Voices from China

Crying River

(June 8, 2011) A touching call to heal in the face of drought.

By Gao Xin

"Losing a river is like losing a part of our soul," writes Gao Xin.

The spring is late in coming this year. Some parts of China have experienced serious drought conditions. A number of rivers have dried up completely and riverbeds are bare and cracked. For many of us, rivers are more than just water. Losing a river is like losing a part of our soul.

My family and I live in the Tongzhou district of Beijing. In the past, Tongzhou was known for its extensive river system. The Chaobai River flowed through most of this part of the county. But in the last few years, the rivers and streams have disappeared. Overuse and pollution have degraded them and water levels have descended; more and more livings have vanished.

Near my home, there is a small river, a tributary of the Chaobai. Well, it is not really a river any longer and what little water flows through it is stagnant and polluted. In summer, the smell is dreadful. We were forced to close our windows to keep out the foul odour. My neighbourhood teacher, Yang, who has lived here for ten years, says he and his friends used to fish and swim in this river. At that time, he says, the river was pure. Trees and grass grew along the riverbank and fish, crabs, and prawn lived in the water. Birds, butterflies and dragonflies fluttered upon the water’s surface. It was beautiful. But the river went completely dry this spring.

I heard the river’s cry and knew: she is sick. We have nearly killed her and it is time for us to heal her. We need to let our river smile again.

Gao Xin works at the Fanhall Center for Arts, an independent film studio in Beijing.

Categories: Voices from China

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