke boy

The Coke boy

The boy was hotly discussed on the internet, the footage recording the scene by CCTV widely circulated. Some thought Coke should really pay him for the advertisement, and some questioned the boy was too addicted. But most people just thought he was so optimistic and innocent.

But those chiding the boy of saying so trivial a thing should be regretting. The boy’s right hand and leg were all necrotic, soon being amputated. He could no longer take up a coke with his habitual hand.

Another man, after being trapped for 129 hours, got saved. And 2 hours later, he passed away. The tough-minded life passed away at the very last moment.

The story of a mom should be proper to end this article. (A rough translation)

抢救人员发现她的时候,她已经死了,是被垮塌下来的房子压死的,透过那一堆废墟的的间隙可以看到她死亡的姿势,双膝跪着,整个上身向前匍匐着,双手扶着地 支撑着身体,有些象古人行跪拜礼,只是身体被压的变形了,看上去有些诡异。救援人员从废墟的空隙伸手进去确认了她已经死亡,又在冲着废墟喊了几声,用撬棍 在在砖头上敲了几下,里面没有任何回应

She was found dead under the collapsed house, kneeling down, creeping and leaning forward, both hands on the ground holding her body…..


Suddenly, people found a 3-4 month baby under her body, wrapped in a red-yellow quilt. Because of the mother’s protecting, he remained unhurt. He was sleeping so peacefully, making all the people around warm.


When the doctors were examining the kid, a cell phone was found inside the quilt. An already written text message appeared on the screen.
“Dear baby, if you are alive, please remember I love you.”

baby,new life

The baby. Her mother's gone. But isn't it herself a symbol of new life, the new life of all those suffered so much?


  • @Knights
    i can’t confirm how the little baby now is. His story is one among the numerous sent back by hundreds of journalists from the front line in these days. And sincerely, it’s hard to assert 100% of this sort of stories 100% true, as not all of them have accompanying pictures or third-party confirmation (impossible in that kind of messy relics all over, I think).

    But I tried my best to choose those with solid ground, with pictures. Even so, it’s impossible to tell them all.

    The baby’s story is assured and retold in an offcial charity performance of CCTV.

  • subjectivelistener

    These few days I read so many moving stories..gradually, I started to worry that all the media are trying to search for moving stories might provide a driving force of faking stories. If so, it will destroy and insult those real heroes.

    I would like to suggest to take it as “simple is beauty”. The whole thing has been very moving already. I am really proud of Chinese people.

    Just worry about media.

