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A promise kept for 143 years: voluntary ferry family repay kindness

By Liu Ning, Zhao Tong (People's Daily Online)    18:02, September 01, 2020

Located in Jianshi County, Enshi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture, Central China's Hubei Province, Dashahe village is named after the river that flows across it.

Nearly 150 years ago, the ancestors of the Wan family built a boat and began ferrying people across the river voluntarily. Wan Qizhen, 79, is the family's third-generation ferryman, and has been doing it for nearly 30 years.

Photo taken on Aug. 27, 2020 shows Wan Qizhen, 79, the family's third-generation ferryman, waiting for villagers to send across the river. (Media Convergence Center of Jianshi County/Su Xi)

“Our ancestral home was in Jingzhou City, by the Yangtze River. Then the flood struck. My ancestors had to flee from famine and eventually came here,” Wan told People’s Daily Online.

The locals helped Wan’s ancestors by giving them five mu (nearly 3,300 square meters) of farmland so that they could make ends meet.

To show their gratitude, they made a promise do something for them in return, something free of charge forever.

Wan Qizhen, the family's third-generation ferryman, has been ferrying villagers voluntarily for nearly 30 years. (Media Convergence Center of Jianshi County/Su Xi)

“Now we are here, trying to do good deeds for the locals, by ferrying people across the river for free,” Wan said.

“He’s a very good ferryman, very hardworking,” said a couple who are Wan’s passengers every day, as the river separates their home and their children’s. “We’ve lived here since we were born and we’ve been passengers on Wan’s ferry service for decades,” the couple said.

Photo taken on Aug.27, 2020 shows the toll the job has taken on Wan Qizhen’s hands. (People’s Daily Online/Zhao Tong)

However, time takes its toll, and Wan’s body sometimes can’t take the physical strain of the work, which used to require him to cross the river at least 40 times in a day. Bruises can be seen on both his hands, caused by constant friction with the oars when Wan rows the boat.

Wan Qizhen’s son inherited the job from his father 10 years ago. 

“We all need to repay other people’s kindness. We will never forget the promise our ancestors made,” he said, firmly believing that it will be kept and passed on from generation to generation.

“I will keep ferrying till the day I am no longer capable. I will always be a ferryman here when people need my services,” Wan Qizhen said, rowing the boat slowly and tirelessly along the river. 

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(Web editor: Hongyu, Bianji)

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