Li Leyou is 17. She has a slender, oval face with hair all of the plan down to her shoulders. About to comprise high college in rural Yunnan, in southwestern China, Li’s approved field is biology. She loves detective novels and dreams of being a forensic scientist.
At 23, Cui Jin fair recently dyed his short hair blonde, and habitually posts his stylish outfits on social media. From Dalian, the 2nd-largest city within the northeastern Liaoning province, he runs his comprise on-line apparel store, helps out at his mom’s noodle shop, and aspires to turn into an influencer.
Their worlds are powerful more a long way away than the 3,600 kilometers that separate them: in tradition, wealth, and spirit. But seven years ago, they switched lives for one month.
And on tv, all of China watched the drama unfold because the duo navigated novel properties, faculties, and company.
Li and Cui had been among four teenagers featured in season 11 of the fact level to “X-Swap.” Thought in regards to the “forerunner of Chinese language mainland TV,” the level to equipped city and rural students the likelihood to ride each and each somewhat heaps of’s lives over the direction of 1 month.
“X-Swap” premiered in 2006 till it was once canceled in 2018 after 18 seasons. Irrespective of the hype and recognition it garnered across the country, the level to was once furthermore accused of perpetuating stereotypes and exaggerating the fact, as some critics notorious on-line, “to propel city teenagers to fame to the severe detriment of their rural counterparts.”
For Li and Cui, nevertheless, transcending the country’s yawning city-rural divide couldn’t had been more somewhat heaps of. Within the waste, that one month helped shape the remaining of their lives.
Li, who lost her mom as an baby, no longer finest understood the bliss of maternal be pleased, nonetheless now furthermore dreams of the larger world outside Yunnan. Cui, the teenage rebel since his fogeys’ divorce, spent most of his month reconnecting with his father, and now has a novel outlook on life.
Right here is their chronicle.
A screenshot displays Li Leyou taking part within the sea trail in Dalian in 2015. From Hunan TV
Had she no longer been chosen for “X-Swap,” Li believes she may well want turn into a migrant employee a truly prolonged time ago.
Her native land is Zongla Village in Honghe County, Yunnan. Nestled amid mountains, it is a long way dwelling to accurate 41 households — practically about all from the Hani ethnic community.
The Hani luxuriate in their comprise fairs, language, and outmoded apparel. Sooner than 2000, the village had runt contact with the surface world, and most inhabitants couldn’t even converse Mandarin.
Li’s world was once torn apart a runt bit more than a year after she was once born: her mom died, and her father was once sent to penal complex. Her paternal grandparents took her in, elevating her as their comprise, in conjunction with her aunt, who’s accurate four years older than Li.
Her grandmother recalls the time Li was once four, when she tugged on her dress to place a query to: “Grandma, did you give birth to me?” Too heartbroken to relate the fact, she merely replied, “Certain.”
As Li grew older, the sophisticated differences between fogeys and grandparents gradually turned more obvious. She furthermore overheard villagers gossiping about her household, making her hypersensitive and afraid.
Li began serving to with housekeeping when she was once very young and even went up the mountains to slit wood. She and her aunt seldom equipped novel apparel. At the time, this household of four depended fully on Li’s grandfather’s wages as a migrant employee.
At age six, Li started first grade at the correct critical college within the township of Jiache, a two-hour ride away. Continuously, Li left dwelling on Sunday for school, returning finest on Friday, surviving the week on accurate 10 yuan ($1.5).
She infrequently ever spoke at faculty and saved her head down most of the time. One classmate recalls it was once no longer easy making company with Li; she was once furthermore stubborn and once obtained into a fight with a boy.
A screenshot displays Li Leyou wearing a historic-out trousers in 2015. From Hunan TV
One day in 2014, Li’s trainer summoned her to the playground. That’s where she first met two young females who had been casting administrators for “X-Swap.”
They asked her title, her spare time activities, her solutions on life outside the village. When answering a query about her household, Li burst into tears.
