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The Story of “China’s PhD Village”: A Small Village with 41 Doctors

A small place by the name of Baisha Town West Village, located in Guangdong’s Taishan city, is now jokingly called a hot site for house buyers by Chinese netizens. The village, that has produced 41 academics with PhD degrees and a Hollywood filmmaker, is now known as a fruitful breeding ground for talent.

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A small place by the name of Baisha Town West Village, located in Guangdong’s Taishan city, is now jokingly called a hot site for house buyers by Chinese netizens. The village, that has produced 41 academics with PhD degrees and a Hollywood filmmaker, is now known as a fruitful breeding ground for talent.

Baisha Town West Village (白沙镇西村), a small village in the South of China, has produced an extraordinarily high number of inhabitants with a Ph.D. degree. Its story recently has become a popular topic on Chinese social media, after it was featured by the Guangzhou Daily and was forwarded by dozens of other Chinese media.

The village’s Ph.D. success once started 80 years ago, when the former headmaster of the local village primary school decided to study abroad; he wanted to contribute to his hometown through his studies. Dr. Huang Junjie was to become the first Ph.D. degree holder of the town. He became a role model for the village’s later generations.

Since then the number of Ph.D. holders soon increased. Now, some families even have three doctors within one generation.

The journey of pursuing a Ph.D. was full of hardship for Huang. The Guangzhou Daily conducted an interview with Huang Junjie’s grandson, Huang Zai, who now also works in the education sector. Sharing his grandfather’s story, he said that Huang, receiving no financial support from family, had to work while studying at Columbia University in New York.

After four years of hard work, he acquired a Ph.D. in Law, and then immediately returned to China. He later even became a professor and one of the three most famous lawyers in Guangzhou.

Another celebrity whom the villagers are proud of is James Wong Howe. He was a renowned Chinese-American cinematographer who worked on over 130 films in Hollywood. He was born and raised in this village and later moved to America with his father.

Chinese American Oscar winning cinematographer James Wong Howe.

When Guangzhou Daily asked Huang Zai why he thinks Baisha Town West Village has become such a breeding ground for talent, he answered the village has a long tradition of promoting education: “There is an ancient saying that has been passed on from generation to generation in the village, ‘Even if the only rice we have can fit in a pen container, we will still make sure our children can study'(“笔筒装米, 也要教子读书”). In other words, we encourage education and persuade people to never give up on it no matter the situation.”

Huang Zai recalled his own experiences; his entire family advised him to take the National College Entrance Exam after the Cultural Revolution and to continue studying, even after failing the exam the first time. “Without their support and the social ethos in the village, I would have never achieved what I have right now.”

Another factor Huang Zai thinks contributed to the village’s successful inhabitants is that many of them came from overseas. While doing labor in foreign countries, they saw their education and recognized its importance. These overseas villagers contributed to the local education by starting their own private school by the end of the Qing Dynasty, donating their own ancestral halls and turning them into local primary schools where students were required to learn about morals and values, and were taught English.

Those who later studied and acquired their PhDs degrees never forgot about their roots, frequently donating money for the construction of schools, and holding lectures in their homeland.

Now, the government plans to help make the village more of a tourist destination, to introduce its story to the world. Many of the villagers are happy and honored that their town is now known as the “Ph.D. village,” as it was something they actively pursued.

The village of Yangtian in Liuyang City, Hunan province, is also famous for its 21 Ph.D. holders and hundreds of inhabitants with MA degrees. In Gu Yuantou, in Zhejiang’s Dong Yang City, the villagers are proud of their 25 Ph.D. holders and 553 university students out – their town only has 2200 inhabitants.

The majority of Weibo users praise the villagers’ determination to educate their children. There are also some netizens who say there must be a lot of pressure on those young villagers who do not pursue an academic degree.

Others jokingly say they are going to buy a house and move to Baisha for the village’s “good Feng Shui.”

– By Yue Xin
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©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Yue Xin is a bilingual freelance journalist currently based in the Netherlands with a focus on gender issues and literature in China. As a long-time frequent Weibo user, she is specialized in the buzzwords and hot topics on Chinese social media.

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  1. 商務中心

    March 5, 2018 at 2:03 am

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China Animals

‘Welcome Home, Molly’ – Chinese Zoo Elephant Returns to Kunming after Online Protest

One small step for animal protection in China, one giant leap for Molly the elephant.

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Following online protest and the efforts of animal activists, Molly has returned to the Kunming Zoo where she was born and where mother elephant Mopo is.

The little elephant named Molly is a big topic of discussion on Chinese social media recently.

The popular Asian elephant, born in the Kunming Zoo in 2016, was separated from her mother at the age of two in April of 2018. Molly was then transferred from Kunming Zoo to Qinyang, Jiaozuo (Henan), in exchange for another elephant. Over the past few years, fans of Molly started voicing their concerns online as the elephant was trained to do tricks and performances and to carry around tourists on her back at the Qinyang Swan Lake Ecological Garden (沁阳天鹅湖生态园), the Qinyang Hesheng Forest Zoo (沁阳和生森林动物园), the Jiaozuo Forestry Zoo (焦作森林动物园), and the Zhoukou Safari Park (周口野生动物世界).

Since the summer of 2021, more people started speaking out for Molly’s welfare when they spotted the elephant chained up and seemingly unhappy, forced to do handstands or play harmonica, with Molly’s handlers using iron hooks to coerce her into performing.

