vacationing in the sweatshops

Pardon my 1.5 month hiatus, but I decided to travel to Shanghai last minute and meet up with my grandma traveling from Paris! Besides Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube, I had no idea that WordPress was going to be blocked there too…I have sosososoo much to update on!

During my trip to Shanghai, I spent a portion of that time in the rurals at my grandpa’s hometown in Chaoyang District, a district in the municipality of Shantou. Rather than staying only 5 days like I did last summer, I had the opportunity to live there for 2 weeks this time at the Qiaodanna Industry.

I stayed on the 4th floor of this building

The reactions I get when I tell my friends, “Yeah…I lived in a sweatshop during my time in Shantou” are no shocker to me due to the bad reputation China has for their factories. Since manufacturing factories and sweatshops are central to this particular district, the majority of my relatives there run their own factories with their own lingerie line there. Amazingly, all their products are manufactured and all their business are managed within 3 buildings: 1 building for the sweatshop workers, 1 building for the sweatshop workers to live in, and 1 building for the owners to live in (this is where my grandma stayed too).

It’s comforting and encouraging to see how well my relatives are doing with their businesses. They are truly humble people with humble beginnings whom have worked their way up from absolutely nothing! They’re still working super hard now but at least they do not have to beg on streets anymore or worry if there will be food for dinner. Their stories of their experiences and perseverance over cruel hardships from Communist ruling under Mao Zedong are always such a good reminder of how good my life has been (definitely all by God’s grace!!).

The spacious living room

A cute garden on the roof top

Looking out the windows over to where the sweatshop is

Inside the sweatshop

With no hope and opportunity in the China, many of the sweatshops here attract young people since housing and food is usually provided. Because money may be scarce at home, many of them are compelled to leave school and look for work. At Qiaodanna Industry, employees work Monday through Sunday 11.5 hours/day from 8AM to 9:30PM with 1.5 hour lunchbreaks and 1 hour dinner breaks. Many of them make 1000RMB-5000RMB/month ($1 = 6.3730RMB) depending on how many bras they complete…employees not only have to work hard, but they have to work fast and well!

All in all, the 2 weeks there reminded me of how tremendously blessed I am back in the states. While families there are struggling to survive and barely making a living, I find myself complaining when my comfort zone has been disrupted or when a pair of shoes I have my eyes on have been sold out. As I left Shantou, tears were uncontrollably rolling down my face… Over those two weeks, I had developed an indescribable connection and unforgettable relationship with my grandfather’s hometown and relatives.

Chaoyang District, you will be missed!




  1. One of your best posts! I enjoyed learning about the life of Chaoyang District sweatshops through the eyes of a grateful Chinese American.

  2. Pingback: A Thankful Thanksgiving « q o o m u i

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