Zhang Tao, who directed “X-Swap” from 2012-2018, says the profile for the level to’s rural individuals had been teenagers in no longer easy or special conditions — particularly those who may well specific themselves effectively.
The hunt for such candidates led the TV crew across rural China, scouring underdeveloped villages and towns. And with the reduction of native publicity departments or bureaus of coaching and sports activities, they obtained native faculties to counsel teenagers for the characteristic.
Particular person interviews with attainable individuals rapidly followed. “Occasionally I met somewhat heaps of of students and couldn’t grab one. The casting took me longer than the actual filming,” says Zhang.
Li was once 10 when she was once selected, even supposing her ID card notorious she was once two years older. Her household couldn’t manage to pay for a TV, and she had finest every so incessantly watched cartoons in somewhat heaps of folks’s properties.
She had by no formula heard of “X-Swap.” But when the instructor said chosen students would no longer finest be on TV, nonetheless furthermore look for the autos, planes, and high-rises within town, Li may well infrequently wait.
Extra than 3,600 km away in Dalian, neither may well Wu Li — the “mom” assigned to La some level of the level to.
Except her divorce in 2010, Wu managed a constructing materials enterprise with her husband. For a while, it afforded a privileged life: mountainous condo, chauffeur, and a material cabinet beefy of branded apparel.
Then their enterprise went bankrupt and divorce followed. Alongside with her son Cui Jin, Wu moved into a rented condo and opened a lamp store with cash she borrowed from household and company. The novel shop saved her so busy that she barely had the time or energy to take care of her son.
“Even the mountainous condo we once lived in was once constantly deserted. For company, I assuredly spoke to myself within the bid,” says Cui.
A screenshot displays Cui Jin quarrelling with Wu Li in 2015. From Hunan TV
After transferring to the rented condo, his mom equipped him 40-yuan ($6) shoes, which he “refused to wear out of pride.” Quickly, he began goofing off at faculty, and his grades plummeted, causing heated arguments between mom and son.
And after earning his first paycheck promoting apparel and sundries on social media, Cui says, “I went on lavish spending sprees round town.” Occasionally, he didn’t even return dwelling, feeling it lacked any heat.
At some level of this rebellious part, Wu was once at loss on how she may well self-discipline him. Within the years that followed, Wu struggled with her comprise budget too. After working the lamp store for a while, she labored at a magnificence company sooner than at last opening the noodle shop this year.
Support in 2013, she once watched an episode of “X-Swap.” She recalls feeling straight away astonished at the maturity and compassion of teenagers from rural China.
She was once so moved that she texted her son, asking him to admire the level to. To her surprise, Cui said he was once more than willing to bewitch part.
Per director Zhang, when selecting city individuals, they sought for teenagers between 12 and 18, with staunch, rebellious personalities and even irreconcilable conflicts with their households.
He says Cui signed up for the level to hoping to fortify his relationship with his fogeys. Cui hadn’t seen his father for years, so the crew made up our minds to enable father and son to ride life collectively within the nation-articulate.
A screenshot displays Li Leyou calling Wu Li “mom” when they first meet in Dalian in 2015. From Hunan TV
Mothers and daughters
In November 2014, the “X-Swap” crew arrived at Li Leyou’s Zongla Village. It left locals scared.
For the first time, a automotive from out of city arrived with numerous folks from town. Native officers defined what was once occurring time and again, nonetheless the villagers accurate couldn’t wrap their heads round the conception that of filming a TV level to.
The elders curiously hovered over the crew, watching them unpack cameras and drones to file initial shots. Within the photography, villagers may well furthermore be seen dancing round a sacred tree, singing an historic Hani tune; a moment later, Li Leyou is seen rushing across the village, tears streaming down her face as she calls out for her mom.
A week later, Li flew to Dalian.
The critical peek of her TV daughter at the airport startled Wu. Li wore a flimsy pair of sandals, a shabby purple jacket, and had a skinny schoolbag on her reduction. At the time, Li was once about 130 cm grand, with a round face, practically fancy an apple.
On display, Li looked up at Wu and timidly said: “Mom.” Wu straight away removed her coat, draped it round Li, and took her college bag.
