Ian Tsang



I work as a graphic designer in Yiwu.

"How old are you?"

As I was about to go downstairs, a little boy hurriedly passed by me and stopped to ask me.


I was taken aback.

"How old are you?"

He asked again.


I was sun-drying clothes in the small garden on the third floor of the dormitory building. I was stunned by the little boy's question. The boy was seven years old and went to school nearby. His parents both worked in the factory and lived in the couple's dormitory in my building. I was taken aback for a moment when he asked me this question. I realized that I was not young anymore, with a meager salary and having learned so many miscellaneous skills. In the end, I came here to work as a graphic designer, doing repetitive work that didn't require much technical expertise. I felt increasingly anxious and looked up at the sky. The industrial area was hazy, and the sky was gradually darkening.

Starting the Job#

I attended a second-tier public university, and during my college years, I was average and had no outstanding achievements or social connections. I spent most of my time in the dormitory working on various miscellaneous things. As graduation approached, I felt increasingly anxious. I always had endless ideas but was hesitant to take that first step. I was always busy with various things but never persisted in one thing. My four years of college were a blur, and the days felt like years.

Job Hunting#

Before coming to this company, I had been frantically sending out resumes for modeling, rendering, user acquisition, or game-related jobs, but I rarely received any responses. I did receive many test assignments after some interviews. At first, I diligently completed the test assignments, hoping for a reply that said, "Unfortunately, xxx." However, most of the responses I received were silence.


I did find these test assignments challenging, and my skills were indeed weak. Eventually, I started to slack off, and I stopped doing the test assignments for subsequent companies.

Starting the Job#

During the first two days at the company, I was tossed around by various departments. One department said there wasn't much work to do until the end of the year (if there wasn't much work, why did they come to our school's job fair, how annoying!), while another department said I hadn't graduated yet, so my salary would be multiplied by a factor of 0.8. I was very disappointed with their recruitment system. After two or three days at the company, I still hadn't officially started working. I could only wander aimlessly outside by myself. The sky here was always gloomy, and there were factories as far as the eye could see. This place was truly oppressive. There were hardly any young people in the company, and there were no peers to communicate with (let alone girls). In my heart, I secretly made up my mind to take two months' salary and leave immediately.

The dormitory was very dimly lit for some reason. I was assigned to live with the workers, even though I should have had a single room like the other office workers. My current dormitory was a triple room with no internet, no hot water, and dim lighting. The corridor outside was dim and damp.


My work was not difficult but very miscellaneous. There was only one graphic designer in the entire company, and almost every department would come to me for various tasks. Here is a list of my job responsibilities:

Job Responsibilities#

I earned 4,000 yuan per month, worked from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with one day off per week. My job responsibilities included, but were not limited to:

  1. Writing articles for the company's public WeChat account
  2. Taking photos and videos
  3. Writing a monthly article about the company
  4. Upgrading the design of the company's product packaging
  5. Upgrading the design of the company's promotional materials and VI applications
  6. Designing product catalogs and retouching product images
  7. Upgrading the design of promotional brochures
  8. Designing materials for live streaming rooms
  9. Designing materials for e-commerce platforms
  10. Creating product images for e-commerce platforms
  11. Designing various types of invitations
  12. Designing materials for exhibitions and sales meetings
  13. Upgrading and designing the company's website
  14. Producing videos for traditional Chinese festivals (in Chinese and English)
  15. Designing posters for Chinese statutory holidays
  16. Producing videos for foreign festivals
  17. Designing and producing posters for the 24 solar terms in China
  18. Completing various temporary tasks assigned by the management

I also had to write weekly, monthly, and annual reports, as well as calendars. There was also a daily morning meeting, which took a toll on my physical and mental well-being. I was truly exhausted, and my conversations with my classmates often joked about going back to my hometown to deliver takeout.



I was soaking my feet, and it was already past 8 p.m. when my supervisor suddenly called me and asked me to work overtime that night. The chairman's child was going to represent the company as its spokesperson at an event in Harbin, and I was asked to design a series of things for him, such as car stickers, name tags, microphone stickers, and live streaming room backgrounds.


I was a bit dazed when I received the call. The chairman's child was the company's spokesperson, and I was just a graphic designer who had to work overtime unconditionally to keep my job.

