Like most people who’ve never been through real war and country-wide disasters, I used to be under the mistaken impression that if the apocalypse came, all you had to do was hoard canned goods and preserves and have weapons, and you’d be fine. Then I ended up finding this article by a Serbian guy, a typical middle-class dude, who had been through the war in Kosovo and seen his neighbours killed by bandits. The main point of the article was the shortsightedness of many people when it comes to desperate situations like war or, say, the apocalypse. He said that anyone who hoards weapons and food is going to be the first one targeted by criminal gangs and larger groups of opportunists. He said that you only need enough food and supplies to sustain you on your journey because you need to get the fuck out of there and eventually settle somewhere you can grow food, find shelter, and stay safe.
That always stayed with me, and that’s why I call dibs on Li Ziqi when the apocalypse comes because she can MacGyver food, shelter, and clothing from scratch. Also, since she lives in Sichuan and can talk to animals like Ma-Ti in Captain Planet, I assume our homestead will be defended by the legendary Iron-Eating Beasts currently known as the Giant Panda.
(Incidentally, I only recently learned that back in the Han dynasty or whenever pandas were considered iron-eating monsters, the legends around them included being ridden into battle by the ancient pre-Three Kingdoms God of War Chi You. Artist’s impression of the resulting carnage below.)
Anyway, to get back to Li Ziqi, for those who don’t know her–which is crazy to me because she’s so hugely famous now–Li Ziqi is a Chinese Internet star (although the label does not do her justice) who creates videos of her life in rural Sichuan. Li has had a really tough life–she was raised by her grandparents after her father died and mother left–and had to drop out of school at age fourteen in order to support herself and her family (which includes a brother…so much for the one-child policy). After trying out different jobs and returning to her family farm to care for her ailing grandparents, Li ended up uploading videos of rural life that became viral sensations.
It’s not hard to figure out why. Her videos are extremely high quality–to the point that she’s been accused of faking things although it turns out she just has a really good camera–and they’re edited in a way that makes rural life seem idyllic to people who have never lived on a farm. However, I disagree with people who are saying that she’s being deceptive about the beauty of farm life. She’s not portraying farm life as something easy or luxurious–in every video, you see the amount of painstaking labour involved in every task and chore–but because she’s so good at it, it lulls you into thinking you can do it too. And since the world is populated by unhappy people living in cities and picking on dumb things, there’s something extremely alluring about the simplicity of Li’s life.
But those of us who know how hard rural life is are just impressed and amazed by Li’s strength and skills.
Doretta: I don’t understand how she stays so clean. Dude, I’m grimy SITTING IN A HOUSE.
Me: hahaha do you feel up to living like this
BL: Mmm…no but maybe a vacation, two weeks, when I’m NOT having my period
Me: vacation! this is more like prison sentence
There’s a lot I want to say about rural versus urban life, but I think Li’s quiet videos do that much better than I could ever. I also want to say so much about how government-mandated infrastructure and development (running water, train network, electricity, 5G networks) has made it easier for people like Li to also make a living but I think I’ll let Li show you what life is like in China on her own, as well.
You can see for yourself. Here she is spinning raw wool into yarn and making a gorgeous cloak:
Harvesting wild gingseng and pulling out honeycombs without any protection while the caption says DANGEROUS ACTIVITY, DO NOT IMITATE.
Making a silk quilt starting from growing SILKWORMS! This was the video that impressed my mom, who grew up on a farm, too. This video also resulted in me receiving several side-eyes from her when she asked me what happened to the bag I’d been crocheting for the past four years, and I said, “I’m still working on it.”
Some of the most exquisite home-cooked food I’ve seen. I received another round of side-eyes, this time from my kid, when he asked me if I could make this for him and I laughed and said “Hell no.”