The story appears on

Page A9

September 13, 2021

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Nation

Diary of a poor rural girl’s struggle

About 20 years ago, a diary chronicling the struggles of a teenage girl from rural China was published at home and abroad and became an instant hit.

In the book “The Diary of Ma Yan: The Struggles and Hopes of a Chinese School Girl,” Ma described scenes such as how girls had to cross mountains to reach school every morning with an empty stomach.

Their longing for the change of destiny through learning and hardworking was inspirational for many readers.

Twenty years have since passed and the conditions described in Ma’s diary have undergone tremendous changes.

A whole new world has been forged.

“Mother, my tears would never dry if I couldn’t go to school,” Ma wrote in her diary when her mother Bai Juhua suggested the 13-year-old drop out of school and learn tailoring or hairdressing skills.

Ma cried a river and asked her younger brother to read her diary to their mother.

Then, her mother changed her mind.

In order to support her daughter, she traveled far and did odd jobs to earn money.

Ma’s hometown Zhangjiashu is a mountainous village in Tongxin County, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in northwest China.

It is part of Xihaigu, a barren region that was deemed one of the most unfit places for human settlement by the United Nations in the 1970s.

“Now, all children have got access to free education thanks to the implementation of the country’s nine-year compulsory education policy,” said Ma Ruyun, principal of the Third Middle School of Tongxin County where Ma Yan once studied.

The bungalows where Ma once studied have been replaced by concrete buildings with bright classrooms equipped with digital blackboards and Internet. Students can attend online classes.

Ma wrote in her diary that she and her classmates used to bring steamed buns as their only food at school.

Now, students do no longer have to bring their own food.

“Today no girl drops out of school to get married,” Ma Ruyun said. “Their parents are ready to send them to a vocational school to acquire skills even if they fail to gain admission to a senior middle school.”


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend