Stories of China’s ‘Empty-nest’ youth

China has witnessed an increase of so-called empty-nest youth (空巢青年) lately, or young people who live alone, the term “empty-nest” was originally referred to elder people living along after their children are grown up and moved out of the house to live by themselves.

Here are different stories told by different people.

Chen Quanzhou, 38 years old, a native of Xiaogan, Hubei province, he first came to Beijing in 2007, he used to be the owner of the hardware store, he also helped carring gas bottle, now he is the owner of the hostel.

Chen Quanzhou

“Sometimes I do feel like I am a empty nest youth my self, because my wife and child are staying in my hometown hubei, I am the only person who lives in this ten square meters apartment. My room has got no television, if I want to watch TV, I will go to nearby room to watch. I also want to find a suitable tenant to live with. I enjoy playing poker very much in my spare time. Before I got married, the money I made wasn’t enough for me to spend on, I had to borrow money from my family for the travel expenses. I  also had to borrow money for purchasing of this hostel business, after taking up this hostel business, in order to cut the operating costs, I am the only person in charge of the business, there are around 9 rooms in the hostel. I stay in the hostel every day, I would clean up the rooms in the morning, after I finish my lunch, I like taking a nap, if I don’t take the nap, then I will go for a walk in the park near where I live. I have been in Beijing for 10 years, whether you believe it or not, I have never even been to the Great Wall of China, there was one guest who used to live here said he would took me there, if I do go, no one would take care of the hostel business, so I didn’t go to the great wall of China in the end. I just want to make more money, because I want to buy a new apartment in my hometown. My child is studying at grade 3 at the Primary school. His academic performance used to be good, but recently his teacher rang up and told me that his academic performance has gotten worse.”

Sun Jiayao

Sun Jiayao

“I first came to Beijing to study in 2009, I have lived in two different places, now I am living at a single room apartment on the Beiyuan North road, the rent is nearly 2000 RMB per month. The room I am living in is around 10 square meters. There are many job opportunities and good resources here in Beijing, there are always very crowded when you are taking the bus or metro. I was very annoyed about it at first, however, I get used to the crowded situation after a period of time. I myself am feeling lonely from time to time, when you are feeling down, there is no one to talk to, and when I get sick, I always have to go to the hospital to see the doctor by myself. Of course, if i can find the suitable person to live with, that would be really great, because we can help each other out. Getting to know a new friend can be very tiring.”

Tang Xiaolin

Tang Xiaolin, 27 years old, a native of Si Chuan, she used to study in South Korea, and now is working at one of the culture company in Beijing.

“I am feeling pretty good living just by myself, but I do get a bit lonely sometimes, but never mind. When your wages has increased, you want to live a better place, if you do that, you can’t save much money, I also will give some money to my mother. I really like sports, and also listening to music and watching movies, I used to like getting up at three o’clock in the morning to watch the tennis match, but I no longer do that now. I also tried to participate in different community organization in order to get to know more friends, however, each time when I get back from work, I feel very tired. It’s good to have one or two different hobbies.”

Yang Wenhao

Yang Wenhao, 28 years old, a native of Xingyang, Henan Province, he has been working in Beijing for 6 years, he is currently working at Internet company.

“I used to shared a place with my classmate, I am living at a 15 meter apartment now, the place cost me around 1000 RMB, including water and electricity fees. I first lived in Haidian District for two years, I later moved to places near Jiu Gong Metro station, but the living conditions there was really poor, I moved to a different place after living there for just a few months. But now I am living near Jiu Gong Metro station. My work keeps me really busy, Before when I got back home from work, I used to like playing the computer games, but now I enjoy watching TV Shows. Many of my classmates and friends who used to stay in Beijing have moved to other cities. It would be good to go out often and make more friends, and also try to develop one or two hobbies.”

Dan Pu

Dan Pu, 25 years old, he has been in Beijing alone for one year, and is currently an editor at a media company.

“I have never been feeling lonely, I enjoy my job very much, I also develop weekly reading plan, I don’t have time to feel lonely. I have gained weight since I moved to Beijing, if the weather is not bad, I would walk home after work.”


Chongzi, 34 years old, she was in Beijing alone for nine and half years. Her bookcase is full of books including foreign language, she get used to being alone, she control her diet, going to gym, going to work, feed her cat. She has never feel like fleeing Beijing, she feels like a guest if she goes back to her hometown.

Edited and translated by Philip Caruso

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