An Inquiring Visit to the Bachelor’s Village in Xiang Xi

Translator: Bi, Tianqi Author: WRIC   Reporter: Cheng Yao       2012-08-16

From Women’s Rights in China (WRIC)

During the visit with friends to the Phoenix County of Tujia Minority Autonomous Prefecture in Hunan Province, I walked into a bachelor’s village named Xia Qian Tan when going to a mountain village which appeared in the TV play Oolong Hill Bandits for sightseeing.

A common scene in Guangdong rural areas. (WRIC)
October, 2012, one girl among many boys after school in Hunan Province. (WRIC)

Wu brothers, two single men, came from one of the bachelor families in the village. They were building their house when I went into the room. Short of money to pay wagers, all the building materials were carried uphill at their backs from the foot of the hill and built the house themselves. The elder brother told us that the house where they lived, whose walls had crumpled up many times, came down to them from their forefathers of more than seventy years ago. Not far away from the house, there was a huge cave, which reputed to be the quarter of the bandit chieftain: the King of Miao Minority. After the broadcast of the TV play Oolong Hill Bandits, The cave was transformed to a tourist attraction. Wu brothers had nothing but the bare walls in their house. However, they owned a 20-inch television set and an antenna with access to the TV satellite propped against the fieldstone walls. It is not hard to reason out what the motive of spending several thousand yuan to buy that TV set was: this TV set provided intellectual sustenance and dismissed the fear of loneliness.

Since their parents died at an early age, these brothers had to pull together and take care of each other. The elder brother has been 48 years old in this year. His young brother refused to tell his own age, but seemed 43 or 44 years old. When asked the reason why they did not get married, they responded in one word: “poor”. They had a small piece of land covering only 1 mu and could hardly raise sufficient food to fill their own stomachs. Now and then, they earned a little money by doing odd jobs here and there. The elder brother never went to school and the younger brother only finished the third grade at an elementary school. With a strong accent but no skills, he could only stay in the village. His elder brother told us he could never find a wife and his hope was placed on his younger brother. He tried to scrimp and save to build a house, which, as what he expected, may help his younger brother find a wife. He believed that the women of today were material. If his younger brother had a new house, one widow might be willing to marry him. If things were going well, the wish of his heart would be accomplished and their parents would get final peace in their graves.
The younger brother had a robust constitution. With a several-day beard, his face had been bronzed by the sun. With the chat going on, the subject was changed to women. Different from his elder brother, the younger one did not like staying at home. He liked talking women with other single men. If they could afford it, they would go down in company to find prostitutes. The younger brother told me that there were plenty of prostitutes in the town. Women having good looking asked for 50 to 100 yuan but there were some only cost 20 to 30 yuan. Those single men always got together gossiping the death of someone’s husband, a new divorce of a woman or the price of a new-bought bride.
Honestly, I was not interested in these single men’s life. Campaigning for helping abducted children find their parents, I have been deeply concerned for the conditions of those kidnapped and sold girls, who may be controlled by the smugglers or hidden deep in the mountains. Otherwise they can find home themselves. So, every time I came across a mountain area, I would go into it and figure out whether any abducted girl was hidden there.
Brothers told us that there were over 150 families living in the village and more than 40 single men over 30 years old could not find wives. The number increased up if including those men in twenties who were of marriageable age. Situation was getting worse in these years. In the past it was rare that men of fifties were not married, that is to say, most of bachelors of today were born in seventies and eighties. So, there are three reasons of the forming of the bachelor village. One is that more and more women left the village and never came back again. The One-Child Policy and a cultural preference for sons has led to the elimination of millions of China’s girls, which in turn has created an influx of young men and an increased demand for brides. Moreover, due to the severe poverty, many villagers could not find wives. Even though the living conditions were greatly improved than 30 and 40 years ago, we still found a lot of unskilled and illiterate single men who were unable to find jobs to have wives.
Searching online, I found many other more well-known bachelor villages. In Xiang Xi, Shao Yang and Yong Zhou, these two places had severest situations. In fact, when our searching group went into the Da Bie Shan mountain areas, we noticed that many local single men could not find wives. At the beginning of this year, when rescuing the victim of the women smuggling, Deng Lurong, in Su Song County of Anhui Province, we discovered that Deng Lurong, a lightly brain paralysis amentia, was providing sexual services to dozens of single men in the town. She was given 20 yuan by each man. Because she was unable to bear, she always escaped to the mountain and lived in desperation like the-White-Haired Girl in the opera.
Visiting several villages along the way, we noticed that few young women were about in the villages, not mention those had good looking. On the contrary, groups of men drifted around doing nothing but smoking and chatting in the street.
Hunnan Province is not the poorest province in China. During the searching, I went to many poor and obscure mountain areas in Jiangxi Province, Guizhou Province, Anhui Province, Guangxi Province and Henan Province. I did not pay special attention on the phenomena of single villages because people in these places were still fighting against famine and had no time to think about their difficulties of getting married. The one-child policy brought a population imbalance. We thought that millions upon millions of men could not find wives in the next ten or twenty years. However I never suspected for a minute that the situation has been off hand now. In this less poverty-stricken village there have already been one-third families having unmarried single men who were unable to find wives. It is not hard to imagine the severity of prostitution, rape, women smuggling and many other necessary consequences. If things go on like this (the one-child policy is not abolished and the population imbalance is not improved), The phenomena of bachelor village will soon spread across the land and the whole society will be placed in chaos.

One thought on “An Inquiring Visit to the Bachelor’s Village in Xiang Xi

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