Seven years later, Li vividly recalls that scene. She says it was once the first time she known as any individual mom. Irrespective of the swirling feelings, at that moment, Li made up our minds: “Right here is my mom.”
A screenshot displays Li Leyou sharing a meal with Wu Li in Dalian in 2015. From Hunan TV
Concurrently, Wu says she idea Li gave the affect fancy finest a 5 -or-six-year-venerable, continually astounded by every thing within town. At some level of a outing to the market, Wu realized Li had by no formula eaten fruits fancy bananas, strawberries, and grapes — basically, she didn’t even know what they had been.
At some level of that month of filming, they slept in each and each somewhat heaps of’s palms every night. When Wu was once away on a enterprise outing, Li says she couldn’t sleep the least bit.
At the outset, the film crew scripted their lines and deliberate activities fancy meals and ski journeys. After a while, nevertheless, Wu complained that some of it felt contrived. After some discussion, the crew agreed to let their relationship unfold more naturally.
Wu once took her to the company where she labored. When somebody asked who the girl was once, Wu replied without hesitation: “Right here is my daughter.” The film crew wasn’t with them; Li realized that for her, this wasn’t a level to or a performance.Their affection was once exact.
Li says her bond with Wu was once somewhat heaps of from what she had with her grandparents. In Dalian, it was once warm, converse, and enduring — one thing she had by no formula felt sooner than. Wu says she constantly wanted a daughter, and Li more than made up.
A month later, their episode came to an cease, and Wu accompanied Li reduction to Zongla Village. Once they parted ways, Li sobbed and cried out “Mom” — and the tears began rolling down Wu’s cheeks, too.
A screenshot displays Li Leyou (in crimson) crying while asserting goodbye to Wu Li (in purple). From Hunan TV
Taming a rebel
While Li revelled in maternal adulation and life within town, Wu’s son Cui Jin, 16 at the time, was once removed from willing for the month that lay ahead in Zongla village.
Director Zhang says he’s seen numerous city “rebel teenagers” in his six-year stint on “X-Swap.” Sooner than they arrived on role, he underscores, most city teenagers foresaw a romantic, idyllic life within the nation-articulate.
They imagined catching fish, attempting birds, and swimming. But when they obtained to a village, most had been assuredly “dumbfounded.”
Li’s condo, where Cui stayed for part of the le vel to, was once made of mud bricks, its inside illuminated finest by the murky, golden gentle of a single dusty lamp. The household slept on a wood platform built on stilts; below was once a pigsty. On lifting the quilts, the pigs had been visible by plan of the cracks within the boards.
And even supposing the crew had arranged for Cui’s father to seem within the level to too, he confirmed up uninteresting. One more “X-Swap” participant, Yu Hai, a teen from Qingdao within the jap Shandong province, traveled with Cui to Zongla. That Yu’s father accompanied him finest exacerbated Cui’s disappointment.
The tradition shock coupled with his father’s absence proved too powerful. On accurate his third day, Cui stuffed his suitcase, crept to the closest avenue, and tried to bustle away. On the opposite hand, Yu Hai’s father and the TV crew dragged him reduction to the village.
Wu recalls a frantic phone call from her son. Sobbing, he shouted: “I in actuality luxuriate in bug bites all around the place my legs! I omit you to death! I wanted Yu Hai’s dad to textual state material you nonetheless he said it wasn’t allowed. Can you know the plan that feels? I’m demise here.”
Fortunately for Cui, his father arrived rapidly after. That first assembly place the stage for finest actuality TV.
A screenshot displays Cui Jin talking to his father in 2015. From Hunan TV
It was once the first time father and son had met because the divorce. The bitterness unfolded on digicam: Cui blamed his father for abandoning him; his father in turn known as Cui a spendthrift, asserting he was once indifferent to his fogeys.
Recollecting those days now, Cui says he’s “so ashamed” about his immaturity.
Per Cui, about three-quarters of this system is exact, nonetheless the crew didn’t hesitate to “make” conflict. Occasionally, they took away their cell phones, cigarettes, and cash; on somewhat heaps of instances, they stirred the pot at the reduction of the scenes.
