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The F Generation: Living Their Dreams
Dongzi studied sculpture in Beijing Art and Design College but gradually developed a love for ceramics. After graduating, she went to France for further study. When she came back she turned down an opportunity to become a teacher at her old school.

Dongzi had the opportunity of choosing a stable job and producing art works free of financial concerns, yet she made an unconventional decision to run a little shop near beautiful Houhai in Beijing. She now sells pottery and porcelain handicraft that she makes by herself.

Every time the autumn leaves begin to fall and the number of visitors to Houhai declines, Dongzi closes up her shop, packs a bag and heads to another city to continue her work. She likes Tangshang and Jingdezhen, while her favorite place is Chenlu in Tongchuan, Shaanxi Province where she has been eight times. Chenlu, is a place full of local flavor, has a colorful cultural environment and inexhaustible supply of clay, providing Dongzi with great motivation and inspiration for her creative work.

The life style Dongzi chose seems irrational to many ordinary people, but for Dongzi, she loves it and never gets tired. “I don’t like to be constrained. Although a stable job offers me a comfortable life, it also restrains my natural inspiration and enthusiasm for creative endeavors.”

Dongzi represents a growing group of people in modern China. They are emerging in many places, and can be found in quadrangles and alleys in Beijing, on the banks of Huangpu River and in high-rise apartments in Shanghai as well as on the busy streets of Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

The F Generation has neither stable careers nor fixed wages, and don’t even have permanent dwellings. They don’t belong to the group of workers rushing from rural areas to cities either, or the petty bourgeoisies and the middle class who have decent jobs and seek material incentives, such as fame and fortune. Most of them have high levels of education and have some professional knowledge and skills. They live for their dreams and strive to achieve them.

The idea of living in peace and prosperity has existed for thousands of years in China and most people want the backing of a stable job and a harmonious family. So in their eyes, the F Generation seems detached from traditional life. But as time passes, life styles and ideas are quietly changing. Some people, especially the younger generation, would rather give up their secure conditions and choose a life which allows them to follow their dreams. Sometimes they are very rich from a temporary job, and at other times life is hard and they are unable to make ends meet.

“Do you think you live a better life than me? Maybe you have a stable job but are you content? While I’m proud of my decision there are some hardships with living life out in the open.” Dongzi explained. Dongzi produces and fires porcelain in impoverished and backward villages, and finally carries the heavy works back to Beijing. Dongzi does all the work by herself, and she is just over 20 years old.

Dongzi’s little shop enjoys a great reputation and some European tourist magazines have even written special articles on it. Dongzi can find her works in a variety of places. A piece of her handcrafted porcelain sits on the counter of clothes shop in Beijing’s Xidan market, enhancing the beauty of the display. A porcelain cabinet designed by Dongzi was introduced to the people of Vogue fashion magazine. She has also designed many decorations for neighboring cafés, bars and teahouses.

“I never complain or regret my lifestyle decisions, as I get great spiritual rewards from my choices.” Dongzi said.

A famous TV compere in Guangdong Province, part of the F Generation, is directing a personal movie and racking his brains for a beautiful title. Aiming to become a top director in China, he said, “A floating lifestyle brings us both joy and sorrow. It helps us maintain an enthusiasm for life as well as encourages us to persevere in the pursuit of achieving our dream career goals.”

Professor Tong Shaosu of Zhejiang University suggest some reasons for the appearance of the F Generation saying, “Several decades ago, we had to concern ourselves of problems of adequate food and clothing, but now we are becoming increasingly concerned with intellectual satisfaction. The times and circumstances encourage the formation of the F Generation which aims at producing intellectual output in order to realize the value of their lives.”

Sociologists noted that due to a more relaxed resident registration system, people can now enjoy themselves and move more freely between different locations. Meanwhile, the level of success also increasing, and the F Generation is becoming generally accepted among the wider public.

(china.org.cn by Li Xiao January 2, 2003)

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