Personal letters and private lives
Asian Exchange : ARENA Bulletin
Asian Regional Exchange for New Alternatives
On 19 November 1993, a fire broke out in the Zhili toy factory in Shenzhen. The letters analysed here were remains of the wrecks collected by Chang Kai, a friend of mine conducting investigations into the factory after the fire. The receivers and senders of the letters experienced the terrible incident, in which 81 (some said 84, some said 87) workers died and about 40 (some said 50) were injured. The letters stand as testimonies to the most ordinary life and work of these commonplace workers as well as their kin and friends. The whereabouts of the correspondents are not known- whether they are still alive, and if so, how they are faring. The letters had not anticipated the introspection of outsiders or the analyses of researchers. They were internal talks among the workers that carne incidentally into the hands of a researcher, who then decided to offer the outside world a glimpse into their worlds.
Copyright © 1999 Asian Regional Exchange for New Alternatives.
An abridged translation of the Chinese version of Tan Shen's paper published in Asian Labour Update (in Chinese), January 1999, no.2, pp.5-18.
Tan, S., & Lau, K. C. (Tran) (1999). Personal letters and private lives. Asian Exchange: ARENA Bulletin, 15(1&2), 61-66.