Button Text! Submit original article and get paid. Find out More

The Haunting Poetry of a Chinese Factory Worker who Committed Suicide

The Death of a Poet

This is a sad tale for sure, but as unfortunate as it is this story brings out greater awareness of the conditions workers in China go through every day.

Unfortunately this hardship resulted in the death of an unknown poet.

His beautiful words expressed the dark emotions he felt right up to his last day.

We might feel like going to work is tough and endure the strain of not been able to do things that we want, but gaining a little insight of the work culture in some of these factories in China, has made me appreciate the time that I do have.

Read below.


On the last day of September, a 24-year-old migrant worker in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen killed himself. Xu Lizhi jumped out of a window of a residential dormitory run by his employer, Foxconn, the huge electronics manufacturing company with a million-strong workforce that makes the majority of the world’s Apple iPhones.


In most cases, Xu’s suicide would have been yet another footnote in the vast, sweeping story of China’s economic boom and transformation. He is one of a legion of young Chinese migrants who emerge out of rural obscurity to find work in China’s teeming cities, only to end up crushed by both the dullness and stress of factory jobs, insufficient wages and a steady accumulation of personal disappointments.


But Xu was a poet. And, after his death, his friends collected his work and got some published in a local Shenzhen newspaper.


The London Review Books cites this poem by Xu, which is a play on another verse by the famous Chinese poet Gu Cheng:


We ran along the railway,
arriving in some place called ‘the City’
where we trade in our youth, and our muscle.
Finally we have nothing to trade, only a cough
and a skeleton nobody cares about.

Midnight. Everyone is sleeping soundly,
We keep our pair of young wounds open.
These black eyes, can you really lead us to the light?
‘Night Shift’


The last poem Xu penned, perhaps even on the day he killed himself, signals his decision.


I want to touch the sky, feel that blueness so light
But I can’t do any of this, so I’m leaving this world
Everyone who’s heard of me
Shouldn’t be surprised at my leaving
Even less should you sigh or grieve
I was fine when I came, and fine when I left.


Article and Photo Credit: The Washington Post