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Jia Yi Issues Review Excerpts

Last Updated on August 13, 2022

The record of individual case in “Jia Yi” is about the increasingly serious problem of left-behind children caused by the differences in urban and rural economic environment and educational concepts. The sacrifice of urbanization to rural individuals, young and old, is thought-provoking.

We translate local audiences’ reviews about issues presented in the film into English when possible. In this way, you can take a look at what local people think about these issues and have in-depth understanding about them. The number besides the reviewer represents how many upvotes a comment/review has received.

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Short Review

It’s already 2018. High-speed trains have been built abroad. The news broadcast is full of praise of the prosperous times, and the people in the city also echo. However, you come to the rural areas. You see cows ploughing the fields. You also see schools with inadequate windows, and the countryside is in ruins. What does this prosperous time have to do with them?
-An An Jing Jing (11)

Seeing Jiayi’s grandmother reminds me of my mother. At that time I have many brothers and sisters, and we were scolded in turn. Children were not obedient and not afraid of being scolded. Jiayi in the film is also different from the image of left-behind children. She is hard-working, obedient, and sensible.
she is lack of parents’ company, but she is still strong and optimistic.
-Qian Li Li (7)

What impresses me the most is that Jiayi wears a red skirt and runs to find her brother, followed by her aunt’s wedding. They both inadvertently have a kind of unease and embarrassment. Getting these kids to think about life may be the single biggest issue in poverty eradication.
-Amy (5)

Although everyone is equal, but the origin of people is so unequal. Left-behind children like Jiayi have never felt the love of their parents since they are young. They grow up with beating and scolding from their grandparents. Their childhood is not the tall buildings in the city, but the dark tiled houses in the countryside. Their childhood is not about going to training classes, but taking care of cattle, cutting firewood, and doing housework…
-Chun Xia Qiu Dong (5)

Left-behind children have their own helplessness, but also have their own happiness. The phenomenon of valuing sons over daughters is very serious.
-Qie Zi Xian Dan Huang (5)

This is a wonderful film about the growth of the other side of Jiayi. A seven-year-old child who takes on some of the heavy responsibilities of the family becomes responsible because she is left behind. It fully interprets the meaning of the saying “elder brothers are like father; elder sisters are like mother” in China.
-Jiang Neng Gui (4)

Jia Yi poster (Director: Jiang Nengjie)

The director calmly filmed a year of Jiayi’s life. It’s realistic and it’s sad to watch. When will rural Chinese children have that kind of equal education?
-Xi Xi Fu Si (1)

Breaking free from the cage of the girl’s thinking, and then watch this film, I just feel breathless. Dear Jia Yi, you don’t have to be so understanding. Fuck “eldest sister is like a mother”, you just have to live your own life well!
-Yi Ke Li

Jiayi lived and went to school in the countryside with her younger brother and grandparents, while her parents worked in the city. This state of separation, as the norm she was experiencing, had deeply affected her. She was used to the extra responsibilities of country life. Without comparison, she and her brother lived a seemingly worriless life in the countryside. Quarreling with her brother and being scolded by grandma sometimes were abnormal conditions outside the mainstream family education. However, the simplicity of the countryside makes audience feel relaxed. Perhaps such life can only stay at Jiayi’s young age.

In the remote mountainous area of Xinning, Hunan province, many details of the growth of left-behind children in their native families are presented intuitively. Watching more documentaries about people’s livelihood is really helpful for me to get to know more people with different life backgrounds.
-Hai Kuo Tian Kong Zhu Gu Sheng

It has exposed many social problems, such as left-behind children, rural education, women’s work and the gap between urban and rural areas.
-Yi Ke Chou Hong Dou

The situation of left-behind children is indeed deploring! However, all this is happening in the background of the information age in the 21st century. I’m speechless and feel so sad…
-Gui Hong Yi Shi

Rural elderly people and children hear the radio and watch the television. They do not care about the political issues, and do not know whether the impact of anti-Japanese drama on children is good. They know nothing about which village party secretary come to power and the change in policy. The benefits cannot reach them anyway. It is very real and reflects too many problems in rural society. The way of education is really backward with children brought up by the elders.
-bingo Yu

Loudspeakers and television news are the policy cues of the past few years. All who pass by leave a trail. As to the effectiveness, that’s another matter. The problem of left-behind children is still a low-end population problem. A child is just a sign.

In fact, rural left-behind children are really bitter, and Jiayi is too sensible. Intergenerational education is sometimes a helpless move, and grandparents do not have a better way of education. It really reflects a lot of social situations.
-Mai Tian Shou Wang Zhe

Left-behind children’s daily life. Parents’ bitterness. Grandparents’ hard work. Children’s lack of protection. A heartbreaking bunch of people.
-Lao Mao Bu Zai Jia

As for this film, when Jiayi’s father is around, he also uses corporal punishment to teach. There’s no difference in her situation when being disciplined by grandparents. Therefore, a change in the way parents teach is the most important.
-Jia Bu De Su Ke Lei

To grow is to accept pain, to endure it, and to forget it. Farm work. Games without rules. Doing things without a method. This is the childhood of a left-behind child.