But within the tip, all conflicts had been neatly resolved.
Within the last scene of his episode, Cui had reputedly changed for the larger. In a single scene, he sits with his father, and Wu, who accompanied Li reduction to the village, on the mountainside. As they chat, the household displays signs of recovering some of their lost heat.
A screenshot displays Cui Jin (left) talking to his fogeys in 2015. From Hunan TV
At some level of a layover in Changsha on the plan reduction to Dalian, Cui wanted to eat pork noodles and asked how powerful it price, leaving Wu thrilled.
“Earlier, he by no formula asked how powerful issues price — he accurate equipped whatever he wanted,” says Wu, adding that her son had no longer finest learned about saving cash nonetheless furthermore communicated larger with his fogeys.
Per Cui, basically the most meaningful side of taking part in “X-Swap” was once assembly and spending nearly a month with his father. Since then, they’ve stayed concerned, Cui has stopped quarreling with his mom, and he has slowly shut to accept the divorce.
The level to’s filming at Zongla wasn’t transformative for accurate Cui and his household. His arrival with Yu Hai, the boy from Qingdao, satisfied students at the Central Major College in Jiache.
At the time, each and each boys looked older than 16, had been round 170-180 cm grand, had dyed hair and piercings, and wore flashy apparel. Within the Jiache college, they turned an instantaneous sensation.
Li Li, a classmate of theirs, recalls playing basketball with them throughout PE class. The total class crowded round them, addressed them as “mountainous brothers”, and asked in regards to the sector beyond the village.
One more classmate, Li Jingxu, says that within the dorms, the boys once extinct mousse to trend the somewhat heaps of boys’ hair. “Each person had somewhat heaps of enjoyable, even supposing they had been snappy reprimanded by lecturers,” he says.
Per Li Li, the ride no longer finest stoked their ambitions of city life nonetheless furthermore inspired them to work more challenging at faculty. Extra than half of the students in their grade went on to reduction high college and technical secondary college.
A screenshot displays Cui Jin serving to with fieldwork in Zongla Village, 2015. From Hunan TV
The price of fame
Cui’s first stare of the girl with whom he snappy swapped lives was once when his mom accompanied Li Leyou reduction to Zongla. Donning a purple cotton overcoat and a golden tiara, he heard Li take care of his mom as “mom” and noticed them bawl as they waved goodbye.
On the bus reduction to Kunming, Yunnan’s capital, Wu all instantly made up our minds to bid into native adoption insurance policies, hoping to bewitch Li reduction with her to Dalian.
Director Zhang Tao says they even known as the native civil affairs division nonetheless after prolonged deliberations, officers said Wu was once no longer eligible to adopt: she already had a son and was once no longer married.
The disappointment did no longer dent her affiliation with Li. Sooner than Li returned to Yunnan, Wu equipped her a smartphone, telling her to call on every occasion she wanted.
The day Wu left, Li saved calling her, nonetheless was once unable to glean by plan of since Wu was once peaceful aboard the flight to Dalian. The next morning, she within the waste obtained by plan of, and the 2 sobbed as they chatted for more than an hour.
She urged Li to rating onerous and reduction her grandparents with housekeeping. If she wanted the relaxation, Wu would ship it by mail.
For six months, Li assuredly hid below her covers and cried as she pined for Wu. But she didn’t dare relate any individual about her despair, believing no one would perceive.
Li’s former classmate Li Xian’en says that after she returned, everyone crowded round her, peppering her with questions. Li Xian’en was once envious of the smartphone, which opened doors to video streaming net sites and on-line cleansing soap operas.
In March 2015, Li Leyou’s episode of “X-Swap” went on the air. Her grandparents spent 500 yuan ($80) to take a 30-bound shade TV to seem for the level to. Her aunt says they all watched it three or four times collectively.
Within the level to, Li dressed glamorously, lived in a mountainous condo, and spoke Mandarin. Despite the indisputable fact that they couldn’t perceive what she was once asserting, her grandparents, who primarily spoke the Hani language, laughed and cried in sync.
