By Tom Hancock, AFP
DANJIANGKOU, China–In the village where he was born, a Chinese chicken breeder emerged from a lake of green to tell of his life beneath the waves in a homemade orange submarine. Tan Yong bolted together his two-tonne craft, christened the ��Happy Lamb�� after a popular cartoon character, in just nine months and has steered it down to depths of eight meters. The 44-year-old is one of the growing ranks of rural Chinese do-it-yourself inventors whose individualism contrasts with the collective farming of past decades. In his electric vessel, gauges and air pressure dials were screwed to the cabin wall above plastic piping that would look appropriate beneath a kitchen sink, while handwritten operating instructions were stuck up with sticky tape. Electric cables spewed from an array of fuse boxes, and a gas canister was positioned on the floor. ��This is the air pump, it’s used for going up and down,�� Tan explained, adding nonchalantly: ��I haven’t installed any kind of escape device.�� Tan was born just two years after the Beatles released their 1968 hit Yellow Submarine, but he grew up in rural poverty and says he does not know any songs about colored underwater vessels. At a national level China has increasing naval ambitions and Tan, who makes his living selling chickens, first hatched the idea of building a submarine two years ago, launching a prototype in March. ��I never studied this in school, I’ve based everything on my imagination,�� he said. ��I can stay underwater for 45 minutes.�� He scraped an extra layer of sealant around the portholes before waving cheerily as he closed the hatch, emblazoned with a red Communist-style star. The craft �X powered by five car batteries �X chugged away from the banks of the Danjiangkou reservoir, with a friend aboard and many more of them cheering as they looked on from beneath a grove of orange trees. The engine whirred and bubbles rippled the lake’s still surface as it gently descended, leaving a barely visible outline before disappearing entirely. But his mother stayed away from the demonstration.
��He’s had a habit of making things since he was small. Toys, boats, model guns and things like that,�� said Wang Mingfeng, 65. ��I don’t dare to watch, I’m too scared it’s unsafe.�� ‘Peasant Da Vincis’