Lessons Learned From Chinese Children

“Howww!” Two Kirghiz Chinese children howled in approval as they raced each other on their three wheeled bicycles. One smacked the other on the back and took off running while panting for breath.  I observed the children for a few minutes more and then made my way back to the yurt, where I would spend the night with the two children and their mother. As I scanned their residence I noticed that the only toys they owned were the bicycles they were riding on. They were all smiles and laughs as they chased each other along the grassy terrain as a 7,500 meter high glacier loomed in the background. “Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity,” suddenly North American author Thoreau’s quote entered my mind. Keep your life simple and happiness will find its way to you. These children were a prime example.


As I fixated myself on the children playing in rural China, I had a flashback that transported me back to Children’s Day in South Korea. The sun was shining bright and the cool, refreshing breeze that was blowing against the leaves was musical. It was hard to believe that I was in the middle of a city of 12 million people. I saw vivid images of a South Korean family I saw at the park in my neighborhood in Seoul. The mother and father distracted not by their child’s naughty behavior, but by the smart phone in their palms. “Minsoo! Come over here quickly,” they yelled halfheartedly while keeping their eyes locked on the electronic device as their thumbs kept tapping on the screen. A young boy about age 8-10, Minsoo kept walking in the opposite direction, a defiant attitude at such a young age which reminded me of myself. Minsoo also had a smart phone in his hands and didn’t pay his parents any mind. Next to Minsoo’s parents was another family of four. Two parents in their early to mid forties and two children between ages 8-12 years old. This time all four were fixated on their smart phones sitting on a bench distracted from the most important thing in their lives- quality time together. As advertised by the major electronic companies, they were playing with a device developed to help modernize society and bring people together. Unfortunately, it is being abused by many to the point where people are now separated by their electronic devices and do not focus on the present moment. The dopamine spike that computer scientists work so hard to maximize in their smart phone applications was simply too much for them to resist. Even while at the park with their family, the need to be entertained by social media and the Internet was too powerful to be overcome.

Even though I had a very privileged upbringing, I could relate with the Chinese children better than I ever expected. A ball and a group of friends created hours upon hours of free entertainment, exercise, bloody noses, skinned knees and even two broken bones which proved invaluable for character building while growing up. Team building, leadership and the ability to persevere when my body refused to go any further would foster essential life skills. All I needed was a ball and friends and I was happy. This was all before the information revolution took over modern society. Now our ball has become the computer we hold in the palm or our hands while friends exist only through text, pictures and videos.

Minimalism is a way of life that everyone should adopt as responsible global citizens. We are constantly bombarded with advertisements that promise happiness through our consumption of junk. As we continue to be good consumers, our world economy thrives. We work hard to look good in the car we drive to work and show off the new clothes on our back. However, we fail to think about where the items we purchase come from and what effect our excessive greed will have on the environment. “I am just one person. This will make no difference,” we repeat to ourselves to justify our irresponsible behavior. We spend less time with others and our relationships become more and more shallow. As a result, our mental health is being depleted.  The pharmaceutical companies and psychologists in the West are making a fortune from the great paradox of our era.  My 97 year old grandfather lived through the Great Depression that resulted from the stock market crash in 1929 in the United States and claims that no one suffered from psychological depression during that era.  Perhaps this is because people back then focused on the most important thing in their lives- their relationships with others. The happiest moments in my life are when I leave behind all of the items I have accumulated in South Korea and hit the road for two months out of the year. All I need is my tent, bike, warm clothes and company of my fellow global citizens and I am happy.

Yellow dust has become an everyday part of life here in Seoul, South Korea. Eight years ago when I arrived at my new home on the other side of the world, it would make an appearance once a year for one week. Times have changed. Yellow dust forecasts accompany weather forecasts on the news everyday. Nowadays I wake up in the mornings with a sore throat and eye irritation more than three days per week.  The vigorous exercise routine that I has become an essential part of my life has been altered as a result of potential lung damage due to inhaling toxic air particles.  As I write this blog entry, I have finally been relieved of yellow dust due to a cool rainfall in Seoul which provides a brief escape. People in my neighborhood today told me there is nothing they can do about the present situation and blame the poor air quality on neighboring China. It is time we stop blaming others for the present state of the world and take a serious look at our own personal actions as mature global citizens. There is something you can do about it- all it takes is the courage to act appropriately and speak the truth as you know it.  We all have something to learn from the Chinese children in Xinjang- how to enjoy a life of simplicity as responsible citizens of the world.




68 thoughts on “Lessons Learned From Chinese Children”

  1. Chunsam!! I read your great article. I agree with your thinking but I have never gone like where you went so I can’t totally understand. I have lived in only Korea I feel very comfortable in smart life …haha

  2. After I read Geroge’s article, I felt also as I went on there. And I agree your point that minimalizm is very important for our life, too. I remind my life comparing these chinese children. Although I have many goods, I cannot tell that I’ve lived happier than that chlidren. Just my opinion! 🙂 Quick aside, I’m very surprised at Geroge’s traveling site. I think traveling is just going to the city, before. I’m very impressive and respect of your challenging! And also I think I will try to write some article after my traveling! That is nice thing I think.

