Foshan needs to build a statue for the nineteenth person

From Sina Blog By Shi Shusi Translated by Cathy Song


Chen Xianmei, the scrap peddler (Not a trash collector according to Shangaiist) who came to the rescue of Yueyue, the Foshan toddler who ignored after being run over by car twice.

At this moment, nearly everyone is condemning those eighteen pedestrians who chose to do nothing after walking past a severely injured child.

On the afternoon of October 13th, a two year old girl named Yueyue was run over twice by two separate trucks in Foshan Nanhai. As eighteen people passed by Yueyue’s crushed body, nary was a hand lifted.

This tragedy has been a painful shock for all us.

After the accident there came a tsunami of criticism, followed by fervid calls to "revive morality" and to end the plight of “cold-bloodedness.”

We all know that speeches and denunciations don’t deliver justice. The more pressing and urgent question is: if you were one of the eighteen people passing by that day, would you have physically assisted Yueyue?

To be honest, I’m not sure if I would’ve helped. Or assuming that I have a backbone a bit stronger than those eighteen individuals, I doubt I would’ve stepped beyond a phone call to the police.

We, all of us, are those eighteen people. As one of them, I feel only shame and despair. I’ve chosen not to censure them, nor have I demanded that their heads be sent to the guillotine. I didn’t bother learning their names or their faces, or why they decided to ignore little Yueyue. They have one name: Chinese People. A people who are on the rise, all of them filled with ambitious desire. And yet by being morally empty, there is no hope for them.

If we offer the eighteen an ounce of face, it’s for the sake of maintaining our own dignity. Our anger suggests that we might still have hope, but what good does hope do without concrete action?

It hasn’t been surprising that both citizens and officials have shown genuine concern for Yueyue’s well-being. But we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves by interpreting this widespread care as a final indicator that “man is largely good, after all.”To donate money or to express solidarity after the fact is far easier than carrying out real action at the time of crisis— to praise ourselves for expressing sympathy cheapens what moral action really means. Still, I maintain that to feel collective shame is a starting point for us to recover from our society’s pathologies and to return to normalcy.

Thank God for the nineteenth person.

This person—ignored by the society in which she lives— carries out what should be considered an ordinary act of humanity – to help a dying Yueyue– now stands on our history’s stage, bearing its light.

She is a garbage collector. Fifty eight years old. She lives in Guangdong and her name Chen Xianmei. It’s an ordinary name, but it will never be ordinary again. She comes from Qingyuan Yangshan, and lives with her children in Foshan. During the day she cooks for a small restaurant. In the afternoon, she collects garbage for money.

In a financially vibrant place like Foshan, no one pays respect to or feels concern for a woman of her status. She has no money, she has no power, and she is not beautiful. In a city of millionaires, she stands isolated on the fringe. She doesn’t even have a residence card. Chen Xianmei has only her her own diligence, tenacity and toughness to survive on.

And yet she has a heart of gold.

In the face of moral decline, a legal system that is as unjust as it is obsolete, she chose not to complain. She chose instead to help little Yueyue.

Up to now, the most significant acknowledgment she’s received in her life occurred when Yueyue’s devastated parents rushed to her side. Falling to their knees, they bowed at her feet. To recognize who Chen Xianmei is, is to negate our worship of power, position and material.

To Chen Xianmei, she followed what she merely believed as a basic instinct. She felt that her actions were natural.

For the rest of us ordinary people, this “basic instinct” has become precious and scarce. For this reason, I think that Foshan should erect a statue of this old woman. Monetary reward shouldn’t be the only way we honor her. There are things in this world that can’t be measured by money.

The purpose of erecting a statue of Chen Xianmei bears greater significance than the purpose behind Wuhan’s statue of Li Na although inevitably our society will hold Li Na’s contribution and influence above Chen Xianmei’s.

The whole story is filled with irony. Chen Xianmei, has been pushed into the margins of society, and must bear living in a society that rejects her. In her old age, she has been reduced to picking garbage. And yet her actions show us a deeper example of what it means to be human.  Where there is no compassion for one’s fellow man, even the greatest success is a flimsy, scattered cloud.

  1. I hope that this is a wake up call for most of the Chinese. Public needs to learn what it forgot in a hunt for modernity. If they do not they may find out one day they were running after a shadow that disappears as soon as the sun is gone and they are left with a hostile heaps of human trash.

  2. You got a beef with Shanghaiist?
    I just tweeted a link to you for the last time.
    Grow the fuck up/

  3. Seriously, what is wrong with these people? I’ve been in a few situations where a badly injured person needed immediate help, and I have always offered help in those situations. It is normal. But casually walking by a 2 year old as she writhes in agony, that is not normal at all. This author thinks that placing a call to the police is a step in the right direction? It’s not. It’s so far off the lunatic fringe of moral bankruptcy that it doesn’t matter how many steps you take, your soul is dead. It’s like trying to do CPR on a corpse. Anyone who has any sympathy for the 18 people may as well be one of them.

  4. I see a person full of the milk of human kindness, and compassion learned from a life of humility and suffering. In the truest sense she has great beauty and pathos. A redeemer who walks in his shadow.

  5. Seriously? I mean, seriously? Building a status for someone who simply lifted a 2-year-old girl lying in blood on the street, and tried to save her? SERIOUSLY? What is wrong with Chinese ethics? Are they all rotten? It’s BASIC humanity to save someone who is injured. It’s not something to be THAT great to build a status. Seriously, Chinese people, you want to build a status of someone who just practiced basic humanity? Something is terribly, terribly wrong with the ethics, morality and humanity of the people in that society.

    1. are you stupid? do you not get it? 18 other people walked by and did nothing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING she the 19th person stopped and helped a dying child. out of 19 people only one stops to help. she is a person the sociaty as pushed to the side yet she is the one that steps up to help society. she is a reminder never to get so wrapped in sociaty as to loose sight of the value of ever human life. a statue for her and the situation i feel is needed . anyone who doesnt see that is sad and is probably lost themselves…

  6. I think they should build a statue of her with a plaque that mentions the18 tards the walked past the baby.

  7. Jesus was a worthless nothing as well, he came to us not for one little child, but to save us all. With the foreknowledge that in helping us he would ostracize himself with the ‘powers at be’ and suffer torture and crucifixion, and yet he came anyway, for the littlest of humanity.. We all have the power to help — unconditionally — do we dare?

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