This online shop in China sells people's life stories for just 20 cents

Cong Pingping, the owner of the online shop CY Story, collects regular Chinese people’s life stories and sells them for a modest 15 US cents apiece.
PHOTO: Weibo/ Jiangsu News

 A Chinese writer who collects and sells the inspirational and moving life stories of people has become an online hit, amassing 300,000 followers.

Seeking her own inspiration as a freelance writer, Cong Pingping, launched an online shop in 2012 asking people to share a moment of their life with her by writing their story.

She then edited and posted the person’s full story in the online shop on e-commerce site, Taobao , which people could buy to read for 1 yuan (S$0.20) each.

In nine years, Cong has collected more than 2,000 personal stories on the site that now has 300,000 online followers. She believes that storytelling is not only powerful but cathartic.

But giving 80 per cent of all revenue back to the writers means that Cong has struggled to keep the shop and its bank of life stories afloat.

“Many contributors told me when they finished writing their story and sent it to my email, the moment they pressed sent, they felt they have let it go,” Cong told local outlet Jiangsu News. 

“The store is like a bank for life stories. How can I go bankrupt when other people trusted their stories with me?” she added.

One of the shop’s best-selling stories about a daughter forgiving her drug-addicted father sold 9,000 times.

The story, titled You Will Never Be Able to Hate Someone, marks the 191th story in the Cong’s collection.

“My dad is a drug addict. He spent all of our money on drugs and forced out my mother and I. We lost our home because he sold the apartment,” the man’s daughter wrote. 

She said one of her most vivid childhood memories was spent watching her dad and a group of his friends using drugs in front of her.

She describes a time when she was in her later high college years, she called her father to borrow 500 yuan.

Her father gave her less than half of that, saying it was all he had left. Later that night, he sent her a text apologising. “Sorry for being such a useless dad,” he wrote.

“From that moment on, I decided I have forgiven him because I finally understood that, deep down, he loved me. He was just incapable of giving me anything,” she wrote.

Another best-seller is a long-distance love story spanning decades between a boy called Zimo and his wife, Sisi.

Zimo’s best friend wrote and submitted the story of Zimo and Sisi. In one scene, the writer depicted Zimo’s weekly 30-hour train journey from Xian to Chengdu each weekend to visit his new girlfriend, Sisi.

“It was all rough mountainous terrain on the way to Chengdu. Sometimes the train would delay and Zimo would lose it because it was squeezing the little time he would spend together with Sisi,” he wrote.

Family opposition to their relationship forced the lovebirds apart and working for government enterprises in their home cities meant relocation was impossible. Sisi went on to marry another man, giving birth to a son. Zimo stayed single.

Ten years later, Zimo called the writer one day said he and Sisi had been reunited.

“She’s divorced and has a ten-year-old son,” he told his friend. “We will still have to do this long-distance thing. But even with all this, I still want to marry her.”

On May 1, 2014, an emotional Zimo and Sisi married in front of cheering families and friends.

“Sometimes, the most important person in your life, the one you couldn’t do without, will get through thousands and millions of mountains and rivers just to meet you,” wrote the author.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.