Source: China State Council Information Office 3
While driving near Baise in Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region on a rainy night in June 2019, Huang Wenxiu, the 30-year-old Party secretary who had devoted herself to lifting the residents of nearby Baini village from poverty, tragically died in a flood. One week later, director Tian Qinxin visited the spot where Huang had lost her life and decided to produce an opera to salute the young hero of the poverty alleviation effort.
The opera On the Way to Alleviate Poverty was presented at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing during the weekend. It will go to stage at Shanghai Grand Theater on Saturday and Sunday.
The opera is based on the story of Huang, who, in her official role, helped 88 families shake off the shackles of poverty.
A postgraduate from Beijing Normal University, Huang volunteered to stay in the village to work as a village official, far from city’s comfortable life. Before her death, Huang sought help to pave a road for the village, construct solar lights, teach locals to plant fruit trees and sell their fruits online.
“Her daily work was ordinary and tedious. But she did these things, day after day, and finally helped those poor villagers get out of poverty. For me, she is a hero,” says Tian, who visited Baini village many times with the opera crew in 2019.
Recalling her first visit to Baini, Tian says the village is bleak and desolate. Except for a small shop, there was no other form of entertainment.
But Huang stayed there for more than a year. She wrote her daily work into diaries. Every day, she walked the mountain, visiting families who lived far apart, to inquire about their needs and help find solutions to their problems.
One resident, a mother of four children, with Huang’s help, took a bank loan and learned to raise silkworms. After some considerable persuasion, another villager, a man who used to be addicted to alcohol, made a fortune by planting fruit trees.
“She was very busy and her work was filled with trivial things. I never knew that so many young people are doing such things in rural villages,” says Tian.
Huang is one of a group of more than 2.7 million young people who have been working shoulder to shoulder with villagers in impoverished areas since 2012, when China set its target to end absolute poverty by the end of this year.
Before learning Huang’s story, Tian had already visited other young village officials working in rural areas. They share something in common: graduating from key universities and volunteering to join the poverty alleviation effort.
“To help so many people out of poverty in such a short time, these young people deserve our respect,” Tian says.
There’s a scene in the opera in which a group of young village Party secretaries introduce themselves during a training class. Some of the performers are from Baise, where Huang’s village is located, and they shoulder the mission of poverty alleviation, often fielding calls from villagers on their mobile phones during rehearsal, says Mei Sheng, who works for the opera.
It has been reported that more than 770 officials have died as a result of such weather-related tragedies, disease or, in some cases, overwork, according to official statistics.
The opera uses a butterfly as a metaphor for Huang’s death. There’s a saying in Baini that people who pass away can go back home as butterflies when they’re missed. And a villager told Tian that he did see a butterfly after Huang’s death.
In fact, when Tian arrived at the spot where a flood took Huang’s life, she says she wanted to cry. Mountains and stones were black and the road was so bumpy that cars struggle to negotiate its surface.
“I never had a chance to meet her, but the opera is my salute to her and her contemporaries,” says Tian.