photo of Chinese woman northeast and southwest China
Social Change  

Click on arrows
to find more
these themes


(CHINA 31 - Northeast)








Longtang, Huanglongsi, Hebei


August 1997


Although this is a fairly short interview, Shuling’s responses are detailed and informative. She talks about her family background and her marriage: she met her husband through a matchmaker and although her marriage “couldn’t be called an arranged one” her parents approved. She has two children and the family mainly rely on her husband’s low income from working outside as a casual labourer. She describes how she recently had to sell some meat at the market for extra money. She explains: “Those who are well off usually kill a pig and preserve the meat with salt. Those who are poor have to sell the meat. Last year we sold the meat.”

Although Shuling was unable to receive an education she is keen that her both her children do: “Now I place all my hopes on my children.” She receives support from a local official (Mr Li) in achieving this goal. She often tells her children: “You are our hopes. Mr Li brings hope to you. Don’t let him down.”

Shuling talks about the mountain area, its problems and good points: “We are self-sufficient and self-contained. But we don’t have many transport facilities…. However it’s much better than before…. The county earmarked funds to us to build the road but it was built by the local villagers.” The road has improved marketing opportunities and enabled children to attend school more easily.

She has taken a lease on a barren hillside with three other women to cultivate and plant with fruit trees. They are present during the interview. See China 32 for a group interview with Shuling and two of the women, which provides more detail on their cultivation of the hill, which they call the “Economic Valley”. They believe their efforts will benefit future generations. The interview ends with Shuling explaining: “I wanted to leave the place before, but I never had any opportunity. This is my birthplace and I grew up here. [Now] I can’t bear to part with the place. I just want to change its appearance!”

detailed breakdown

You will need a password from Panos to view the full transcript of the interview. To apply for a password, click here.

Once you have a password, click here to go to the beginning of the transcript. You can also click on any section of the breakdown of content below and go straight to the corresponding part of the transcript.


Section 1  Family details. Wanted to go to school and followed other students there but brought home by her father to help family earn more work points. Bitterly disappointed: “When I got home I was in low spirits. I could cry for a whole dayNow I place my hopes on my children, encouraging them to study hard.” Difficult for people in the mountains to send their children to school because of distance and money. She explains that “We don't have enough money. My children go to school by bike. They have to cover a distance of 40 li (2 li equals 1 km). Mr Li, the secretary of the County Party committee learned of our difficulties and aided my son financially.”
Section 2  She met her husband through a matchmaker: “Going out with a boyfriend or a girlfriend was not the trend.” Their eldest child is a girl. “Some people don’t treat boys and girls equally, but it’s quite rare.” Her husband was able to go to school The couple get on well with each other’s brothers and sisters. Husband now works as a casual labourer although he is not in good health. She supplements this income: “I gather some Chinese medicinal herbs here and I also raise pigs and rabbits. Last year I raised a pig. We didn’t eat it but sold the meat.” Her husband’s health “is poor. He has a stomach disease. But in order to send the children to school he holds on [with his job] persistently.”
Section 2-3  Story of how someone helped her husband when he became ill on the train travelling back to their village. People sell vegetables and meat at the local market. Outsiders come to hold training sessions which they enjoy. “We villagers don’t have much knowledge... We feel enlightened after listening to your lectures.” When ill she goes to the doctor as a last resort, because of the expense.
Section 3-4  Women give birth at home unless there are complications. Shuling explains how she “delivered seven or eight children for my nephews’ wives. I learned how to do it from some doctors… I was asked to be the midwife for women in our village, but I said that I wasn’t capable of it, besides, I was illiterate. [But] they said, ‘Though you can’t read or write, you have a good memory.’” Describes health care of pregnant women. Policy of birth control carried out and leaders come on inspection tours every month. Staple food is maize. She would like her children to go to college if they have the ability.
Section 5  Recreational activities: “Though I have a TV set I don’t have time to watch. Sometimes I watch the news programme at lunchtime. I like watching those TV plays which tell you about…setting up businesses.” Her thoughts on the mountain environment, which she thinks is good aprt from lack of transport: “The water is fresh and the air is fresh, too. We don’t need to pay for using water. We can cut grass on the hill at any time to raise sheep, pigs and rabbits.” The construction of the road has helped villagers in different ways. Recalls the difficult time when she was involved in constructing the road.
Section 5-6  Takes a long-term view of cultivating the hillside: “We four women get along well We say, ‘Now we are planting these persimmon trees, but when the fruit is ripe we may be too old or too tired to pick the persimmons.’ It doesn’t matter. What we are doing now will benefit future generations.” Collects medicinal herbs from the mountain to make some additional money.