Ma Yan’s Story – Part 1/2

In January 2010, Al Jazeera Witness reported the story of Ma Yan, a young Chinese girl that lived in rural China in the same poverty that rural Chinese have lived with for centuries and how The Diary of Ma Yan was published in many countries including China (where it was a best seller) and the US.

The village where Ma Yan lived is described in Edgar Snow’s Red Star Over China, but since that time, few outsiders have visited it. The United Nations says this is a region unfit for human habitation. Source:

Contrary to popular opinion, the poor in China did not get this way because of the Communists. The hardship and poverty of Ma Yan’s people and many others in China has been that way for centuries.

It didn’t help when the Communists won China’s civil war and the defeated Nationalists took the nation’s treasury and most of the ancient Imperial treasures to Taiwan leaving China nothing but people and the land.

In this segment of Witness, we travel with Mao Yan as she breaks the cycle of poverty.

By chance in 2001, a French journalist was visiting remote Ningxia province in northwest China when a Muslim woman wearing the white headscarf of the Hui people thrust her daughter’s diaries into his hands.

Ma Yan writes that the economy where she lives has not been developed. However, Mao Yan is not alone wanting to escape the hardship of poverty.  She wrote that her life was like a death sentence.

Then the French journalist read the diary Mao Yan’s mother had given him and was so impressed, he arranged for excerpts to be published in one of the French daily newspapers.

By 2007, Ma Yan passed a university exam and was one of the first girls from her village to be eligible for a university education. Her next move was to Paris where she lives with a French family and attends a university there.

Discover Mao Zedong and Edgar Snow, who wrote Red Star Over China.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

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