YUNNAN–In the quiet, almost pastoral outskirts of northwest Yunnan, an elderly gentleman sits in the afternoon sun humming a familiar tune and patiently working on his long, rectangular box of wood–or future home, of sorts.
The local Chinese government, in response to the longterm drought caused primarily by extensive damming projects, has generously begun to supply farmers with free wood so they, like Ming Xu, can begin to plan for the future.
“I retired a few months ago from working the land,” said Ming Xu, “basically because there was no real land to work anymore, and started going stir-crazy inside the house. That’s when my wife told me I needed a hobby; so I decided to try my hand at carpentry.”
“Everybody needs a hobby. Everybody (especially when they’re my age) needs something that gets them out of bed in the morning. You know, something that gives them a reason. Well, (pointing to the coffin) this is my reason. And I have the government to thank for that.”
“I just can’t wait for the day that I can show it off. For those few minutes before they put me in the ground, people are gonna see. They’re gonna see what I done and say, ‘Wow. Now that old boy sure did something with his life. Look at the craftsmanship and detail!’”