photo of Chinese woman northeast and southwest China
China glossary


(CHINA 12 - Southwest)








Luquan town, Luquan county, Yunnan


24 April 1997



Section 1
Xuefeng is a doctor in the Maternal and Child Health Centre, Luquan county. Miao female doctors are rare; she is one of very few. She used to be in team 1 (cluster or group, made up of several households), Tanglangqing village office, Cuihua village, Luquan county. She has been involved in maternal and child health care for more than 20 years, since she left her home in the 1970s. She knows well not only the health situation of Miao women, but also the changes which have taken place in her home village over 20 years. The interview took place in Xueguang's house.

How old are you?
I'm 40, just 40.

What's your animal year?
Rooster - 39 is 40.

Where are you from?

Which village, which village office?
Team 1, Tanglangqing village office, Cuihua village.

Which unit are you working in now?
Now I'm working at the Maternal and Child Health centre. I've been working in this unit since I started my career. I've been here for more than 20 years.

More than 20 years? Oh...
En. I've worked here since I was assigned the job at the Maternal and Child Health centre in December 1972. I have never transferred to another unit.

What's your position at this Maternal and Child Health centre?
I work on maternal and child care; my title is doctor of women's health care.

What do you mainly do?
I work in the in-patient department. I've been in the in-patient department for many years. I work mainly on gynaecological and obstetric diseases, family planning and things like that.
Section 2
Do many Miao women come to your centre to see doctors?
Many. Generally Luquan women like to come to me. They said there wasn't a Miao woman [doctor] in the county hospital. There are some male doctors in the county hospital, but they don't work on women's health, so...

Do they come because of women's diseases?
Yes, just for women's diseases. They also come when they have got cold and pain. Most of them come to see me if they have women's disease. There isn't a Miao female doctor in the Family Planning Committee. So now there are two nurses in the county hospital; they were assigned last year. But they don't know many people. I've been here for a long time. The old, and the young - people mostly know me. We are here really for those women. Sometimes too many people come. There is not enough room for them to stay at my home [maybe when the beds in the centre are fully occupied, she invites some patients to her home to stay]. But bearing in mind that they can’t speak Han, I feel they are very pitiful (I feel pity for them).

They come to see you because they don't speak Han, they are afraid of strangers?
Just because they don't speak Han, they can’t communicate with other people around, and are afraid of being scolded, afraid of this and that. So most of them come to see me. And I've been there for a long time. Like other nationalities (ethnic groups), we've been there for long time, so they always come to us. Besides, our attitudes are good and we can treat the diseases well, we are kind to them in all aspects, we won't scold them. So usually, they will come to us. There are Miao women coming nearly every day.

What's the main women's disease for those who come?
It's not common for us Miao women to have women's disease, probably because they live in the mountain area, because of the fresh air. They never suffer from inflammation of the cervix, or cancer of the cervix. They rarely have inflammation of the cervix. Like vaginitis (inflammation of the vagina), that’s rare too. Only a few among 100 people. Usually they will come when they have pain in the abdomen, or around the waist after they have had an IUD put in. There is never inflammation of the cervix , and vaginitis. Probably because they live in the mountain area, the water is cleaner - because they wash their clothes with running water. They are different from those who live on the plain [and] fetch water from a standing pool. You have a disease and come to wash; I have a disease and come to wash. You have no disease; I'll spread the disease to you. Especially at the village we went to in the area of Sanpanying. Especially in Sapanying, and Malutang, Jiaoxi areas - there is no running water in those areas. All use water in pools.
There are many women's diseases. Every year we conduct a general investigation into women's diseases in those [lowland] areas: 85% of the women there have diseases. Most of them have vaginitis. However, we Miao people rarely have vaginitis. Generally, they say they come because of women's diseases; in fact, they come because of pain in the waist and abdomen after they have had an IUD put in. So they rarely suffer from women's diseases. In terms of hygiene, of course, we Miao people have poor living conditions. Of course our conditions are not as good as in the town. Their clothing cannot be compared with those in the town. But now their living conditions are very good. They live in the countryside, and in these [more recent] years they plant tobacco. Such as in Tanglangqing and Cuihua, there are a large number of Miao people. Our Luquan is the county, which has many Miao people. Basically, one family can get at least 2000 to 3000 yuan per year from selling tobacco. So their clothing, food and housing are all better now. The houses are nicely built, different from those in the past – [when] people lived in [thatched] huts. Their clothing is not as good as those in town. But they don’t suffer much from disease; even colds are not common. Probably because of the quality of the air [in the mountains].
Section 3
Usually living conditions in Miao areas are worse, because they don't have places to bath?
Mu, that's right. Living conditions are worse. At best, they can take some water in a basin, and wash hastily. They have to wear the same clothes all the time, but they rarely get women's diseases.