A overall stare of Zongla Village, Yunnan province, 2021. Zhao Zhiyuan/The Paper
Two lecturers at the Central Major College in Jiache use that within the months that followed, Li’s episode of “X-Swap” was once performed on loop on TVs across the village.
The college furthermore made arrangements for school students to admire it collectively within the multimedia lecture room. Li Xian’en says numerous classmates broke down at somewhat heaps of gains within the episode.
Many students stumbled on that Li Leyou had turn into more satisfied and self-confident after her stint in Dalian. Her grades improved, and lecturers incessantly praised and rewarded her. She furthermore turned increasingly approved in college.
Li says that while some teenagers obtained along effectively with her, they complained at the reduction of her reduction that she was once “too proud.”
Recalling those months, Li admits that, to a level, they had been apt. She says: “I within the waste had a mom and I had stumbled on one plan of self-self assurance — why wouldn’t I be proud? Became I alleged to retain feeling accurate as afraid as sooner than?”
Other folks from outside the village who watched the level to assuredly visited Li, bearing toys and gifts. Many villagers did no longer perceive why they wanted to return, which achieve the Li household in an awkward field.
Li Leyou cooks at dwelling in Zongla Village, Yunnan province, 2021. Zhao Zhiyuan/The Paper
Zhu Jiangfeng, a local social employee, who subsidized charges for Li and numerous different somewhat heaps of teenagers within the village after her “X-Swap” episode aired, once visited Li and stumbled on her sitting by myself on a bed covered with dolls.
He asked why she wasn’t twiddling with company, nonetheless Li didn’t reply. He then asked if she would take to give one amongst the dolls to her company. She spoke back, “They don’t prefer them.”
He realized straight away that had turn into isolated. “The teens couldn’t perceive why ‘X-Swap’ finest chose her. Why was once she the lucky one?” he says.
No longer prolonged after the episode’s broadcast, Li’s household consented to Wu Li’s proposal to dwell and detect in Dalian. Even for a level to with an 18-season bustle on TV, this was once uncommon among the somewhat heaps of rural teenagers it featured.
Within the intervening time, Cui Jin left to reduction college within the U.S. But unable to adapt, he stayed accurate for a few months sooner than returning to China.
Li didn’t rush as a long way nonetheless suffered the the same problem in Dalian. Quickly after “X-Swap,” she was once approved into a critical college shut to Wu’s dwelling nonetheless couldn’t preserve up with the somewhat heaps of students — particularly in English.
In Dalian, critical college students learned English from the first grade, nonetheless in her native land, they started finest in heart college. It left Li feeling woefully inadequate.
Correct two months later, she returned to the Central Major College in Jiache because she, too, had pain adapting. At that level, she gradually grew indifferent to the excessive consideration her rural classmates paid.
Li Leyou shares a meal with her aunt and grandmother in Zongla Village, Yunnan province, 2021. Zhao Zhiyuan/The Paper
On returning to Yunnan, nevertheless, her grades all instantly improved. From the heart of her class, she jumped to hideous among the cease few students.
She furthermore began planning for the prolonged bustle: she dreamed of attending junior high college within the county seat, senior high college within town, after which medical college in Dalian. Most of all, Li longed for the hustle and bustle of the mountainous city with her novel mom.
Within the summer time of 2015, Li visited Wu in Dalian. She went buying, ate seafood and was once launched to Wu’s relatives and company. Wu says they all knew she had a daughter they assuredly all beloved her.
On the opposite hand, Cui Jin recalls that, before every thing place, Wu felt Li was once a runt bit too a long way away, and needed to educate her how one can greet and glean in conjunction with folks.
After the smash, lecturers took precedence again. At the tip of predominant college, she ranked fifth among students in her age community, which obtained her into a heart college in Honghe County — accurate as she deliberate.
Within the years that followed, she flew to Dalian and reduction more than a dozen times. She says she was once by no formula afraid. “As prolonged as I met my mom, nothing else mattered.”
