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Millions of Chinese millennials abandon city life for rural areas

Big cities offer exciting job opportunities, a glamorous social scene, and the convenience of a modern lifestyle. But are these things really what life is all about?

Is city life draining you?

Done with expensive commutes, high rent costs, low salaries, and being bombarded with up to 3,500 marketing messages everyday? Perhaps you need a break on a sweet potato farm.

That’s what Chinese professionals had in mind when they joined a large-scale movement back to rural areas, after feeling dissatisfied with the materialistic lifestyle big cities were offering them.

In the search to obtain life’s most simple joys, 20 million millennials have abandoned their corporate jobs in metropolises around China, trading blue light for sunshine and morning meetings for seed-planting.

‘People like me don’t feel that material comforts stimulate us, and deep down we remain unsatisfied,’ said Hu Siqin, who left her job at a Fortune 500 company. ‘So we’ve started thinking, what is the purpose of our lives? What am I living for?’

Credit: Unsplash


All city dwellers have felt this way at some point, right? According to statistics, rates of depression are 20 percent higher in those living in urban areas, compared to those living in the countryside.

The feeling of ‘being happy on the outside, but empty on the inside’ could be rooted a deep seating longing to be surrounded by nature – or to get back to basics completely.

It was for Hu, anyway, whose feelings of excitement and accomplishment now stem from sowing organic sweet potatoes and long beans, amongst various other crops.

Hu is joined by others who share a similar life story, and who now live together on an agricultural island called Chongming – located on the fringes of Shanghai.

The group is not completely cut off from the modern technology, though. Many of them continue to share their day-to-day farming activities with millions of followers on Instagram. I mean, who doesn’t love a bit of wholesome content?

Credit: Unsplash


In a sense, leaving the city is a return to their Chinese ancestor’s not so distant past.

China’s cities, though massive, are relatively new – only growing rapidly during the 20th century. The current Communist Party was quick to promote urbanisation and migration so that China would be known for its modern and consumer-focused economy.

Despite this, when the government learned of this great reversion back to farming, the potential for the sector’s dwindling growth was warmly welcomed.

The newly arrived Millennials bring with them in-depth knowledge of technology and business, and will surely help to boost profit within the sector which has been run mainly by peasant farmers throughout history.

Rather than attempting to gentrify the existing agricultural system, the 30-somethings only seek to contribute to and enjoy a ‘healthy, peaceful, and more sustainable lifestyle.’

Credit: Unsplash


For many on the island, it has been shocking to discover how easy life is without an excess of consumer goods – plus they’re already feeling the health benefits from living completely off their own organic vegetables.

One former ad-executive called Liang Funa said, ‘Our generation is under huge pressure, and people who stay in cities can’t see many other choices.’

Liang continued, ‘The people around them talk constantly about buying a house or a car or getting married, like these are the only measures of success and there are no other roads available.’

Opportunities to take another route are always available, if you’re brave enough to give up Amazon Prime and glorified trips to the big Tesco.

For Gen-Z and Millennials feeling dissatisfied, stressed, or under pressure from their current life in the city, perhaps it’s time to take the leap – even if it’s only temporarily.

What’s that quote about the road less travelled, again?


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