  • Wu Guangqiang

    Live versus Death
    May 12, a devastating earthquake struck central China with Wenchuan County as the epicenter, killing at least 40,000 people and injuring other 300,000. The death toll is expected to be much higher in this deadliest quake to hit China in 32 years since the 1976 Tangshan earthquake in which over 200,000 lives were claimed.
    The magnitude 8.0 quake came so sudden at 2:28 pm when all walks of life were busy with their own trades that tens of thousands of people were buried by bricks, cement beams and mounts of debris within a few seconds. The whole nation responded with a speed and a scale that the world has never witnessed to dig out the trapped and help the suffered. Just two hours later, Premiere Wen Jiabao flew to the center of the still-tremoring disaster area to direct the rescue operation while over 100,000 PLA soldiers, armed policemen, fire fighters and other professional rescue personnel were mobilized and marched into the vast quake-hit areas by air, road and even on foot.
    The race with time and death has been on and not a single second wasted. Tears, prayers, encouraging cheers are filling every corner of the country. One after another, thousands of heart-broken stories are seen live on TV or read in papers. Even a stone-hearted man will burst into tears after reading them.
    Here are only a few of them:
    Teachers leaving behind a best lesson
    In this powerful earthquake, school buildings suffered worst, leaving few undemolished. Teachers, however, demonstrated tremendous courage and bravery in saving the lives of their students.
    Tan Qianqiu, teaching director of a school at De Yang, was found dead in a kneeling position with arms holding round a desk under which four pupils survived.
    When 29-year-old Zhang Miya, a teacher at a primary school at Ying Xiu was pulled out from under the rubbles, he had been dead, but in his arms were two living pupils. As his arms were so stiff, firmly holding the children, that the rescue workers had to cut off his arms to release the survived children.
    24-year-old Gou Xiaochao, a primary teacher at the village of Yong Anba, could have escaped. When the quake struck, he directed evaluation of the students. He carried one student downstairs, and another two, and when he was on the way downstairs with two more under his arms, the building collapsed. Both his legs were broken and chest badly hurt but the students under his arms were intact. Villagers rushed to his rescue, but he uttered in great pain his last words, ?I?m going, go get those kids!?
    Mother?s last words of love for her baby
    When solders dug out a young woman, dead, they couldn?t believe their eyes. The young mother?s body was in an arched position, kneeling, hands proping against the ground. Under her chest was her baby girl, only a few months old, soundly asleep, without any slight injury. During checking the baby, rescuers found a hand phone hidden under the baby?s clothes and a message was still on the screen: ?Dear baby: If you are alive, remember mom loves you!?
    Those solders of iron will all cried aloud
    A similar story: another young mother was found dead in a position of protecting her baby in her arms. The baby ,again safe and sound, was still sucking milk from the breasts of the dead mother.
    Strength of love keeping fiancée alive
    ?What a round moon it is tonight!? was the first sentence said by He Chenxi, a female bank clerk, after she was pulled out 102 hours after she was engulfed into the debris. What kept the 26-year-old would-be bride alive had been her fiancé? s endless cheer-up. From the moment when she was discovered, her fiancé Zhen Guangming kept staying by her side, talking to her, cracking jokes with her and, most importantly, discussing with her about their marriage ceremony. According to Zhen, he asked her what her favorite wedding gown was, Chinese style or western style.
    It was the power of love that created another miracle of life. When asked what on his mind after seeing her dear girl again, the plain-looking man said lightly, ?Love for ever.?
    A policewoman?s faith
    Had it not been for the disaster, Qiu Min were unlikely to be known by a billion people. Now she is a national heroine, but not for any grand feat, but for her tenacity and perseverance. An ordinary policewoman, Qiu Min had worked in a different place with her family. She lost 10 beloved people including her 2-year-old daughter and grand parents. But she was not overwhelmed by the blow, or to be more accurate, she just had no time to grieve over her great loss, for she had to plunge herself into the intensive rescue operation immediately. She had to work around the clock to settle those who had been evacuated from the demolished villages. Working day and night with little to eat, she eventually fainted. After awaking, when asked to take a rest, she told reporters that the best way to remember the deceased was take a good care of the living.
    A little boy?s salute to solders
    More than ten hours after the start of the earthquake, a little boy of three years old was carried out from the rubbles by the soldiers. Though still in a weak condition, with blood stains on the face and the broken left arm in plaster, the boy kept saying thankful words and lifted his right hand with great difficulty and saluted the soldiers. Young as he is, the little boy moved all the adults who saw this shocking picture by his little heart of gratitude.
    Staring May 19, three days after the earthquake, China declared a three-day national mourning for the tens of thousands of people killed in the earthquake. At 2:28 pm, the exact time when the ground began to shake, citizens nationwide stood in silence three minutes to mourn for the victims, while air raid sirens and horns of automobiles, trains and ships will wail in grief. This is the first time a national mourning ceremony has been set up to honor ordinary people, which will bring the whole nation together tighter.

  • liusichi

    Strong ,Chinese

  • pony

    I am deeply moved. The first time I as a Chinese felt our country are as one.
    Hope the died can rest in heaven.

  • Teresa Collin

    Americans would never understand……

    14:28:Earthquake Happened
    14:46:China National News Website – XinHua accounced the news
    15:50:The Government meeting for emergency solutions
    16:00:Due to cut down of communications, 2 helicorpers were sent to Sichuan to understand the situation
    17:00:Wan Jia-bao went to Sichuan
    18:28:Sent out Sichuan polices and armies to rescuse team, total 2,900 people
    18:44:Chengdu & Sichuan sent another 5,000 army to Wenchuan to join the rescue.
    19:20:The Army commander team arrived Sichuan
    Local officials do not have authority to instruct the army. They must report to the central Government. After the earthqucke, from collecting information, figures, report to the Central to emergency meeting, the Chinese spent less than 2 hours. Then immediately set up plans and sent army to Sichuan. It seldom happened in anywhere else in the world.
    Within ONE DAY, already gathered and sent 20,000 army to Sichuan for the rescue.
    Now, let us look at the disaster in New Orleans in 2005.