Sad Jiayi

Ideas and job opportunities. Hope there’s a chance for young people to return to the countryside and live in peace and contentment.

The record of individual case in “Jia Yi” is about the increasingly serious problem of left-behind children caused by the differences in urban and rural economic environment and educational concepts. The sacrifice of urbanization to rural individuals, young and old, is thought-provoking.

I grew up in the city and I’ve probably always had a stereotype of the countryside people as silent and dull. But this film really refreshed my perception. Jiayi and her brother’s daily life together is really happy with a touch of sadness. I hope the problem of left-behind children can be solved and all of them can go to school.
-Mou Bu Ding Jun

In this village, time seems to stand still. What cannot be removed is poverty. Seeing the chilblains on Jiayi’s hands is so sad.
-Leng Yue Wu Sheng

The film shows left-behind children vividly, but there are few like Jiayi.
-Jiao Jiao

This film puts forward many social issues for people to think about, such as left-behind children, rural education, employment of migrant workers, and the feeble slogan of targeted poverty alleviation.

The children of the poor become masters of their own affairs early, while those left behind become masters of their own affairs even earlier.
-Zhong Kai

Sad, and feel that “sad” is a kind of faux pas, as the children smiled happily. Now the countryside is embarrassing. You can’t say rural life is not good, as it’s actually getting better. There are washing machines and color TVs and people also know to go to the country to buy school-district housing. However, there’s no sign of improvement in the way the family live and the intergenerational relationships with children. These children grow up in this environment and become people like their grandparents themselves in the future.
-Ma Li Bei Bei Hong

Said to allow some people to get rich first and then make others rich. It’s a shame for those of us who are getting rich and eating and drinking well. We don’t even know what China is like.

Source: Douban

Intergenerational Parenting Problem & Sense of Insecurity

We must face up to the fact that in many families of left-behind children, the situation is similar. Grandpa and grandma are old, and almost all with primary school or junior high school education level. The farm work is heavy and the livelihood is difficult. When they should be taken care of at old age, they are burdened with pressure and work without rest. How can they be asked to have the patience and the means to pay attention to the feelings and growth of the two children? Having clothes to wear and not being hungry is the greatest protection the two old men could offer the children. Grandma may be strict, but it also means being responsible, both for the children and the family.

Jiayi needs to pander to parents to feel safe. However, the sense of security is essentially a kind of atmosphere formed between relatives, which needs a long time to accumulate. I can’t predict what happens to insecure children when they grow up, but we do feel that Jiayi lacks sense of security. Parents don’t have the time or energy to appreciate the delicate emotional needs of their children as they grow up. They love Jiayi, but they cannot love Jiayi.

Douban reviewer, voyager0 (3)

Jiayi with red dress

Why Do Rural Young People Work Outside?

In the eyes of most young people in rural areas, although work outside has become their slogan, money is not easy to get. Maybe we’ll say, well, why work outside? The vast majority of rural people have such a few options. The first is to continue to plow the fields, and the second is to work outside. Both are to endure hardship, which do you prefer?

For the rich people it’s “The world is so big, I want to go out and see it.” For them it’s “The world is so big, I will look wherever there are jobs.” They have no intention to observe the busy world, just want to calm down to do what should be done to earn the money. This is also the reason why Jiayi’s grandmother and her father always stress that she should study hard. The so-called knowledge economy should rely on the continuous efforts of individuals.

Nowadays, they never expect to buy a house in the city, and even their life can hardly be guaranteed. So they choose to build houses in their own villages, both to use the land they already have and to save money. China’s policies and plans are in place, but there are still a few people out of reach. Good days are coming, but the waiting is so long. With so much corruption in recent times, what role should officials play is a big issue.

Douban reviewer, HachiLin (3)

Walk Into Left-Behind Children’s Hearts

The parents of these left-behind children have been separated from their children for a long time due to economic reasons. It leads to the natural lack of affection education and causes obstacles in the relationship. In addition, it also affects the formation of children’s healthy character. Every family goes through its problems. Therefore, we can’t blame the parents too much. However, we can’t ignore the children’s lack of family education, character development, and love. As the saying goes, “The young are strong, the country is strong.” These children are the flowers of the motherland!

Many people advocate the slogan of helping left-behind children and then subsidize them with naked money. I can’t say that’s a bad idea. But from my personal point of view, what I would suggest is that more people from the society should visit the left-behind children. We should personally walk into their lives, feel their difficulty, and truly walk into their young hearts. I encourage schools, enterprises and other organizations to donate stationery, daily necessities and other love activities.

Douban reviewer, Sophie (1)

Lack of Attention From Family Education

In the documentary, Jiayi’s parents are struggling in the city due to their limited knowledge. This kind of difficulty is not only the weight and tiredness of survival, but also the psychological fetter and drift. This kind of hardship leaves them no time to pay attention to their children’s education. Jiayi’s study is very bad, and this is the question we should think about why it’s so bad. Perhaps some people would say that it is the complicated work that takes up her study time. This may be one of the reasons, but it is not the core reason. We clearly see the side of Jiayi’s writing homework seriously.

