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Ant-tribe dwellers retreating back home

(Global Times)

08:17, January 04, 2012

"I love Wenjiang, my hometown. Wenjiang is where we all belong."

In a video that's gone viral online, a young man wearing black-rimmed glasses raps like a superstar, highly praising his rural hometown of Wenjiang.

The rapper, named Li Jian, has worked as a village official for two years in the Wenjiang district of Chengdu, Sichuan Province, which he made the video. Since its release, the video has been viewed more than 85,000 times on Youku, one of the most popular video-sharing websites in China.

Urban headaches

The 25-year-old told the Global Times that he and five friends made the video to pay tribute to the carefree memories of their youth, which they view in a starkly different terms than the hectic big-city life they experienced subsequently.

"We were born and grew up here. Here, villagers are kind and the scenery is beautiful, so we wanted to write a song about it," Li said.

Li's father is a farmer who grows Chinese redbuds, osmanthus flowers and ginkgo trees on a large tract of land near his house. During the busy farming seasons, Li usually helps his father with some farm work. According to him, he knows every crop in the field like the back of his hand.

After he graduated from college in Chengdu in 2009, Li came back to his hometown and worked as a village official, mainly in charge of organizing files and household registration. Although the salary is not very high - about 2,000 yuan ($316) per month - Li says he is very satisfied with his life.

In addition to his deep affection for his hometown, his cited the cut-throat competition and high prices of living in big cities as a major impetus for him to stay in Wenjiang.

"As the son of a farmer, I may not be as economically competitive as those silver-spoon kids," Li said.

"But now, after the release of the video, there are so many people trying to make friends with me through QQ that I don't even dare to log in. "I never expected the video would get so popular."

It's easy to understand why Li's raucous video appeals to so many people, considering the growing proliferation of "ant tribes", or the herds of struggling college graduates who swarm out of their cramped accommodations and spend hours commuting to work on crowded buses and subways in big cities.

"It's very difficult to make a decent living in big cities," Wang Hongcai, a professor at Xiamen University, told the Global Times. "Maybe that's why the video of an average young man's happy country life became so popular."

In his opinion, smart, promising graduates choosing to work in more rural areas and remote areas is indicative of a growing trend of "young people who do not blindly conform to secular values, preferring instead to pursue what they really like."

However, a bigger problem is that most college students are forced to desert big cities due to external forces, rather than out of their own free will.

Chen Wan, a city-dwelling student who will graduate from Hunan Normal University next July, told the Global Times she would prefer to live in a big city if she is able to find a job with an urban hukou, or residency status.

"But the job interviews I had really frustrate me - I haven't found anything," she said. "I think I'll just have to return to my hometown to find something."

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