Living in the world’s most populous country makes it difficult to find peace, quiet, or much personal space. With the daily push for telecommunication and electronic connectedness, the idea of solitude in China is becoming more and more unattainable. Now imagine trying to go against this trend by living isolated from modern technology. Sure, living off the grid might be possible in a place like Montana, but is it conceivable in jam-packed China? For one couple in a small village in Henan, fate pushed them off the grid and they haven’t looked back.
It’s no secret that China is pushing to modernize even the farthest reaches of its empire. Small villages are not exempt from this. Haphazard planning and strong-arm tactics often make this push for progress extremely unpopular among locals. Those stubborn few who refuse to relocate when the wrecking ball comes are nudged with cash incentives, nicer digs or other means of persuasion. Li Weicheng is one of the few impervious to these efforts.
Much of what is left of Li’s native Zhuangzi village relocated a mile or so down the mountain about five years ago. He and his wife, though, have chosen to stay. “I am not good at making contact with people or doing business.” These are certainly not empty words. The couple’s secluded homestead is only accessible through a 50-year-old tunnel that is impassable in heavy rains. They raise chickens and bees, grow their own crops and use water from a stream on their property. Granted, a cellphone keeps Li and his wife on the grid, it’s only near the outer periphery.
“Although my life here is a bit tough, I am very happy.” At the end of the day, that’s what matters most.