Author Topic: Chinese man who’s lived down a manhole in Beijing for the past 10 years  (Read 12803 times)


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Everyday we are alive, we should be thankful that we have Dharma and a comfortable life. We shouldnt waste our time complaining about what we dont have or what we could have. Look at these people, just to make it through the day and night is already so hard. And there are people who says they have depression or in suicidal mode... How sad... Always remind ourselves, how lucky we are just by having this able body and be near the Dharma.
May we always have the merits to help all those sentient beings who need Dharma in whatever ways we can.

In the past week, the news that several poor elderly people were found to live in heating sewers at the heart of Beijing has been making the rounds on the Chinese Internet. Most of these “manhole dwellers” are elderly impoverished migrant workers who cannot afford even the cheapest rent in China’s glorious capital. Desperate for a “home,” they moved underground into the city’s heating manholes, which, though filthy, can be “heaven-like” warm shelters during Beijing’s harsh winters.

52-year-old Wang Xiuqing from the nearby Hebei province has lived in one of manholes for more than 10 years. He has caught special media attention among two dozens of other “manhole dwellers.” And it’s for a reason.

Wang lives alone in a manhole in Beijing’s Chaoyang District. His wife and three children live in the northern outskirts of Beijing, in a real home. He works as a car washer during the day, with some 2000-yuan income per month.  The reason why many Chinese netizens feel particularly sympathetic towards him is because his impoverishment is partly caused by government fine – he violated China’s one-child policy for having 3 children.

Below is a translated interview of Wang by New Beijing News. Wang, in his early 50s, is China’s Red generation who grew up under Mao and has lived through modern China’s all ups and downs – the Great Famine, the Cultural Revolution, the opening-up, the rising power, you name it. They are also China’s first migrant workers who are known for being able to “eat bitterness.” The following interview of Wang depicts a very vivid and representing image of what many of China’s Red generation looks like.

New Beijing News: “Do you feel suffocating and damp to live in a manhole for long periods of time?

Wang: “Not if you live down there long enough, like me. But I don’t live down the manhole during the summer because it’s too hot. Instead, I sleep on grass. I only live down there during the winter. It’s not damp at all in winter time.”

New Beijing News: “Do you use candles a lot?”

Wang: “To have the candles always on will get me exposed. I usually only light up candles for a short period after getting down. I cannot even use up 6 candles per month. Candles bought in the summer melt into one. I had a very hard time separating them. They were all deformed, but still good to use.”

New Beijing News: “Without light, what do you do to kill time?”

Wang: “I have a small radio. I take it with me every day for stories, music and news.”

New Beijing News: “In additional to candles, what else are necessities for living down a manhole?”

Wang: “I seldom buy anything besides cigarettes and food. I have a big detergent bottle. It’s cold outside at night and it’s dangerous to climb up and down. So I use the bottle to pee. I don’t feel like to poop at all whenever I am down. My body adapts.”

New Beijing News: “Is it easy to get sick living down a manhole for so long?”

Wang: “I’m pretty healthy.”

New Beijing News: “It’s dangerous to live down there. If one of the heating pipes leaks…”

Wang: “I know it’s dangerous. There is toxic air from below. People’d also throw random things down. But that’s life. Not something I can control.”

New Beijing News: “Do you often chat with your neighbors?”

Wang: “Those who live down manholes are from all over China. They come and go. I don’t understand many of their dialects. We almost never say hi to each other or chat. “

New Beijing News: “Did you feel upset when you first moved down?”

Wang: “No. I washed car here 10 years old. At the time, some 30 people lived in nearby manholes. The harsh winter that year forced me to move down. Compared with the coldness outside, I felt very happy to be in the manhole.”

New Beijing News: “When was the worst time?”

Wang: “The worst time is when it’s the coldest. If I don’t get out, I won’t get any money. If I do, it’s deadly freezing.”

New Beijing News: “Do you feel depressed?”

Wang: “Almost never. I’m used to living down a manhole. My children are growing up, and they are very good kids. I feel very positive and happy.”