Do you often go back to Tanglangqing?
I go back once or twice a year.

Do you have elderly [parents] there?
No elderly ones (parents). I have four sisters-in-law at home. My eldest uncle has two sons. He has three children in his family. One elder sister and two brothers. They are close relatives to us, just like our own sister and brothers. When we go back, we go to my own sister-in-law’s house. My younger sister and my elder sister, both are in the village office. So we go back once or twice every year.

Have you been away for more than 20 years?
26 to 27 years, up till now.

What did your hometown look like when you left? Has it changed much now?
It has changed much! My family and my dad, they worked very hard. We had many sisters and brothers. My two elder brothers both worked outside [our area]. And all my uncles worked in other provinces. So my dad raised us alone. We relied on work-points for food (points gained for working hours under collectivisation; these entitled people to a share of the produce farmed collectively). We all went to school. At that time, not just for my family - there was not a tiled house in the whole village. There wasn't one when I left. Later, after the household responsibility system had been implemented (when people worked for themselves rather than cooperatively), more and more new houses were built. My eldest brother, his family built their house before the household responsibility system. However, most people built their houses after the responsibility system was implemented. The place has undergone many changes. There’s not one family without pigsties and pens, and even the [animal] pens are built of tiles. No family lives in a thatched bamboo hut now [laughs]. Many families in our village, most families, cover their floor with [wooden?] boards.
A few families that have many sons are [finding things] more difficult. [When they] Took a daughter-in-law (after they took wives/married), the sons divided up all the land. The plots of land became smaller after the family was divided up. These years people are not allowed to move. This year a son takes some [land]; next year another one takes some - then the land will be divided up. So their living is more difficult. For other families which have more girls and fewer sons, the girls get married and leave, so their life is better.
Section 4
Why do you think people could not get rich at the time of collectivisation (when people worked collectively/in communes)? Why could every family build a tiled house only after the responsibility system was implemented? What's the reason?
It's a long story. The Cultural Revolution (period of widespread political purges from mid-1960s to mid-1970s) had some impact. We paid more tax grain to the state [grain was used as a tax payment]. It was not that there was no output in our place. We had output. I remember clearly bringing the grain to the government’s storehouse. We were children - about this tall at that time [gestures] - we carried that grain tax. There was no road at that time. There is a road now. We carried the grain tax to the government. People spent a month over the delivery, until it had all been finished, all had been delivered. We carried it to Liukuai, there was a storehouse in Liukuai. So we carried the tax grain there. When we were children, we carried the tax grain. Probably it (the poverty) was related to that [tax]. We really delivered a lot of grain tax. We harvested a lot of corn, but one family could only save a little [of this] for themselves – [it was] not enough to eat for a year. The wheat, the wheat grew very well. It was not that our place didn't have output. The place (our location) was good, probably for various reasons. After the household responsibility system (when people worked for themselves rather than cooperatively), we only had to carry and pay the grain tax during the early years. We don't have to carry grain and pay the tax now.

You don't have to carry the grain (pay this tax) now?
Don't carry grain now. Now we deliver some in the Big Spring (late January/early February), but not in the Small Spring (late February or early March). But only a few people deliver. Now we follow scientific methods. The yield (harvest) of corn is good; everything is good. We follow the scientific method for planting, so the output of the corn is increased.

There was no scientific technique used during the period of collectivisation?
No. During the period of collectivisation, people used buffalo to plough, and plant, that's all [laughs].