Li Leyou shares a meal with Cui Jin and Wu Li in Dalian, Liaoning province, 2021. Zhao Zhiyuan/The Paper
The real fact of TV
“X-Swap” stayed on air for more than a decade, claiming it taught “rebellious city teenagers the importance of onerous work, and gave rural students a platform to create their dreams.”
Rave reviews snappy followed, nonetheless so did controversy.
In 2015, Zhou Jiawen of Jinan College analyzed 55 city and rural individuals who looked on the level to from 2014. The detect stumbled on that city teenagers had been assuredly from prosperous backgrounds, rebellious, and at odds with their fogeys.
Within the intervening time, rural individuals had been in overall miserable, hardworking, and staunch-willed. Per the detect, this served to “originate the false affect that teenagers from town luxuriate in severe behavioral com plications.”
Zhou furthermore concluded that the grand majority of the level to’s promotional field cloth in 2014 revolved round city characters — finest infrequently ever did they broadcast the agricultural characters’ level of stare.
Writing for a journal in 2015, CCTV reporter Liu Yishan argued the converse. He said that “X-Swap” mirrored a mountainous sequence of societal complications: miserable training of city teenagers, uneven distribution of social sources attributable to town-rural dichotomy, and left-at the reduction of students.
Liu furthermore underscored that the level to disseminated mainstream values, fancy diligence, affection, and friendship.
Incidentally, Hunan TV, the community on which “X-Swap” airs, place up funds to bolster the level to’s rural individuals and the colleges it featured. By 2014, they had donated 1.51 million yuan to 41 teenagers and 17 faculties.
Li Leyou says that after the level to was once broadcast, Hunan TV gave her a monthly stipend of 500 yuan ($80) till she graduated from junior high college. Wang Jianrong, the vice most critical of her critical college, says: “The level to furthermore inspired many caring viewers to donate cash and field cloth.”
Off digicam, nevertheless, the dissimilarity between city and rural teenagers is peaceful stark. Researcher Zhou Jiawen gains out that many city teenagers leveraged their fame to turn into influencers and performers.
Treasure Cui Jin. Even sooner than taking part within the level to, he posted prolifically on Weibo, China’s microblogging platform. After his episode of “X-Swap” was once broadcast, his recognition surged. He went from having a pair of hundred thousand fans to 2.11 million.
And on getting back from the U.S., Cui chose to discontinue his learn to level of curiosity on constructing his on-line presence. He began posting short movies each day: “All I needed to produce was once convey, ‘Hello, everyone!’ and I’d glean tens of thousands of likes,” he says.
About six months later, he says he started to overlook who he was once, forcing him to bewitch a step reduction and mediate. Finally, Cui made up our minds to hear to comedy and trend movies, which he now posts incessantly on Weibo and video platform Kuaishou.
Cui Jin poses throughout a video shoot in Dalian, Liaoning province, 2021. Zhao Zhiyuan/The Paper
When put next, the level to’s rural individuals luxuriate in stumbled on it powerful more challenging to create a fanbase on-line. Per Yunnan social employee Zhu Jiangfeng, teenagers from town shut to the nation-articulate to hunt records from what they’ve taken without a consideration, which helps them glean reduction heading within the correct direction.
“But for rural teenagers, the disparity between town and the nation-articulate is infrequently a source of inspiration,” he says.
Vice Indispensable Wang Jianrong believes the disaster is no longer the level to itself, nonetheless the articulate of rural training — particularly at dwelling. “Many households accurate arrange to produce ends meet, and fogeys luxuriate in neither time nor energy to hear to their teenagers,” he says.
Zhu has subsidized more than 20 teenagers in Jiache, and visits their properties yearly. He’s stumbled on that many households luxuriate in more than one teenagers and heavy burdens. Moreover, girls are incessantly forced to drop out of faculty to rating work within town or glean married.
But the topic has gradually improved over the previous couple of years. Wang says that since 2013, rural fogeys luxuriate in turn into increasingly responsive to the luxuriate in to bewitch more in their teenagers’s pattern, particularly in lecturers.