Earlier this month, Molly became a big topic on Chinese social media again due to various big accounts on Xiaohongshu and Weibo posting about the ‘Save Molly’ campaign and calling for an elephant performance ban in China (read more).

Although zookeepers denied any animal abuse and previously stated that the elephant is kept in good living conditions and that animal performances are no longer taking place, Molly’s story saw an unexpected turn this week. Thanks to the efforts of online netizens, Molly fans, and animal welfare activists, Molly was removed from Qinyang.

A popular edited image of Molly that has been shared a lot online.

On May 15, the Henan Forestry Bureau – which regulates the holding of all exotic species, including those in city zoos – announced that Molly would return to Kunming in order to provide “better living circumstances” for the elephant. A day later, on Monday, Molly left Qinyang and returned to the Kunming Zoo where she was born. In Kunming, Molly will first receive a thorough health check during the observation period.

Official announcement regarding Molly by the Henan Forestry Administration.

Many online commenters were happy to see Molly returning home. “Finally! This is great news,” many wrote, with others saying: “Please be good to her” and “Finally, after four years of hardship, Molly will be reunited with her mother.”

Besides regular Weibo accounts celebrating Molly’s return to Kunming, various Chinese state media accounts and official accounts (e.g. the Liaocheng Communist Youth League) also posted about Molly’s case and wished her a warm welcome and good wishes. One Weibo post on the matter by China News received over 76,000 likes on Monday.

Although many view the effective online ‘Save Molly’ campaign as an important milestone for animal welfare in China, some animal activists remind others that there are still other elephants in Chinese zoos who need help and better wildlife protection laws. Among them are the elephant Kamuli (卡目里) and two others who are still left in Qinyang.

For years, animal welfare activists in China and in other countries have been calling for Chinese animal protection laws. China does have wildlife protection laws, but they are often conflicting and do not apply to pets and there is no clear anti-animal abuse law.

“I’ll continue to follow this. What are the next arrangements? What is the plan for Molly and the other elephants? How will you guarantee a safe and proper living environment?”

Another Weibo user writes: “This is just a first step, there is much more to be done.”

To follow more updates regarding Molly, check out Twitter user ‘Diving Paddler’ here. We thank them for their contributions to this article.

To read more about zoos and wildlife parks causing online commotion in China, check our articles here.

By Manya Koetse

References (other sources linked to within text)

Arcus Foundation (Ed.). 2021. State of the Apes: Killing, Capture, Trade and Ape Conservation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

China Daily. 2012. “Animal Rights Groups Seek Performance Ban.” China Daily, April 16 http://www.china.org.cn/environment/2012-04/16/content_25152066.htm [Accessed May 1 2022].

Li, Peter J. 2021. Animal Welfare in China: Culture, Politics and Crisis. Sydney: Sydney University Press.

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China Health & Science

Shanghai ‘Dead Man’ Taken Away to Morgue, Found to Be Alive

An incident in which a man taken to a morgue turned out to be alive doesn’t really help to restore residents’ trust in Shanghai.

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An incident in which a Shanghai man, who was thought to be dead, was taken to a funeral home before he was found to be alive has become a big topic on Chinese social media.

The incident happened on the afternoon of May 1st at the Shanghai Xinchangzheng Nursing Home (上海新长征福利院) in the city’s Putuo District.

A video of the incident went viral on Chinese social media in which a body bag can be seen put into a vehicle by three people, two members of staff from the nursing home and one funeral home worker. Shortly after, the body bag is taken out again and put back on a trolley. One of the nurses zips open the bag, pulls a cover from the man’s face, and apparently finds him to be alive.

“He’s alive,” one of the workers says in shock: “He’s alive, I saw it, he’s alive. Don’t cover him any more.”

The man is then transferred back into the nursing home, still inside the body bag.

The video that is making its rounds on social media was filmed from two different angles, the person filming can be heard calling the incident “a disgrace for human life” and “irresponsible.”

On May 2nd, the Chinese state media outlet People’s Daily posted about the incident on Weibo, saying the city district is currently investigating the case. The man was hospitalized and his vital signs are stable.

Meanwhile, multiple people are held accountable for the incident. The head of the nursing home has been dismissed and will be further investigated, along with four district officials. The license of the doctor involved will also be revoked.

The Shanghai Xinchangzheng Nursing Home has also apologized for the incident (#上海一福利院就未死亡老人被拉走道歉#).

On social media, many people are angry about the incident, wondering why the old man was transported to the funeral home in the first place, and why the members of staff seemed to be indifferent after finding out he was still alive.

In the video, the member of staff standing next to the man can be seen covering the patient’s face again after finding out he is still alive, leaving the body bag zipped up. Many also see this as a cold and incomprehensible way to respond.

After weeks of online anger about the chaotic and sometimes inhumane way in which Shanghai authorities have been handling the Covid outbreak in the city, this incident seems to further lower the public’s trust in how patients and vulnerable residents are being treated.

“Shanghai is such a terrifying place!”, some on Weibo write.

“Just think about it,” one person responded: “This incident took place in one of China’s most prosperous cities and happened to be filmed. How much is happening in other cities that is not caught on camera? Today, it’s this man, in the future, it’s us.”

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes

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©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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