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Farmers harvest a crop of poetry

Updated: 2012-11-06 10:20
By Peng Yining ( China Daily)

Farmers harvest a crop of poetry

Farmers harvest a crop of poetry

For rural poet Kang Pengfei, baked potatoes provide food for thought. Kuang Linhua / China Daily

Farmers harvest a crop of poetry

Editor's note: This is the third in a regular series of reports brought together under the banner "Lost Horizons", which aims to show life in the less-reported areas of the country and to give a voice to those whose words oft en go unheard. Slideshows and video footage are also available at

Words help provide a refuge from harsh rural reality, Peng Yining reports in Xiji, Ningxia.

For 30 years, potato farmer Zhang Lian plowed his fields during the day and wrote poetry at night. In the harsh environment of Northwest China's Ningxia Hui autonomous region, writing was his only hope and provided a source of spiritual solace, said the 45-year-old.

In 2001 a severe drought devastated Zhang's 60 mu (4 hectares) of potatoes and sunflowers, the crops best suited to Xiji's infertile soil and the only source of income for the family.

On Chinese New Year's Eve 2001, Zhang tried to sell an old sheepskin, the last item of value he owned, to buy a pack of hard candy he had promised his 7-year-old son. He failed.

Feeling desperate in the icy winter wind, Zhang walked slowly back to his mud-brick home, 20 km from the street market.

Firecrackers exploded on the dusty, rural streets, decorated with red lanterns and the village was full of people rushing home to spend the most important holiday of the year with their families.

Zhang was unable to share the excitement. "I didn't even know where the next meal would come from," he said. "I came home with nothing but the unsold sheepskin."

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