Chengdu Earthquake Taxicab Driver’s Moving Poem

I met the Chengdu taxicab driver He Ming six months after the May 12, 2008 Sichuan earthquake.  We talked as he drove.  Mr. He told me about his experiences during the quake.  Like many Chengdu taxi drivers, he had an (illegal) 460 MHz VHF radio transceiver in his cab that he used to stay in touch with his fellow cab drivers.  Mr. He told me that after the quake the taxicab drivers coordinated by radio and decided that the Chengdu district of Dujiangyan, located next to the mountains, has been hardest hit.  Hundreds of taxi cab drivers headed out to Dujiangyan to pick up injured people for the downtown hospitals and headed back towards downtown, their emergency blinkers flashing.

He Ming told me he was a poet and had written about that experience.  Mr. He sent his poem as a text message to my cellphone.

Here is my translation:

The Heartfelt Lifesaving Effort
— that Unforgettable Afternoon and Evening of May 12

by He Ming

Worried by the screams of our compatriots we get on the road
Head up into the mountains from where the landslides are coming
To the crazily tilted buildings
Towards lives trapped beneath the rubble
Towards the the crying infants

We volunteer without regrets
Charging into the rubble
In union there is strength
We cannot give a thought to the dangers on the road
as the great catastrophe rumbles the very earth

Love propels the cars forward at full speed
Thousands of anxious taxi drivers
Their emergency blinkers reflecting their shock
Blinking all the way from Dujiangyan to Chengdu!

A lifesaving trip.
paved with our love
A trip of hope
We earnestly pray for blessings and protection on
this lifesaving trip that shook our very souls.

A Chengdu newspaper, the Huaxi Dushibao, wrote about the taxicab volunteers on May 22, 2008.  That front page story is still online (via the People’s Daily website) at

He Ming died a year later in a traffic accident.

The poem in the original Chinese I copied below.



四川512大地震过了两个星期之后在成都招计程车的时候碰到一位很了不起的的士司机. 他的名字叫何明。我坐他的车的时候有一份5月22日华西都市报第一版的文章介绍成都市的士
司机一听到都江堰的地震受灾的情况很严重就跑到都江堰救人载受伤的人到成都的医院。何明描述了这个情况然后让我看他写的诗关于他参与这个救人运动的感受。 他把他的诗转到我的手机上。我做的英文翻译在中文原文下面。

























About 高大伟 David Cowhig

Worked 25 years as a US State Department Foreign Service Officer including ten years at US Embassy Beijing and US Consulate General Chengdu and four years as a China Analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Before State I translated Japanese and Chinese scientific and technical books and articles into English freelance for six years. Before that I taught English at Tunghai University in Taiwan for three years. And before that I worked two summers on Norwegian farms, milking cows and feeding chickens.
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