    1. I enjoyed reading the article!! It was like the college entrance exam’s English context:))) Thank you for sharing your precious exprience and thingking

  3. I think I need a time to keep away from my electronic things because these days, I spent too much time using my cellphone and there is a less talk with my family on face to face. I’m too stucked with electronics. I should be refreshed.

  4. To be honest, I didn’t know the meaning of the ‘minimalism’, so I searched on internet, and I think it is the important to word that people who live now have to know. I agree with your opinion. People put emphasis on ‘how they will be looked by others’, not on the essence of thing (or behavior). And I think it is not correct

    1. Minimalism is an interesting topic also! Less is more sometimes! My life is confusing and stressful with too many material objects.

  5. I think this story is so true. I agree with your opinion. Last week’s assignment was talking about that technology made us more separate. This story is one of the episodes of that issue. I truly agree this issue. I also sometimes experience this kind of problems in my life. I use smartphone more than 3 hours a day. Also sometimes I can’t listen to others saying when I’m using smartphone.

  6. i like this story! When i read it, i really want to go travel~ l like this part “Keep your life simple and happiness will find its way to you.”

  7. I miss my childhood. Everyday I played with my friends at playground. It is the only way to have fun, but nowadays most of children just need a smartphone to spent time. I’m so sad that children doesn’t know real fun from playing at the playground.

  8. I’m sorry for leaving a comment late! I read it but I forgot to leave a comment. Reading the story of the chinese children who played joyfully with bicycles only and your thought about it, I reflected on myself always try to make more results. I thought it would make me more happy, but actually it was exhausting. I’ll try to find happiness from small, simple things from now on.

    1. Ms. Kim whose favorite animal is a bird! I hope you find happiness from small things! Life is too short to be exhausted all the time. Enjoy yourself!

  9. I agree with your opinion because I think the most important thing in our lives is relationship. But only meeting in Internet or SNS by smartphone can not make real relationship.

  10. I think travel teaches many thing to me. Going travel is very precious experience. I envy you that went many country and learned many thing. I will go travel this winter vacation!!!!

  11. I am interested in your topic. When I was young, I went outside and played with my friends on play ground. But nowadays, technologys are developed , so I think playing with smart phone is very natural phenomenon.. The story makes me think more about our life:) thank you.

  12. That’s a funny piece of writing. Seeing this article, I learned about the lives of Chinese people I didn’t know, and I wanted to travel to China.

  13. I’m Woo Suk Kim. 반장님!!!!!
    This topic was so good to see the other country’s landscape and someday I will go there!!!!

  14. I think the sight of Kirghiz trip and similarity to South Korea.
    Children who ride a bike have nice,fair,peaceful smile! I want to have that smiles♥

  15. Hi!!chunsam!!you are very enjoy your life! Someday i will travel alone like you. And there i will
    communicate local people

  16. Agree 100percent. I’m really sad to see my cousins playing with their smartphone all the time. It’ll be much better for them to play outside.

  17. I agree that if I live in simple life, I find happiness. I didn’t have smartphone in elementary school, but I really enjoyed having fun time with my friends without any appointment. I usually miss that time.

  18. oh george very interesting story. i want to travel many country and meet other country people like you. i wish i could travel.

  19. I’m so impressed about that their lives. In korea, I always concern others’ view. But after reading this text, I acknowledge that’s not important. My appearance is not matter. Just being my self is best way to live

  20. George! It was a very impressive story! You have gained great enlightenment in the small rural villages! I was able to think about the minimalism amount of time.

  21. I was hard to understand this article. But I catched your opinion. STAY SIMPLE!! I’ll live simply from now on!! It was good article George 🙂

  22. Living in very complex ages, I forgot the basic things. After reading this article, we have more than these chinese children, but I can know happy is coming from simplicity.

  23. hellow~woo~ chunsam!
    After read this article, I think about my life style. In my life, I always want to fill anything to my place. This action made me demand other things that I don’t have. now I think this action made me unhappy:( So I have to live in simplicity like you say.

  24. This is very interesting article. And I completely agree with your opinion. Obviously relationships with others are the most important thing in our life. I think I need to take some time without smartphone.

  25. I agree with that overconsuming is a problem, but it is not the main cause of the yellow dust. This is a nice article anyway.

  26. I also love to travel around the world but I only traveled in more economically developed countries. Which means that it was extremely interesting to read your article how you compared between nowadays and past times.

  27. I acknowledge you very much. After development of technology, the time of talking with my family each other is less than past. So I think we have to reduce the use of technology or another things and pursue the minimalism.

  28. In the old days, people are happy to small things. But nowaday people don’t satisfy. But overturning thought overconsuming isn’t not that bad. Because technology develops so much.

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