Street Begging

One thing I like about China is that it is a country developing very fast and people seem to be doing quite well. Nevertheless, in every society there are those who are worse off and China is no exception. People from poorer parts of China come to the richer cities with high hopes which are often not realized so they have to turn to begging or stealing. Begging in China has some specific characteristics which make it different from begging in other countries I have seen and in this page I will try to describe it.

There are several, distinct, kinds of beggars. I did not see any "aggressive" beggars as you may see in western countries. On the contrary, in China beggars are humble and try to appeal to your pity.

One class is that of those who are missing limbs or are deformed. They often drag themselves around on the ground in a pitiful state. They are often half naked and I saw some wet and shivering in the cold rain. It is a pitiful sight to see a human being lying in a puddle of water in the rain but I could not help but think that it was mostly an act to appeal to the pity of passersby because one would think this person could get out of the rain and take cover. It did not seem to work though because most people would just walk around. I did not take any pictures of this type of beggars as I thought they would be disgusting and degrading and offensive but you can imagine the sight of a human being missing limbs or with limbs totally deformed begging in the rain. I cannot imagine how the authorities and charitable organizations would allow this to exist.

Some of these, on closer inspection, appeared to not be deformed but rather were trying to appear to be deformed or disabled. A man dragging himself on the ground (and when I say "dragging himself on the ground" I mean with his bare chest on the ground and moving like a snake) was wearing long pants which extended long past his feet. There was no obvious sign which would prove any disability. A woman who appeared at first sight to be deformed might not have been but rather might be more of a contortionist act. I suppose there are intruders in every trade.

Begging, China
This man went around a residential neighborhood using only his arms. Whether his legs were truly disabled I do not know. He would stop to play the flute for a while and would then cry appeals for help. I saw a woman come down and put some food in his bowl although generally people would give money.

Another class are just plain beggars. Often they are dressed in ethnic garb which shows them to come from rural provinces. Often they are family groups and it is the children doing the begging. These children are often very pushy and will grab you and not let go. The children are a pitiful sight and one would hope children would never have to grow up like that.

Begging, China
The family in this picture was camping in a covered pedestrian overpass over Jiangnan avenue in Guangzhou. I took the photo from inside a McDonald's.

Sometimes you see children just sitting on the sidewalk, by themselves. They do nothing but sit there with a bowl. These seem to be better dressed and you have to wonder where are their parents and why the children are begging even late at night.

Begging, China


This girl was clean and nicely dressed.

A sort of begging which I have only seen in China is the (real or pretended) student who is asking for help to buy books and/or continue his/her studies. This is probably the only sort of begging where the beggar has to dress up rather than down. They will write their sad story on the sidewalk with chalk or on a large sheet of paper. It often involves stories about family misfortunes and other pitiful events.

Begging, China

Begging, China

Begging, China

Begging, China

Begging, China
(Photo taken in Foshan, February 18, 2007, New Year's day of the Lunar New Year of the pig.)

Begging, China
The police are quite harsh on beggars and street vendors.
I have seen them throw all the food of a street vendor on the ground and stomp on it.
In the photo they made this cripple erase all he had written with chalk on the sidewalk.
The poor man struggled to wipe his work while the cops looked on.
(Photo taken in Foshan, February 18, 2007, New Year's day of the Lunar New Year of the pig.)

Begging, China
This woman looks pregnant.
(Photo taken in Foshan, February 18, 2007, New Year's day of the Lunar New Year of the pig.)

I suppose playing music is a universal way of begging for money.
Begging, China
The man on the right, even when he was not playing the stringed instrument on his lap
he was setting the rythm with the percussion instrument attached to his leg and foot.
Begging, China

Begging, China
This couple were both blind. He sang and played while she held the microphone.
Begging, China

Begging, China
This woman was not begging but eating directly out of the garbage while she held her child in her arms..
When I gave her some money and told her not to do it, she took the money and continued eating.
Shenzhen, 11 Feb 2007.

 

Begging Page 2


alfonvespa