New Beijing News: “In all these years, have your kids been giving you the strength to endure this life in a manhole?”

Wang: “Yes, only my 3 kids can give me the power to live on. They all study very well. That’s my biggest motivation.”

New Beijing News: “Do you feel the manhole is your home?”

Wang: “Not really a home, but it does protect me from rains and winds. Who doesn’t want to live in big houses or fancy hotels if rich enough?”

New Beijing News: “Have you ever calculated how much does it save you to live in a manhole?”

Wang: “Of course. It costs an average of 300 yuan per month to rent a place. In the past 10 years, I saved 36,000 yuan by living down the manhole.”

New Bejing News: “Apartments near the manhole now sell for more than 40,000 yuan per square meter. Have you ever thought about owning your own home?”

Wang: “I cannot afford even one square meter with a whole year’s income. It’s impossible for me in this life. There’s no point in thinking about it.”

New Beijing News: “Someone says that those who live in manholes have no dignity.”

Wang: “Dignity? It’s not for everyone.  For someone like me who lives like a beggar, dignity means nothing. In 2008, I was washing a car on the roadside. An urban law enforcement official took me away. He released his dog from its cage and put me in. I want to have dignity. But what dignity was left to me at that moment?”

As of now, the manholes have been sealed by local authorizes. But luckily, someone was kind enough to offer Wang a job, with food and shelter included.

Jessie Fong

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People living down in the manholes are also like the other people who are homeless, making the pavements their homes.  They fare a little better in that they are protected from the elements of the weather, getting better shelter compared to those on the streets.

Whether down in the manhole or in the open on streets, there are dangerous situations to contend with. And then there is the law enforcement officers to face.

They did not choose this "lifestyle" -- given the proper conditions, they would hope for a roof over their beds, a bed and a warm meal.

Jessie Fong

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Sorry ... typo ... should read as : They did not choose this "lifestyle" -- given the proper conditions, they would hope for a roof over their heads, a bed and a warm meal.

Tenzin K

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At one point I’m sad to see where this man lives but at the other side of it I feel that in samsara this is how karma works and nothing to sorry about. We are what we are not based on our previous act and can make a change for tomorrow.

For Wang he is just fighting to survive in samsara for his 3 kids. This is his biggest motivation in this life. We can say pity him and of course for me I’m sad because this is how he is going to spend his life just for samsara needs. He’s not wrong to live to raise his kids as this is the karma that he need to go through but let say if he also learn dharma and has protector practices to benefits others and himself isn’t that will be more beautiful in his life which serve a bigger meaning.

Frankly speak to me I’m ok with how Wang lives in fact not the worst that I have seen but just that if they could live his life with dharma will serve more benefits to himself by the way how he lives and I strongly believe that the protector will also help in lighten of provide a conducive condition for him in order to practice and benefits others which is what the dharma protector does.


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Amazing. The way this man responded that he doesn't feel any depression nor having no dignity. He just accepts his current situation and continue living. For some they might have committed suicide. I don't know whether he is running away from his predicament but seeing that his motivation is still working for the sake of his family with good livelihood there is definitely dignity and integrity in this very same man. Under pressure some may have resort to stealing or some illegal form of livelihood but not with this man.

Sir, I salute you! You're the best daddy to your own children. You've shows perseverance, contentment and courageous to continue living in the face of difficult circumstances. We are really being spoilt by comfort.

metta girl

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 Some people are easily contented with whatever they have .Imagine living in a place without air-conditioning, no electricity & water, no bathroom or toilet. Mr.Wang is a very positive person for he did not even thought of getting money the easy way eg. stealing.He is happy and accepted his karma and fulfilled his responsiblity in taking care of his family .Hope he will meet with the  dharma and practice spirituality  for the rest of his life.


