The city re­mem­bers its dead

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

Be­fore trav­el­ing to Tang­shan, He­bei prov­ince, I watched the Chi­nese-made movie After­shock, which tells the story of the 1976 earth­quake. I cried so much, I used up two packs of tis­sues.

I asked 68-year-old Deng Yap­ing, a former sol­dier in the com­mu­ni­ca­tions corp of the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army who was par­a­lyzed in the quake, for her opin­ion of the movie. “It was not even close to what re­ally hap­pened that night. The re­al­ity is beyond peo­ple’s imag­i­na­tions,” she said.

Walk­ing along the streets, I was struck by the num­ber of posters pro­mot­ing the 40th an­niver­sary of the earth­quake. They were every­where— grim re­minders that the city was wiped out in just one night.

“One-third killed, one-third in­jured and one-third sur­vived,” is a widely be­lieved lo­cal maxim about ca­su­alty num­bers, and al­most ev­ery Tang­shan res­i­dent has painful mem­o­ries of the 7.8 mag­ni­tude quake.

On July 28 ev­ery year, peo­ple burn pa­per money in ev­ery cor­ner of Tang­shan, a folk rit­ual by which of­fer­ings are made to de­ceased loved ones. These street scenes are Tang­shan’s unique shrine to its dead.

Tomy mind, when bad things hap­pen, peo­ple com­plain and show their weak­nesses, but when I spoke with peo­ple who were par­a­lyzed, fa­thers who lost daugh­ters, sons who lost moth­ers and sis­ters who lost broth­ers, not one of them sawthe world through gloomy eyes.

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