The Bridges of My City: A Suicide Epidemic

Editor’s note: In recent conversations with Chinese Christians, many have mentioned an underlying thread of hopelessness that pervades society. Online trends of “lying flat” and cries that “we are the last generation” all reflect this general attitude. Although it is difficult to find official reports on the phenomenon, many have mentioned how many suicides they have observed in their local contexts. This is especially true among young people.

In this article, a Chinese pastor reflects on why so many people are giving up on life. In order to restore hope, Chinese people need an eternal framework and a hope that comes from outside this broken world.


The Sound of a Splash

Many in the city drift with the current. Some are lost, vanishing beneath the surface of the city’s river. The beauty of the river’s murmuring waters conceals a turbulent undercurrent which mercilessly crushes fragile souls.

I intended to remain silent. But then came the sound of a splash, followed by another and yet another, as people struggled on the brink of life and death. As Christians, how can we remain silent? We hold gospel truth – we cannot fail to speak. It is as if we possess life preservers but hesitate to throw them, doubting their effectiveness.

This beautiful landscape is stained with the color of death. In just one two-week period this spring, more than a dozen suicide attempts by jumping from local bridges were reported.

Years after the first bridge across the banks of our city’s river was built, more than 20 overpasses crisscross the river. These unique and modern bridges are a testament to progress.

Yet this beautiful landscape is stained with the color of death. In just one two-week period this spring, more than a dozen suicide attempts by jumping from local bridges were reported. The government reported that these were “personal choices.” Quickly, our city, our river, and the bridges themselves began to trend online. People were shocked, questioning: “What happened? Why are so many ending their lives?”

If suicide is a personal choice, it should be limited to isolated individuals. However, this concentrated continuity echoes in cities beyond our own. Coupled with the inner turmoil and public outcry it has ignited, it reveals a collective crisis and a shared anxiety.

Tarnish on the Shine

People quickly point to the crushing weight of mortgages, unemployment, layoffs, and economic downturn. Industry has collapsed, real estate bubbles have burst, people struggle to make ends meet – all while unemployed. If they have a job, they deal with grueling hours, layoffs, harsh treatment, and the constant threat of closure. Others are swept away by the bankruptcy of giants like Evergrande. They default on loans and face lawsuits, court judgments, and property auctions. Decades of savings vanish in an instant.

Even in their final act of desperation, as they attempt to turn their helpless cries into a societal symbol, they are swiftly marginalized. The world erases the collective significance of their death: these deaths are personal choices, unrelated to the rest of us.

Friends, what can I say? You loved this world deeply, but it abandoned you. Even if you leave in anger, your hoped-for impact is muffled. Fellow citizens, how can I weep? My voice fails; tears refuse to flow.


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A city’s strength lies in the strength of its community. These suicides signify that community’s fracturing.


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Highways, subways, high-speed trains, and airports showcase tremendous advancements in urban infrastructure. Our city’s many overpasses are just one shining example of this. Yet these suicides tarnish the shine. They are a blemish on the face of civilization, a stark reminder to those who revel in progress that the world is fallen.

Building infrastructure is challenging, but building people is far more demanding. Entering a city, one is struck by the sheer scale of humanity, by mountains of people and oceans of faces. A city’s strength lies in the strength of its community. These suicides signify that community’s fracturing.

Why are cities, despite being the most populated, also the loneliest? At the base of these mountains of humanity, many endure prolonged exploitation. Stripped of material possessions and lacking inner strength, they choose collapse over resilience.

On the fringes of the ocean, many are ignored, abandoned, and pushed to the edge. Eventually, the dam can no longer withstand the pressure, and they choose a swift escape.

Cherish Your Precious Life

Friends, allow me to speak on behalf of your anguish. Although each person feels their own pain, we remain disconnected. When links of the ecosystem break, chains of suffering inevitably follow. Yet the greatest pain lies in bearing our burdens alone, without the gospel message of substitution, responsibility, and redemption.

Death is not a new problem. It is our oldest foe! To address death, we strive to live well, to provide and purchase homes. We seek better, more comfortable lives, improving life’s quality to distance ourselves from death’s grasp. Yet death’s shadow loom large, hovering over our meticulously crafted cities.

I long to reveal the answer, but you may not believe. The gospel we preach has long been discarded. With it, you discard life itself. Unless you encounter the Savior who loves you, who died and rose again for you, life will remain a burden. Sin’s weight will relentlessly pursue you, transforming into the specter of death.

Some end their lives. Many others merely exist, haunted by death’s presence. Inexplicable anxiety courses through them. In these moments, atheism and materialism crumble. People realize that even purchased homes are rented. This world itself is borrowed, and we must all return to our eternal home. Where is this home?

Worldly dreams attempt to construct a counterfeit paradise. But when dreams shatter, they leave behind chasms of despair…Divest from that plummeting stock. Abandon the world that has abandoned you. Instead, cherish your lives, for they are far more precious than this world!

The question of death confronts us. Without a framework of eternity, we are ill-equipped to answer. Belief in God and the gospel of Christ is no mere fantasy, but the most urgent prerequisite.

The American Dream and the Chinese Dream are ultimately worldly dreams. These suicides expose the fallacy of equating the world with life itself. Worldly dreams attempt to construct a counterfeit paradise. But when dreams shatter, they leave behind chasms of despair. The Bible warns us: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”

Divest from that plummeting stock. Abandon the world that has abandoned you. Instead, cherish your lives, for they are far more precious than this world! For the sake of your lives, you must seize hold of God’s kingdom; of eternity, truth, and resurrection.

So many are resolutely exiting this world – why choose a path that leads to destruction. Turn toward eternal life! This path cannot be attained through your own efforts, but through Christ’s redemption and God’s grace. Through receiving ultimate truth and gospel revelation, we can face the world’s uncertainties and harsh realities. Through dying and rising with Christ, we find healing from life’s turmoil.


Tan Jian is a pseudonym for a house church pastor in northern China. 

Pray for gospel hope for Chinese people who feel that life is hopeless and worthless.

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LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA

With rising pressure and persecution in China, there are two challenges imperative for church leaders. The first challenge is for current leaders to love Christ above all else, and not to stray into legalism or love of the world. The second challenge is to raise up the next generation of leaders, who will humbly model Jesus even if current leaders are arrested.

WILL YOU JOIN US IN PRAYING FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA? PRAY FOR:

  1. Current leaders to grow in their daily walks with Christ
  2. Current leaders to shepherd and raise up new leaders
  3. New leaders who love Christ and will model him to the world
  4. New leaders to love and care for the church

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Xiamen is a city located in southeastern China and is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful coastal scenery, including Gulangyu Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is also a hub for China’s high-tech industry, with companies such as Huawei and ZTE having research and development centers in Xiamen.

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