The most critical problem is the lack of attention from family education and the learning atmosphere that such attention creates. First of all, she lacks motivation to study. She doesn’t know the benefits of learning, who to study for, and the changes that learning can bring. She just equates study with homework and exams, a task that she has to complete. Second, she lacked the resources to learn. Sadly, it doesn’t come from the poverty of her family, but also from her parents’ ignorance of education.

The Left-Behind Cycle

The distance between countryside and city and between poverty and wealth is a real time machine. This time lag, with the advent of the information age, is not only reflected in the material, but also in the influence of spirit. While the children in the city are struggling to get into school, Jiayi is watching TV. When they are reading Andersen’s Fairy tales, she is watching TV. While they are cultivating artistic sentiment, Jiayi is still watching TV… In such a cycle, the distance between them and Jiayi is not the slightest bit.

Growing up, dropping out of school, getting married and having children, working outside, becoming the left-behind old people who take care of left-behind children. And then the same cycle repeats from generation to generation… This is the “left-behind cycle”. Unfortunately, the cycle seems to be getting worse and has no intention of stopping

The Spiritual Poverty Alleviation Work

In my two volunteer teaching experiences, there are many left-behind children. Jiayi is lucky compared to them. She was innocent and happy, and her eyes were full of the purity of childhood, though she had borne what her age and the time ought not to have inflicted upon her. The left-behind children I saw were crying because they hated learning and swearing because they lacked discipline. Even before puberty, they learned to share porn videos with each other. In addition, they went in droves through the garbage looking for condoms and then dropped them from the roof of a building with water inside…

In ancient times, poverty was by no means the main obstacle to a person’s spiritual state. Because even poor talents who did not have enough to eat and were not fully clothed had the great ideal of “cultivating one’s morality, regulating the family, governing the country and making the world peaceful”. Now, it turns out that “a poor family can hardly produce a noble son”. Isn’t this kind of gap caused by the lack of spiritual belief and ideal faith?

The village loudspeaker in the documentary once reported the policy of “targeted poverty alleviation”. To be precise, it is not just about material poverty alleviation. Especially in the age of not worrying about food and clothing, the spiritual poverty alleviation work is more important. The most important thing is to convey to the children the mainstream values of the society, the right outlook on life and a rich and colorful world outlook. In this way, the children’s heart is full of sunshine and willing to think and work hard.

School of Energy and Power Engineering, Shandong University, Chen Jia Nan (1)

Estrangement and Gender Inequality

“Jia Yi” reflects the problem of left-behind children in China’s rural areas, and also shows the face of China’s rural areas. I’d like to talk about it from some angle.

The first problem, which is quite obvious, is that left-behind children lack the care of their parents and take on too much responsibility. Although their normal life is seemingly very happy, as long as one and parents get along, the kind of estrangement shows.

The second problem is the preference for sons over daughters in rural areas. Though Jiayi is an older sister who is supposed to take care of her younger brother, we can still glimpse some gender inequality.

Middle-aged people went to the cities in search of development and experienced the turbulence of the times. Even if their wages are not high, there is no other way. The old people left in the countryside can only do farm work, take care of their children, and wait for time to pass.

The data at the end shocked me even more. There are 61.02 million left-behind children in China! Such a large population makes this a problem that cannot be ignored. I hope the government can introduce more powerful policies to protect the rights of these left-behind children.

Douban reviewer, Zhi Zai You Wu Jian

Traditional Culture Shown in the Film

There is an especially classic segment that Jiayi’s father punished her for not doing well in the exam by protracted kneeling in front of the shrine. This is a very common phenomenon in rural China. This very traditional Confucian way of family instruction is still widely retained in rural China. I can’t say this way of education is good or bad, but undoubtedly this way of education is severe and slightly backward.

The film also shows the days of different solar terms in the rural areas of Southwest Hunan, China, from the perspective of Jiayi. There is spring plowing, summer planting, autumn harvest, and winter snow. There are also traditional Chinese festivals such as Spring Festival and Hungry Ghost Festival, and scenes of rural life and sacrifice in southern China. The film recorded the wedding of Jiayi’s aunt. The wedding is a combination of Chinese and Western styles. The bride wore a western-style white wedding dress, but the wedding was all in the traditional way of southern China.

In addition, in the case of Fan Zimu, whose surname was not Jiang like his father, this was typical of the rural culture in the mountainous areas of southern China. The film explains through Jiayi’s words that Fan Zimu has two fathers, an original father and a godfather. After a child is born in a mountainous rural area in southern China, it is common to recognize a person who matches the child’s Eight Characters (Bazi) as a godfather and call him as the real father. Then the “real father” will pick a name with his own family name for the adoptive son. Parents believe that children can grow up smoothly after they recognize their “real father”, and will be more promising when they grow up. Although there are some superstitious ideas in it, it is mostly parents’ hope for a better future for their children.

Douban reviewer, Ping Guo Da Xia

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