Human Beings Cannot Live Without Land

By Tian Jing (Member of Liulin Community Farming, Little Donkey Farm in Beijing)

Editor’s note:

Tian Jing is an urban farmer from Beijing. She grew up in the city and had no previous experience of farming. However, like many city-dwellers, she enjoys natural scenery, birdsong and the fragrance of flowers. Wanting to return to her true self and be closer to nature, she began to rent a plot in Little Donkey Farm a year ago. Farming has been an experience of deep enlightenment for her.

Harvesting yard-long beans.

When I learnt that I could rent a farm plot, I was so happy because I had always wanted to experience farming first hand.

Last May we rented a plot in the farm and began to get a taste of the hardship and joy of farming. It is not easy to work in the field! My family and I started working our plot one Saturday morning in May. We weeded, ploughed, applied fertiliser, sowed seeds, watered. All these tasks seemed simple but when we tried doing them we realised that they could be really strenuous. It was noon and the sun was right above us. Long before we finished our work we were already drenched in sweat. “A farmer is tilling the field under the midday sun. His sweat drips onto the soil beneath the grain.”[*] These words are so true! It is only when one has first-hand experience of farm labour that one understands how arduous it is. The heat, the sweat, the smell of the earth and the vitality of vegetation—with direct experience they become part of your personal feelings.

The Joy of Ploughing, Weeding and Harvesting

Since we rented the plot, we have been going to the farm nearly every week. Just once, we skipped a week because of rain, and because we were lazy that one time, the weeds had grown as tall as the vegetables by our next visit, when we could no longer distinguish them from each other. I became anxious. I thought: We must come every week. We must weed. Otherwise the harvest will be severely affected. As an old Chinese saying goes: “One harvests as much as one has ploughed and weeded.” There is no harvest if one has done neither! That is why one must be diligent. So I squatted in the field and picked the weeds very carefully as if I was embroidering. Then I watered and applied fertiliser. Since then, I have always gone to the farm every week. Hard work really pays off! When I saw the blooming amaranth swaying in the breeze and the fresh water convolvulus that had grown tall, I knew it was time to harvest the leafy vegetables. Though there were some weeds among the vegetables, they were few and scattered. The joy of success was really sweet!

The end of June and early July is the time when plants start to bloom. All the vegetables are thriving. Everything is verdant and lush. The leaves have turned dark green. The cucumber plants have blossomed and borne fruit. When I saw six big cucumbers hanging from the lush vines, I was so happy. I was grateful to the land for its gift, to nature for the sun, the rain and the mist, and to the farm managers for their enthusiastic guidance. Thank you, Little Donkey Farm!

The joy of harvest reminded me of the virtue of the land. I was very touched!

Land—the Basis of Our Subsistence

Yes, the land is the basis of our subsistence. Our life depends on what the land provides. No one dares to say: “I can live away from the land.” The land is simple, steady and solid. It is humble. Even though it is trampled on by all, the land is tolerant and broad-minded. It persists in supporting humankind, providing us with a wealth of produce and nourishing innumerable lives. I have gained a deeper and broader understanding of the saying, “Great virtue can carry all things”[**]. Land has great virtue. Compared with the narrow-mindedness, selfishness, smallness and meagreness of human beings, the land is so rich and abundant!

When has nature ever asked us to pay for the growth of plants or for our use of air, sun, rain and morning dew? In the tacit collaboration of all elements of nature, the land has been giving all it can give. Its love for life is like that of a mother!

Singing the Praises of the Land

Some people envy splendid palaces but look down on the land which is plain and simple;

Some people sing praises of greatness and glory but no one extols the simplicity and humbleness of the land;

Some people cheer the abundance of produce but do not see the unsung sacrifice of the land;

Some people enjoy the shade of lush trees but cannot feel the steady, solid and fertile land under their feet.

Handsome men and beautiful women of the city, put on simple clothes and join in tilling the land! Love between human beings is incomparable with the love, compassion and generosity of the land or with its tolerance and persistence. Are you looking for true love? Come and feel how broad-minded the land is! Take up farm tools and sow seeds of hope. Watch the growth of seedlings, feel the great power of nature and know the kindness and compassion of the land which are like that of a mother, so inside you, you will have hope, sunlight, happiness and power.

Innumerable students of the city, join in tilling the land in your free time. Feel the sun, the rain and morning dew. Feel how steady and solid, simple and self-sacrificing the land is and experience for yourself the meaning of “One harvests as much as one has ploughed and weeded.” Here you will learn to live a life of simplicity, self-sacrifice and diligence. The land will be your example for life. You will become rich, fruitful, lush and rooted.

The land is truly our teacher. It teaches us to become selfless and broad-minded. It teaches us to be compassionate and humble, to be steady and solid. Instead of vanity, it teaches us to be generous and forgiving; to be diligent and to be aware of the passage of time which we must not squander. It teaches us not to miss any season and what we must do to create a happy life.

Yes, I sing praise of the land, and I sing praise of simplicity and modesty.

The land is our mother as well as our teacher.

July 19, 2012, Beijing.

(This article was published in the CSA Newsletter of Little Donkey Farm, August 1, 2012)

Translator’s Notes:

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Tian Jing's plot is filled with green vegetables such as maize, soy beans, water convolvulus, amaranth and eggplants.
Harvesting yard-long beans.
Harvesting maize.
Harvesting green peppers.