The Ministry of Tofu has posted a series of photographs by Liu Jie of villagers with empty chairs representing family members who are working in cities far from home. The term 空心化 kongxinhua, literally ‘heart becoming empty’, is used more and more these days in China to describe the hollowing out of the countryside as more and more villagers migrate to the cities to find work, leaving parents and children behind.
Women, children and the senior form the major demographic structure of today’s rural villages. They are nicknamed “Unit 386199,” in which “38” stands for March 3 the International Women’s Day and alludes to women, “61,” the International Children’s Day, represents women, and “99” is the ninth day of the ninth month in Chinese lunar calendar and is observed as a festival for senior citizens. According to a study by China Agriculture University, currently 87 million people are left behind in rural areas, which include 20 million children, 20 million senior citizens and 47 million wives of migrant workers.