In 2008, POV aired Up the Yangtze, which told the story of the Yu family as the Three Gorges Dam project in China changed their lives. Filmmaker Yung Chang revisited the Yu family in the summer of 2010. He shares some pictures and updates from the family.
I took some time off from shooting my current documentary about peasant boxers to travel to Fengdu to spend time with Yu Shui and family. It’s been three years since I last visited. We’ve mostly been keeping in touch via email, so a trip was long overdue. It was an emotional reunion. We caught up over a Chongqing hotpot lunch.
Yu Shui has just graduated from high school. She’s 20! She’ll be getting her examination results in mid-August. She plans to study computer programming or hotel management…but it all depends on her examination results. She’s matured into a beautiful, outgoing and intelligent young woman. I think she’s taken it upon herself to take care of her family.
I was so surprised at how much Zhang Ying (little sister) and Yu Deng Feng (little brother) have grown. Apparently Yu Deng Feng is a bit more interested in playing than studying, but Zhang Ying has really excelled in her school. Your donations have gone a long way to give the Yu family stability and comfort. The kids are eating healthier and focusing on school. Mr. Yu still has health problems but his eyesight is much better. He’s still working as a porter in Fengdu. At 58, I don’t think he’s planning on retiring anytime soon. In addition, the Yu family has acquired a small plot of land just above the embankment, where they grow corn to sell at the local market. Mrs. Yu still does farm work and helps run the house.
I went to visit their home. It’s a new apartment near the home they moved into in the film, about a five-minute walk from the Yangtze River and the embankment where they originally lived. The apartment is spacious. Everyone has their own bedroom. They have desks and beds. There’s a television in the living room. The kitchen is large and they just purchased a new refrigerator. I encouraged Yu Shui to consider buying a computer.
My favorite gossip is that Yu Shui has a boyfriend! They even took some fancy photos together. Yu Shui sheepishly revealed this to me… I don’t think her parents know. He looks like a good boy. He’s studying English at college. When I asked Yu Shui if she was happy, she gave me the biggest, beaming smile and squealed: “I’m SO happy!”
Yu Shui was extremely shy when we were making Up the Yangtze, but in the three years since, her level of self-confidence and ambition have made a complete about-face.
The donations to Givemeaning.org have established a long-term fund for the family. I think your donations are the most valuable and rewarding gestures that I’ve experienced in making this film. What a positive and generous gift. You’ve helped one family, but it goes a long, long way. I look forward to updating you as the years go by.
You can email Yu Shui here: cindy123cindy [at] 126.com