The Sorrow of "Artificial Limbs Village"

From QQ | Translated by Roy | Edited by CC

Of 87 villagers who stepped on landmines, there were only 78 legs in total – each one has less than 1 leg on average. Sharenzhai, was famous for the story of “87 people, 78 legs.” Now there are only 4 people left, for the other 83 died of disease one after another.


Wang Yimi from Tianpenglaizhen Funingxian Wenshanzhou,Yunnan Province, became disabled from working in the mines at the border of China and Vietnam.


Mines on display of “Great Guangxi mines sweeping” in 1994 .

Luo Laosan hardly ever talks about his experience of the landmines. These 30 years, he is woken by the recurring nightmare of the mine explosions, which can also be said to be their collective nightmare.

As usual, Luo Laosan goes to herd the cow with a stick and his artificial left leg. It is very difficult for him, for he’s also blind in his right eye. In 1979, he became blind in right eye and lost his left calf. Since then, he has insisted on herding his cows, his most valuable possession, when his leg doesn’t hurt. In the 1980s, some villagers died from working in the mines, and more were injured by mines. Eighty-seven villagers who struck mines have only 78 legs, so each one has less than 1 leg on average. Sharenzhai is famous for “87 people, 78 legs. “ Nowadays, there are only 4 people left, for other 83 died of disease one after another .

Sharenzhai Tianpenglaizhen Funingxian Wenshanzhou in Yunnan Province, lies on the southwestern border of China, 600m far away from the border. There are 59 doors, 283 people in the village and they are all Hmong. Thirty-two years ago, it was a front for the Sino-Vietnam War. After the war, the minefield became a “area of death” even during peacetime, because the mine explosions bring people back to a war mentality.

Less than 1 Leg on Average

On the May 28th,1979, Luo Laosan went to cut grass on the hill. Though Sharenzhai had been on war front, villagers didn’t stop farming, because it was the only way to make a living. Soon after beginning to cut grass, he stepped on a landmine. When he was awake, he realized his left leg was lost. “I would never forget that day.” His calf was amputated without anesthetic and he fainted 3 times in the operation.

From then on, more and more people stepped on the landmines. Wang Yimi, stepped on a mine when cutting grass, in August, 1982, and he lost his right foot. Two years later, once again, his right calf was amputated. He has become a burden to his family, he had even considered suicide.

Yang Zhuasao, a Vietnamese, who had stepped on landmines twice. He stepped on a mine in 1979, on the way to provide leaked information to Chinese army. His right leg was injured and so he then settled in China. Seven years later, he stepped on another mine and left leg had to be amputated.

In 1990s, the government investigated “87 people, 78 legs” in Sharenzhai. And there are some villagers who have stepped on landmines in other villages too. Finally, about 80% disabled are from Tianpengzhang in Funingxian.

Sweep Mines

In fact, when people were injured by mines in the beginning, villagers became careful about stepping on mines. In 1981, a villager, Shi Zhenmin, died from the landmines, and villagers started to dread them. Villagers didn’t go to herd the cattle on the border anymore. But there were still people stepping on mines in 1990s. Cows were blasted as well. Mines were laid in different areas, which made it difficult to sweep mines. Only a few experienced villagers could sweep mines.

Nowadays the young are unfamiliar with mines while the old hardly ever talk about their sad memories. The young are used to it and they know why some villagers are disabled. 27-year-old Wang Guiling, remembers that his father couldn’t walk anymore when he was 6. His father told him the power of the landmines is stronger than that portrayed in the movie, War of Mines.

On the border of China and Vietnam, high and steep mountains are crisscrossed by complex rivers. Mines have been laid in the ground for a long time, so it’s difficult to sweep the mines. Since 1979, 6000 people have been injured or have died due to mines in Wenshanzhou. The Chinese government has organized sweeping the mines several times, on the border of China and Vietnam in 1992 to 1994, 2002 and 2008, and in Yunan in 1997. A lot of mines have been swept.

Suspension of Relief Fund

There are 1274 casualties in total – 1095 injured people and 179 deaths. In the poor villages on the border, the man is the pillar of a family. A disabled man becomes a burden of the family. Disabled people could get 360 to 3720 yuan in reliefing fund according to their level of disability from the Yunnan Interim Provision to Manage Relief Fund for the Disabled Due to War. Though it’s higher than the local average income, the continuing expenses for their injuries are very costly. What’s worse, the relief fund stopped after 11th 5-Year Plan. Unstable policies and rising prices made their living situations worse. Yang Zhuasao has only 200 yuan relief fund a month now, and he seldom eats meat. All the food he owns is the 3 bags of rice in his empty room.

At the very least, the government pays for their changing artificial limbs and that is a large expense. The county government organizes the changing of their artificial limbs every year. And Sharenzhai was elected to be Rich Civilized Demonstration Village on the Border, which gives them new houses, schools, and better care for the disabled.

  1. “Since 1979, 6000 people have been injured or have died due to mines ”

    6000 people over the last 30 years is hardly a crisis for a population as large as China’s (1.3 billion plus)

    1. I think pretty long. In Hungary when they try to build new lines of streetcar or buildings, they find a lot of times mines from WWII. They always evacuated the area, that the mine can safely be removed.

    2. For a very very long time. Mines are still blowing up between North and South Korea when deer step on them and that war ended 50 years ago. Even the Europeans sometimes still find mines from World War 2 that are active and dangerous. And people criticized Princess Diana when she said they ought to be banned (the British royalty are not supposed to take political positions) but I think these terrible things need someone with a lot of publicity to complain about them.

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