“At the the same time, the educational bureau has made more efforts to counter the dropout rate,” he says. Now, junior high faculties in Honghe County luxuriate in a graduation rate of 75%.
For the young in rural Yunnan, nevertheless, town-rural divide is extensive. Li Li, who shared a class with Cui Jin throughout the level to, says he would luxuriate in felt immoral seeing folks fancy Cui now. He says: “It’s no longer easy for us to reach their stage, even within the event that they’re accurate similar outdated teenagers from town.”
A stare of the mountains round Zongla Village, Yunnan province, 2021. Zhao Zhiyuan/The Paper
Bridge between worlds
In 2018, after 13 years on air, “X-Swap” without warning ended. Director Zhang says that it had turn into no longer easy to rating in actuality underdeveloped areas because the appearance of China’s poverty alleviation initiative.
“Some rural homes for the time being are more elegant than ones within town. I obtain that the tip of ‘X-Swap’ is a signal of particular growth,” he says.
On every occasion Li Leyou goes reduction to her village, she helps her grandparents wash and cook dinner, and tends to the crops too. She likes talking to her grandmother about college and the transformation of their village.
A pair of years ago, concrete roads had been laid within the village. Many luxuriate in since equipped bikes, and now, it takes accurate ten minutes to glean to the closest city. Quickly after, novel buildings sprung up one after the somewhat heaps of, each and each shinier than the subsequent.
The Li household peaceful lives in their mud-brick condo, even supposing they no longer enhance pigs. A new slab of cement has been laid at their doorstep, and the government whitewashed the walls of their condo two years ago.
Their household has more than two mu (about 1,300 square meters) of land, on which they domesticate rice and corn. Occasionally, they promote their harvest to create that extra little bit of cash.
After harvesting the crops, Li’s 60-plus grandfather travels nearby to produce irregular jobs for a month or two, which earns him a few thousand yuan. And as a low-earnings household, the household receives nearly 10,000 yuan yearly in government subsidies.
And yet, they proceed to fight. Three years ago, Li’s aunt went to reduction nursing college in Kunming, which costs more than 8,000 yuan ($1,200) a year — no longer including monthly residing charges.
These last two years, Li has visited Dalian for her summer time and winter breaks. On July 23 this year, she obtained off the airplane and was once greeted by her “brother” and “mom” at the airport. On the automotive outing dwelling, Wu and Li chatted incessantly.
For Li, Wu is the largest characteristic mannequin, staunch-willed and hardworking. Li says vivid her has helped her turn into more self-confident, and that she’s now valiant ample to particular her opinions.
Li dreams of going to school in Dalian, nonetheless she’s anxious about no longer scoring high ample. At one level, she began shedding sleep and her grades suffered, leaving her on the brink of despair.
Zhu Jiangfeng feels that Li is below enormous strain to be triumphant academically. “Because so many folks luxuriate in helped her, she’s scared that if she doesn’t glean into college, she’ll luxuriate in failed them,” he says.
Li Leyou learn in Dalian, Liaoning province, 2021. Zhao Zhiyuan/The Paper
Li Jingxu, who’s within the the same grade as Li Leyou, says that out of more than 1,000 students in their high college who took the college entrance examination this year, finest a dozen made it into prime-rating universities, while a pair of Third of the category made it into 2nd-rung universities.
Support in Zongla, village chief Li Kedou says no one from the village has ever carried out a bachelor’s level.
But Li’s grandmother feels her granddaughter is somewhat heaps of — more astute — than the somewhat heaps of teenagers within the village. She says: “I’m particular Li Leyou will have the selection to head away the mountains at the reduction of and dwell the life she desires.”
Li Li and Zhang Tao are pseudonyms.
A version of this article before every thing place looked in The Paper. It has been translated and edited for brevity and readability, and printed with permission.
Translator: Lewis Wright; editors: Li Yijuan, Xue Yongle, and Apurva.
(Header image: Cui Jin (left) and Li Leyou, 2021. Zhao Zhiyuan/The Paper)