In China’s Quake Zone, Aftershocks of the Spirit

Edward Cody of the Washington Post looks at how Sichuan residents are dealing with the impact of the earthquake:

Across China, children have been taught for generations that enduring hardship — or “eating bitter,” as Chinese like to say — is just as important as overcoming it. The rugged farmers of have developed a reputation for being even abler than the rest of their countrymen in this respect. And since the quake struck, they have earned their reputation anew.

“Our mothers and fathers teach us from an early age,” explained Jiang Mixiao, 45, whose apartment building in Dujiangyuan, just northwest of Chengdu, was flattened by the quake. “We all know how to eat bitter.” […]

Party propagandists have long relied on that history to rally support, even though three decades of economic reforms have transformed the way many Chinese live — particularly party members — and made the storied hardships only a memory. Now, the party has been forced to rely on the tradition in a new way, counting on the patience of 12 million refugees across the earthquake zone who have little promise of returning home for months or even years.

For them, the disaster has opened a new era of eating bitter. And once again, they have made enduring hardship a point of pride. “I could cry, but what good would that do?” said a homeless factory worker who identified himself only as Yang.

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