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‘Saddest’ essay triggers debate on Weibo

A 300-word heartbreaking essay written by a 12-year-old little girl went viral this week and set off a debate on China’s largest social media Sina Weibo.

The girl, named Mukuyiwumu (pen name Liu Yi), is a fourth-grade student in a poor village in Meigu county of Liangshan Yi autonomous prefecture in Sichuan province. She now lives with her paternal grandmother after her father died of illness in 2010 and her mother died of a heart attack in 2014.

In the essay, she described her mother's poor health and death, as well as how she missed her, quoting a moving sentence from her text book. "My textbook said there is a place called Sun Moon Lake (in Taiwan), that's formed with tears I shed for missing my mom" 

The hashtag #the saddest essay in the world# went viral on Sina Weibo Tuesday, and soon triggered heart wrenching comments from the netizens. One said, “This is the saddest essay ever I have read in my life”; another said, “The words in the essay are simple and plain, but it just makes people cry”.

At the same time, there were also some critical voices toward this essay. One question is whether the essay was truly written by the 12-year-old girl. Some thought it might be written by the kid’s volunteer teacher.

The volunteer teacher of Mukuyiwumu, named Ren Zhongchang, said during an investigative TV show of CCTV that the content of the essay was written by the kid, and he just modified some of the punctuations and format of the essay, as the kids’ writing skill is in a “complete mess”.

Ren said that most of the time, kids in Liangshan Yi autonomous prefecture speak Yi language, the official language of Yi people, and Mandarin is like a foreign language for the kids there. Although the kids’ oral expression in Chinese is OK, expressing what they feel exactly is a hard thing, according to Ren.

Mukuyiwumu didn’t know that her essay had gone viral on the Internet because of the closed landform in the mountainous area, and Ren said he didn’t want the kid to be disturbed by this issue.

The essay was originally posted on Sina Weibo by Huang Hongbin (Weibo name as @老邪哥哥), the president of Suoma Philanthropic Foundation in Sichuan Province, after he visited the volunteer teachers at the primary school on July 9 and saw a wall of essays written by kids in the same class with Mukuyiwumu. He was deeply moved by the one written by Mukuyiwumu, and posted the photo of the essay on Sina Weibo with a short description. Huang himself even didn’t realize this essay could become such a hot topic on the Internet, according to Beijing Youth Daily. 

Huang later went to Mukuyiwumu’s home together with a volunteer teacher, only to find a shabby house constructed with air bricks, according to Beijing Youth Daily. Seeing the teachers, shy as Mukuyiwumu was, she looked happy with a smile on her face.

She was one of the five children in the family. Her older sister, 16, and older brother, 15 are working away from home, and she is responsible for taking care of her two younger brothers, one 10, the other 5.

“In fact, there are many kids like Mukuyiwumu in Liangshan area,” Huang who was also moved by another essay entitled “Crying Heart”, said.

The other argument points at the government support in Liangshan Yi autonomous prefecture. Some even said “given that Liangshan is so poor, how does the government have money to host the 2022 Winter Olympics?”

According to Jimu, the principal of Baoshi Primary School, under the orphan rescue policy in China, every orphan under 18 is supported with a 678-yuan (about $109) subsidy each month. Huang said each kid has a red deposit book registered under his/her own name.

After the essay spread online, the Sichuan branch of sina.com had received about 430,000 yuan ($70,000) for its charity program called “Help Children in Liangshan Mountains” by Wednesday noon. Donations via all online channels amounted to 920,000 yuan, according to sina.com.

However, Huang said he didn’t mean to raise money by posting the essay on the Internet, and what the kids need is love instead of money.

Now, the Suoma Philanthropy Foundation has signed an agreement with Mukuyiwumu’s grandmother, which will allow Mukuyiwumu and her two brothers to study at the Suoma Flower School run by Suoma Philanthropy Foundation for free, according to Beijing Youth Daily.

Liangshan has the largest number of people who belong to the Yi ethnic group, totaling more than 2 million.

In the aftermath of widespread drug-taking, drug trafficking and AIDS, many people have died, become handicapped or been jailed in Liangshan, which causes a deterioration in children's living conditions, the Beijing Youth Daily reported last year.

Huang said, one of the most important reasons for the high orphan rate in this area is the poor medical condition. The other is the local tradition in which when people get sick they don’t go to the doctor but a person who is believed to have a supernatural power. Besides, when women there are remarried, they don’t bring with them their own children.


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