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wow, this is an eye opener. Thanks for sharing. I have never known of such cases. Mostly is i would see people begging on the streets and never wondered where they would be sleeping. I guess my thoughts are coming to one piece now. It is a pity one would get this sort of karma to be poor and forgotten. Probably these are the people we should be getting in touch with to see if we can help them in any sorts. Probably give them a little bit of Buddhism knowledge and plant the seed for his future rebirths.

Kim Hyun Jae

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Mr Wang knew he was not allowed to have 3 kids in China but he still had children. He loved his kids alot and he was so pleased his children studied well and doing ok. Mr Wang faced himself honestly to say he cannot afford a house as it costs him too much now. He is courageous to face his predicaments and did not lay a single blame on his situation, condition or to anyone else. He took matters into his hands and just live in whatever way he can.

Mr Wang may not know about karma or anything religious, but he accepted his situation and choose to live in whatever way he can in this life. For ourselves, how many of us will be able to do what he had done? It took alot of guts.


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There are many reasons for people to be homeless. Some by choice and some have no choice. Of course in both scenarios, Karma plays the main role.
In my opinion this man living in a manhole for 10 years is very admirable. Firstly, circumstantially he is forced to live there due to poverty. He managed on his own with so little assets he calls his own. Adapting to the weather as best as he can. Feeling contented most of the time, whilst keeping a contact with the progress of his 3 children. He rejoices in their progress. He makes no effort in changing his environment cause he knows its impossible. But instead he changed his mind to adapt and accept all that comes by his way. No anger. No resentment. No desire . No attachment . Most people suffer from all these problems, even when they have money, houses,partners, children, business etc etc. So what actually gives us happiness ?

Tenzin Malgyur

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I think this is one  illustration on how living on this earth is suffering and would inspire one to strive very hard to liberate oneself and then others out of this woe. Mr. Wang is really courageous and love his family so much to go through all the discomforts to make a living to provide for his family in the village. May this article serves to remind many more of us to appreciate and be thankful for whatever we have and to utilize our fortunate situation to ease and end the sufferings of all beings.


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Re: Chinese man who’s lived down a manhole in Beijing for the past 10 years
« Reply #10 on: January 26, 2014, 10:45:57 AM »
 Thanks Bambi for sharing this story!  This is really an eye-opening lesson for all of us to the realities of poverty and need. What truly amazed me the most was how much strength and resilience I saw in Mr Wang.   I am so thankful that I have a roof over my head, enough food and a warm bed to sleep it when there is so much poverty and homelessness in the world around us.


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Re: Chinese man who’s lived down a manhole in Beijing for the past 10 years
« Reply #11 on: January 26, 2014, 02:18:22 PM »
Thank you for sharing this story about Mr. Wang's life. Karma is very scary and it works in mysterious ways too. It's is the cause and effect of Mr. Wang's previous life to be in this predicament now.
We should do more dharma work to accumulate more merits so that we will be a little bit better off in our future lives. We must also have a spiritual path to guide us to Enlightened too.

hope rainbow

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Re: Chinese man who’s lived down a manhole in Beijing for the past 10 years
« Reply #12 on: January 26, 2014, 02:37:19 PM »
This surely puts things into perspective. I'll think twice after complaining again about small details that are just beyond this person's imagination, or else I'd feel ashamed really...
Some of us are really going through hardship, and some of us are rather patient about like that person who is humble and does not seem bitter even though he has gone through a lot of humiliating experiences.
He says he has no more dignity, I am not sure he has lost that, but it seems he has gained humility... Something that money can't buy!


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Re: Chinese man who’s lived down a manhole in Beijing for the past 10 years
« Reply #13 on: January 26, 2014, 02:43:12 PM »
Due to high rent,he lived in a manhole to save rent so that he can provide for his wife and his three school-age children.This is an unbelievable story of a selfless man's  love for his family and children.
Wang accepts his situation with courage and continue living and earning what he can for his family which is truly amazing!He chose to have three children and he fulfill his responsibilities the best he can and rejoices at their progress.He may be poor and homeless but he has dignity.
Truly an eye-opener for us to be thankful and count our blessings.May he be in good health and meet the dharma in his future lives.