The Case of the Missing Migrants

“Teaconomics” transforms a Chinese village – Matthew Chitwood

Editor’s note: We’re pleased to present a new mini-series by Matthew Chitwood, a research fellow with the Institute of Current World Affairs, who is living for two years in Bangdong Village in southwestern Yunnan Province, since fall 2017, researching rural perspectives on life and China’s economic transformations. Each Thursday for the next four weeks, we will feature a new essay from Matt’s blog, examining a different aspect of life in Bangdong loosely organized around China’s four pillars of development: economic, social, environmental and political. – Alec Ash

The blood gushed out with each squeal, dark like vintage Burgundy. Each labored breath cut off the flow, like someone pinching a hose, until a new squeal – piercing and terrifying – opened the floodgates anew. It spilled into an aluminum bowl, turning a bright red, like frothy cooling Jell-O.

That is not what I was expecting, although I suppose it should have been. I was attending a village shazhu fan, or “pig-slaughtering feast,” for Chinese New Year. It was an educational moment for me and a wide-eyed three-year-old next to me. Moments earlier, the boy’s father, Li Rugui, a local tea farmer and the host of our feast, had led the doomed animal from its concrete pen next to their home. Li Rugui was joined by three buddies, with one man holding each ear and two at the tail. The pig made its discomfort clear.