Assembly Line#

I was called to help out in the factory area, doing packaging work on the assembly line. Each package took a whole day, and my knees would ache from standing all day. Most of the workers on the packaging line were women. My mother was also a worker, but she worked in the garment industry and had a place to sit. That night, I called her and asked if she had any rest days on the weekends. She smiled and said, "Do I have any rest days? I don't have an education." Now I understand that my mother didn't really have weekends off; she only had Sunday nights off from work. The workplace didn't even have air conditioning. I came from a single-parent family, and my mother raised three children on her own. She really had it tough.



Most of my colleagues were around forty or fifty years old. My workstation was placed in the sales department, and one of my colleagues was over fifty years old and still working here even though he was already a grandfather. I felt that they were very relaxed every day, perhaps because it was the off-peak season. I noticed that two of my colleagues would sit at their desks watching TikTok videos, go downstairs to smoke, and then come back to browse their phones. They earned higher salaries than me and even received commissions.

My colleagues here didn't want to interact with me. When I greeted them in the cafeteria, they ignored me. When I met them on the road and greeted them, they ignored me. When I asked them how to use the company's electric kettle, they ignored me. When the office needed to adjust the network cables, they didn't respond to my questions about whether the cables were connected or not. Overall, they made me feel like they were putting on airs. However, it wasn't always like this. Sometimes they would share delicious food with me, such as pastries and snacks. But when I asked them questions, they would fall silent. It was awkward for me to be stuck there alone.

The people in other departments were normal. They would respond to my greetings and were more approachable (although there were still some who wouldn't respond because they thought I had something to ask them). Overall, they had a bit of human touch, but not much.

Hamburger was the HR person who recruited me at the job fair. He often made promises to me and sometimes tried to manipulate me. He would say things like, "If I find someone else to do it, they will do it for me," or "This is what the general manager wants." However, he did help me a lot. When I first arrived, he took me to see a movie before New Year's Day. Occasionally, he would take me out to eat or bring me some food. I was very grateful for his care and support.


He would occasionally take me out to play or bring me some food. I was very grateful for his care and support. Even though he sometimes manipulated me, I was still very appreciative and lucky to have someone willing to help me.

img Watched a terrible movie, and the ending where the car flew back home from a cliff left me dumbfounded.


There was a night market near the factory. In the evening, many street vendors would set up stalls. I even discovered milk tea for five yuan per cup (actually just milk tea powder, it only took a minute to make a cup). The owner would repeat the following question with a strange emphasis:

"Do you want to add pearls or coconut jelly?"


When there were many customers, she would keep repeating these two sentences, and it did have a somewhat mesmerizing effect.


The food here was relatively light. I discovered many Jiangxi-style stir-fried dishes in the nearby town. My colleagues joked, "The specialty of Yiwu is Jiangxi-style stir-fried dishes." But when I walked into a Jiangxi-style stir-fried dish restaurant alone, the prices, starting at 30 yuan for a simple home-cooked meal, made me realize the distance between me and my hometown. After looking at the menu, I left in disappointment and went to the next-door Sha County snack shop.


Since there was no hot water in the dormitory and it took too long to heat up, I followed the workers to the factory's bathhouse to take a shower. It was my first time entering a factory bathhouse. The bathhouse was located in the workshop, and there was usually energetic music playing in the workshop at night, creating a rhythmic atmosphere. As soon as I entered the bathhouse, my glasses immediately fogged up, blocking my vision. I quickly took off my glasses and realized that the workers inside were all facing the central aisle and completely naked. I awkwardly walked through the crowd of naked men, carrying a bucket in my hand, and found a corner to wash up.

image imageimage

I listened to them speaking with a hint of Sichuan dialect (the majority of frontline workers in the factory came from Yunnan, Guizhou, and Sichuan) and complaining about the company's various formalistic practices. They also criticized the company for reducing the unit price even though they were making a lot of money. Most of them were piece-rate workers.



"He's working as a graphic designer in Yiwu 😁"

A wave of inexplicable bitterness surged in my heart.

After leaving this job, I plan to take on freelance projects and try my hand at self-media. I've discovered that I enjoy tinkering around. Tinkering alone is still tinkering, and sharing it with others for amusement is also tinkering. Perhaps I can even help others by sharing some of the good things I've discovered or new technologies. Having my own business is more meaningful than contributing to someone else's business.

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