Shengliver’s Note: Having been working in high school for over a decade in China, I know well the problems with this system. Not everything about it is rotten, but something is definitely wrong—long working days, weekends being turned into workdays, heavy workloads and deficiency of innovation. Education reforms initiated by the authorities seem to have little remedied the situation and the truth is that some problems are worsening. I have no solution to offer and it is my wish that things could be changed. The sooner, the better. This entry was written in the depths of winter, 2007, after a Chinese teen took his own life without any warning in my school. It is not my intention to hurt anyone or any organisation by writing it. Should anyone living feel offended, please pardon Shengliver.


A boy jumped off the fourth floor of his dorm to death around 5 pm on December 17, 2007, Tuesday.


About a week later, I was informed of the incident by one of the head teachers at an all-staff meeting. This is what I have learned.


The boy, Wang Jun, was a Senior 3 student. He came from Jiahe, Yunxi County. His father is a schoolmaster in a country middle school. He jumped off the building. And he was still breathing when some workers found him lying on the concrete ground in the yard. He even replied to a question from a janitor. He told the janitor which class he was from. An ambulance took him to the city hospital. Doctors there tried to revive him. Around 10 pm he was pronounced dead by the medical workers. The death report said that his lungs, liver, spleen and other internal organs were either smashed or severely damaged and that his ribs and other bones were broken. According to the head teacher, the reason why he killed himself remained unknown. No teacher had criticised him and nothing unusual had been found of him before his death. The school took no legal responsibility for his death and the incident was brought to a close with an agreement between the school and Wang Jun’s father. The school paid a huge amount of money to the family and his body was taken back to his hometown for burial. His father was so infuriated by the death of his son that he even boxed the ears of the dead body when he was shown the corpse in the mortuary.


The school leadership and the Municipal Educational Bureau cancelled a city-level conference on moral education which had been scheduled to take place on Wednesday in my school, for my school is recognised as a model school regarding moral education. What a mockery!


Why did you end your life, lad? I have been racking my brains for an answer but no answer has come up. So I have to speculate and I wish you would not mind it. When you were alive, you were used to answering those ABCD multiple choice questions in various exams. Therefore I have designed a question of this kind for you to answer. You need not talk much, boy. Just pick up your pen or pencil and circle A, B, C, or D for a best answer.


Why have you committed suicide, boy?

A. My girlfriend has cut ties with me.

B. I am inadequate when it comes to improving my grades.

C. I am a homework machine.

D. A lot of rich boys are happier than me.


If the above choices do not offer much info, read the following elaborations before you decide, Wang Jun.


A. My girlfriend has cut ties with me.


I met Jane at the very beginning of my high school experience about 2.5 years ago. I had a crush on her at first sight. She was so cool so innocent so nice. Her smile, her clothes and her standard Mandarin were all perfect. In Grade 1 I learned more about her. She lives in the city and her parents are government officials. They have a car. Every summer and winter holiday she was sent to various camps to learn English. She speaks perfect USA English.


But I came from a poor family. My father earned little as a middle school teacher and my mother, she was jobless. We have no car. I go to no summer or winter camps. My summer holidays were spent in the fields helping my parents with weeding. I tried to speak Mandarin but whenever I started talking in the standard way, my classmates teased me.


I felt inferior to Jane. However, I could not help myself thinking about her all the time. My lessons were worsening with my obsession with Jane growing. At length I mustered the courage to write a letter to Jane, pleading with her to be my girl friend. And she said YES.


How happy I was! In fact I went ecstatic. I found myself full of energy and life suddenly became meaningful. Winter was no longer cold and summer no longer hot. I worked hard to do better in exams, in order to impress my Jane. And in one exam, I came out 3rd in my grade. And how sweetly Jane smiled at me!


Unluckily Jane’s parents wanted her to study music in uni. So earlier this semester, she was sent to study music in Beijing because those students who hope to major in music have to pass a music test besides the National Matriculation Test.


I tried to stay in touch with her while she was studying in the capital. I called her on the phone though long-distance calls were dear. I QQed her whenever I had a free day on the weekend. And snail mail is so slow that I never used it.


Just a week before I jumped, Jane QQed me and said we should end our romance. “It will be impossible for us to stick with each other and our families are as different as black and white,” she said. The phone was hung up. I went nuts. I tried to contact her but her mobile phone could not be reached. I tried to QQ her but she was always offline. Jane, why did you avoid me? Why were you so cruel? Yes, I come from a poor family but I would go to a good university. I would work hard, make big RMB and try to be a Chinese official. I would buy you cars, villas, and whatever you might desire.


All my efforts to contact her were vain, though. Well, what would be the use of living in this world if my Jane has deserted me? So I jumped. Bye, the world.


