The city remembers its dead
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.