    29 Aug 2005 06:10am 
    A big storm attached New Orleans. 48 hours ago, the National Weather Center already announaced warning. George Bush warned that the storm may destroy New Orleans’ water barrier.
    5 hours later, FEMA request to send 1,000 people to New Orleans for the rescue.

    At that time, American president, George Bush were having his vacation in a fram in Texas. After receiving the news of the storm hit, he continued his vacation until Wednesday, and then decided to stop his vacation. On the way flying back from Texas to Washington, Airforce One fly over New Orleans to “inspect” the situation.
    30th & 31st Aug, Bush called Southern Pines Electric Power Association twice, requested them to immediately repaired and restored the power station in Missisippi.
    The White House Rescue Team was set up after 36 hours of the storm hit, and decided to start work “tomorrow”.

    30th Aug, there were big scale of armed robbery and set fire. A tourist asked for help from a cop, the answer he got was “Go to hell, it’s every man for himself”

    31st Aug. 1,500 cop got order from the Central to abandon search for alive people, and changed their duty to keeping public security & order in place. Curfew was announced.

    On the same day, chief executive said on TV, “army already entered New Orleans, they are good at firing and killing…., if neccessary, they will ……” by 1st Sep, there were 6,500 army in New Orleans.

    2nd Sep, chief executive requested anoth 40,000 cops to the city for keeping “public security”. The most ridiculos thing was that, someone opened fire to the rescue helicopters and cops.
    Another ridiculos thing was that, there was a bridge connect New Orleans and the West shore of Missisippi River. After receiving 6,000 people escaped from New Orleans, the local government decided to close the bridge, and asked those who run from New Orleans to go back there. And frighten those refugee that they would shoot if they approach.  
    Americans would never understand, why Chinese Army did not carry any guns to Sichuan?
    Americans would never understand, why Chinese Army after walking 21 hours in the mountain under the rain, they could immediately start the rescue duty?
    Americans would never understand, why did Chinese Army give their only food & drinks to the refugee rather then eating them?

    Americans would never understand why, that Chinese people were so happy when they saw the army, and knew that they are safe?

  • Again to Knight:
    “Global Voices seeks to aggregate, curate, and amplify the global conversation online – shining light on places and people other media often ignore.”
    And my post might, sincerely, deviate from this goal, as its source is domestic mainstream media.
    But the problem is that, these stories, one very important part of the crisis, don’t get as much place as they deserve in some western media, so that it might strangely come to be non-mainstream in international media world. (or maybe I don’t read enough)That’s why I concern them. So forgive my violation……
    And John did very great work about how the internet react to the quake,as seen in his post days ago. Another crucial aspect it is.
    We are both trying to make the picture complete.

    Thank u for the quesion.

  • becky chan

    very touching. the disaster teaches us to cherish what we had possessed..just compare our life with theirs.. the so-called pressure we felt in daily life would die away..
    i believe those who survives would be fearless facing adversities in the rest of their life. Bless the victims…

  • Sonagi

    Strong ,Chinese

    Strong PEOPLE. The world cares about what is happening in Sichuan because the stories are of human interest. The courage and will to live shown by those buried in the rubble reminded me of those who survived the collapse of Sampoong Department Store 13 years ago. I think people in almost any country could make a connection to China’s earthquake heroes because the human spirit is universal.

    @Bob Chen:

    I have enjoyed posts from both you and John Kennedy. I am moved by all the tragic, heroic, and uplifting stories of the earthquake, but I also appreciate reading posts on other topics.

  • I believe that somehow, someway this may open the chinese goverment up to the FACT that we are all one race..the human race…and we need eachother. Freedom isn’t a political statement..freedom is a birthright to all men.

    Imagine the love and support that could pour in, if fear and suspicion wasnt so present.

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