B. I am inadequate when it comes to improving my grades.


Grades were everything to me. A higher grade would put me in a better university; a better university diploma would mean better job opportunities. My teachers had repeatedly instilled this idea into my head. Since I entered Senior High Three, I have taken a number of exams. The rise and fall of my ranking on the exam results report are the high and low of my self image. My trouble is that I have never progressed in the ranking. I have always stayed around 35th in my class and 1230th in my grade. My biggest headache was math. I have never surpassed 130 marks. But a lot of my classmates got 145 or even full marks.


The last straw came when my class supervisor announced that the school had designated 30 of us to be admitted to key national universities next autumn. And I was supposed to be one of them. Goodness me, I am scared. I cannot make it into a key university. I am no good. My maths is a mess.


I was fully aware of the significance of my grades. My parents’ hard life convinced me that my grades would be the key to a better life for them and for me. My father, who has been a school teacher in the country all his life, had sold me this philosophy—A house of gold is found in my books; and my grades are my life and my future.


I was tormented by the harsh reality. On the one hand, I had been striving for a higher score. On the other hand, I had been stagnant as far as my progress was concerned.


How could I go back and face my parents, who were expecting me to be the pride of the family? How could I face my class supervisor, whose salary and bonus and promotion would be severely affected by my failure to advance in my grades?


To bring to an end my sufferings, I jumped. That’s all. Thank you.


C. I am a homework machine.


I was a human no more. A normal human being needs to work and relax. He needs waking hours and sleeping hours. He needs time to stay with his family and friends. He needs to think and speak. He needs to make his own choices. He needs a nice sleep on the weekend. He needs sports and entertainment.


I could have none of the above. I have been turned into a homework machine. The word homework is no longer the right word here for I did all of it in the classroom. My home is far away from the school and I had to stay on campus 24/7. I got up at 5.30 and went to bed at 10.30. I could not fall asleep until after midnight because my mind was troubled. I tried not to think of my trouble. I tried to push myself into sleep. However, the more I tried, the more awake I was. On many days I had to skip my meals to meet the deadline for my homework. The teachers’ assistants would collect the assignment before the deadline. Every day after lunch, I had to stay in the classroom, working on my boring and endless work.


Sometimes I realised I was no longer myself. I was being pushed and pushed by a hand coming from nowhere. Yes, I was doing my homework but my brain was not thinking my thought. Oh, my god, I was not a human. I was a machine. I had been deprived of my soul.


What would be the meaning of my life if I was no longer a human? I had no time to read my favourite books, to watch TV, or even to think my own thoughts. I had to say bye to this world. I would rather be a dead human than a living machine! So, I jumped.


D. A lot of rich boys are happier than me.


I was doomed. I had no future.


In my class, those of my classmates from better-off families were happier than me. They had an MP3 or MP4 or MP5 player. They had a mobile phone. They were confident in themselves because they, or rather their parents, had money. Some had already decided which university to go to. Some had planned to go and study abroad.


I had nothing. My parents could not buy me an MP3 or MP4 player. I had no mobile phone. I had no confidence in myself. My confidence had been dwarfed by my poverty. The girls would not chat with me. I had no idea which university I would end up in.


Even if I should manage to enter a university, as all my teachers believed, would university make a difference to my life? In my village, some older boys went to university and their parents suffered. All the family worked hard and saved. Every possible fen was sent to the boys in university. Yet after four years, they graduated and they could not find a proper job. There are too many university graduates in China nowadays hunting for a job, they say. And they could not find a decent job because they had no practical experience and no connexions. Book knowledge and a smart CV could not grant them a job.


My god, why was I still toiling away in the stifling classroom in high school? I was working for no end at all. If I should get enrolled at a university next autumn, what hardship would I cause to my poor parents? And after my university, where could I go and get a job? How could I pay back my parents’ love?


It is an unfair world. I was born with no future. As the saying goes, a dragon’s son is a dragon, a phoenix’s daughter a phoenix and a rat’s kid is supposed to burrow. Well, I could not escape from the trap. I could not be a dragon. I could not be a phoenix, either. I was destined to be a rat, living a low and miserable life. I was ashamed.


Everybody says that in heaven there is no pain, no suffering. Everyone is equal to everyone else. I would go there. Bye bye, the world. So I jumped.


Well, the boy Wang Jun, after you have read the above detailed explanation of the four choices, please make your choice. Here in your former school we are still speculating on the reason why you made the final decision to jump. And if none of the above four choices is the right answer, will you please write down the true reason in an email and send it to me? My email address is shengliver@hotmail.com. I was wondering whether your leader, Karl Marx, would allow you to access the web. Anyway, you are still a dead teenager. Down here in your ex-world, living teenagers are not allowed to access the net. They are too young to tell right from wrong; they may get polluted by the poisonous info, they say.


I am looking forward to hearing from you. You are up in heaven. We are still down on earth. Happy 2008 up there. Bye for now, Wang Jun.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. young
    May 20, 2010 @ 01:05:01

    After reading your writing,I feel heavy hearted and can’t help thinking about my own kid.Though she is very young,I often worry about her future when it comes to now society.Hah,maybe I just meet troubel half-way,anyway,we should believe the future will be better and better~~ —susie


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