Weeping over broken pots in Ya’an

“In the Ya’an earthquake disaster zone I sobbed twice, and both times were by the side of cooking pots”.

The Chongqing Times newspaper today has a special section on the earthquake that occurred in the city of Ya’an (雅安) in Sichuan province last weekend. The special section, entitled “We are all Ya’an people now”, looks at the state of affairs 72 hours after the earthquake with the observation that “The destroyed area is calm and collected as it was before“. In eight pages of in-depth coverage, we see the extent of the destruction, how the survivors are being looked after, and how some people are trying their best to get on with their lives. One page in this special section outlines the findings of a journalist who went to take pictures of damaged homes, and found himself looking at a myriad destroyed stoves and pots as a cruel metaphor for the immense destruction wrought on people’s lives and livelihoods by the earthquake. Seeing all this destruction, there were two occasions when he wept.

The day after the earthquake struck last weekend, a journalist from The Chongqing Times (重庆时报) was in Longmen township (龙门乡), Lushan county (芦山县) in Sichuan province in the area that was the epicenter of the quake. At a village deep in the mountains he was taking pictures and walking from house to house, looking for dwellings that had escaped complete destruction. Yet he found none – all were destroyed. He met an old woman sitting on an embankment who told him that all the cooking stoves and pots in the village had been destroyed; now how would they cook food and boil water?

The journalist was struck by this, and decided to go and inspect the kitchens of every destroyed house if perhaps any of the stoves and pots had survived. In the first broken structure he entered, the kitchen area and everything in it were utterly wrecked; the same went for the second and third house he saw. “The more pictures I took”, he wrote afterwards, “the angrier I became:

I couldn’t help but curse the heavens above for being so heartless as to rob all these people of their means of preparing their food.

This was the first time that the journalist wept in Ya’an. Yet later he did find one house with its pots and stove still intact, even though there was a large crack in the floor. He retrieved the pots, and saw to it that they were used for preparing food.

A few days later the journalist witnessed another mournful scene by the side of a cooking pot. In Lingguan township (灵关镇), Baoxing county (宝兴县), he saw women preparing food in a few large cooking pots while some men were stoking the fires with wood. All the people here, the journalist noticed, had tears in their eyes. The reason for this, he was told, was that the people had seen a television news report that proclaimed that everyone in the disaster area were eating good meals of fish and meat and were doing just fine.

Yet this was far from the truth for the people standing next to the cooking pots: none of the leaders had come to visit them, and they had not much to eat. The journalist overheard an old man telling his wife that he had returned once to their destroyed home to retrieve some dried meat and mushrooms, but had ended up giving the food to a volunteer working in the area.

In Baoxing as well the journalist went to look through the homes in the area, and found that from the outside some of them appear to have been left untouched by the earthquake. Yet inside they were all devastated; in none of them could you cook a meal. All this signified, the journalist concluded, that the sweat and labor of two generations have been wiped out.

We are all Ya’an people now”:


Links and sources
Chongqing Times (重庆时报): 如果你为一口锅哭泣

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