Han Shimei has lived an isolated life full of disappointment, but has found new purpose writing poetry on a video-sharing app.
This story is part of a weekend column featuring translations from respected Chinese media outlets, as selected and edited by Sixth Tone. All are reproduced with the outlets’ permission. A version of this article was first published in NOW.
In the evening, when her husband and son are fast asleep and the house is enveloped in silence, Han Shimei goes to a place that is hers alone.
Lying sideways in bed and clutching her phone, the day’s mundane affairs come flooding back to her. Han will transform these memories into words, adding a rhyme here and there. She’ll spend hours like this in the soft glow of the screen.
Han, 49, lives in a township in Xichuan, a county in central Henan province. Last April, she began writing poetry on Kuaishou, a video-sharing app similar to TikTok that is particularly popular in China’s smaller cities and countryside. In the past year, writing poetry has essentially become Han’s entire life outside of housework and her job in a factory canteen.
On Jan. 18, Han posted three poems, each with several phrases containing five characters. One, about a mountainside farmhouse; another, about an arched bridge on a drizzly day; and the third, about a galloping steed. “Wisps of fog wind ’round the mountains, while in my dreams, I see the climbing cacti blossoms.” “Where the raindrops fall, the ripples appear, each and every time.” “All over the Five Great Mountains he has roamed, his hooves leaving their mark on the most distant reaches of the earth.”
To fit the format of a video-sharing app, Han attached the three poems to a photo; one written in red, the next in purple, and the last in green. She captioned the image: “I cook in the factory, and at noon I was so busy cooking that I accidentally left out a line. So I’m posting it again — the full version. No need to repost or comment this time. Thank you, my friends, for keeping me company all this time. Thank you, everyone.” Continue to read the full article here
– This article originally appeared on Sixth Tone.