Small Town

Li Jingrui looks back on her hometown - translated by Helen Wang

This is our final (and longest) piece in a series of four translations of long creative non-fiction essays that first appeared in Chinese in OWMagazine 单读, translated in collaboration with Read Paper Republic. To close the mini-season, former journalist Li Jingrui reflects on her roots, and two decades of change in smalltown China. To support more Chinese voices, give now to our translation drive by donating to our Patreon page, through which we are already close to brining you a wider range of stories like this one.

You can find the same kind of park in every small town. They’re all identical: a park with a small lake covered in water lilies, a few wooden boats that nobody rows tied to the so-called jetty, bright yellow duck-shaped motorised boats puttering around in the middle of the water. The weeping willows trail their branches as they do in poems, though their leaves are grey with dust, except in late March, when the new growth slowly unfurls, and every living thing seems to come back to life.