Did you use organic manure?
Oh, we used some. Chemical fertilisers were rarely seen at that time. At most, people applied them once a year. Now every family will apply fertilisers twice a year, basically twice. The potatoes and other things are good, because we have enough chemical fertilisers. Now people in the countryside cultivate according to scientific methods, so their income is really high. Especially because of growing tobacco, the income of the families in our village is really good. The tobacco is planted this year, since the corn is enough for eating, all [the corn surplus?] is taken to exchange for rice to eat. We don't eat the corn rice any more (corn rice is a mixture of the two and cheaper than pure rice; most farmers’ land is only suitable for growing corn). Only one or two families still eat corn. Corn and potatoes are used to exchange for rice to eat. The tobacco is sold and the money earned is used to build houses, buy furniture and clothing. We don't need to spend money on food.
Section 5
Besides, do people who get rich also relate it to the fact that that their initiative has been inspired (that they are now able to act on their own initiative)?
Yes, certainly it's related.

Are there any other changes besides the changes in housing? Such as the mountains and water, any changes there?
There are more changes on the mountains. In our place, when we were young, trees were everywhere. They were so many that you couldn't get through them. I went there (home) the year before last year. I didn't go last year. Usually, in the past, I went every year. I was sick last year so I didn't go. I went twice this year. I felt such sorrow when I saw the mountains. It was as though they had been cut by a sickle - not one tall tree left. I was so sad. I said when we were children, those mountains were so beautiful! I thought they were still the same. Three years ago when I went there they were still like that. When I went back last time, they have become what they are now. There was not a tree. They have been turned into fields. In some places people have opened them up as fields and planted wheat and corn on them [smiles bitterly].

At the top of the mountain?
At the top of the mountain. Especially in Xianwotang, those mountains are really pitiful! The trees were planted by us when we were young. I remember we went with adults to plant the pine trees. Every day we went and planted and planted - up till now, the year before last year. In only two years they were cut down. The change is too big. I feel it isn’t the place I used to live in. The places that had trees before have become fields. And the water - down there in our place in Hanpai were two big ponds, and the upper places were very good too. They have dried up now, probably because the trees are cut down.

What is it like in your village?
Mu, in our village, the water ran from this road to the pond. In the past, up here, this flat land was all water. The water was so deep that the buffalo could drown in it. Now people have turned it into fields.

Companion: Is that area where people celebrate the Huashan[jie?] Festival (mountain flower festival)?
Oh, that's the area. That area, up to the road, not only we children - even the adults dared not to go through [because the trees were so thick]. Later in recent years, they were cut down. Now the water has dried up. Only that pond down the village has some water.

How long have the trees been cut down? Three years?
Mu, about three to five years, they were cut down just recently.

Did the Miao people cut them themselves, or did any outsiders come to cut them?
People on the plain came to cut them too. People on the plain came to cut first. We planted those trees; those were our mountains. When people came [from the plains] and cut [them], our people were angry. People here then thought: if you who live on the plain can cut, we can cut too. People from the forestry centre were there to check, but they never stopped [them]. In the past, they only stopped us Miao teams, but they didn't stop those who came and carried the logs away in truck after truck at midnight. You came to cut the trees in my mountains, so I can cut too. You people on the plain can come and cut; we can cut too. It started like this.
I remember there was a year I went to the village. Let me see, probably it was 1981 - no, it was 1991. In 1991, I went to the village. We lived in the forestry centre and were promoting family planning. People from the Family Planning Committee came. They said that there was a Miao village, so they needed a Miao nationality person to go with them. There wasn't a Miao doctor, they recruited me to go. I was there for two months. That year, they hadn't cut the trees; they started a year later. They didn't cut at the beginning. Later, when we went there, they carried the logs back in big trucks at midnight, they went to cut at midnight. We were very sad. Well, later, some people from my village and Xuanwotang went to cut too. The forestry centre went to catch them, shut them in a house and interrogated them. Later our villagers said, "You didn't say anything to the people from the plains who cut the trees. They cut and carried away truck after truck at midnight." They didn't stop people who cut like that; they just stopped our Miao villagers. Of course, you cut one, and I cut one – the process was going on like that and the whole forest was cut down.
Section 6
Companion: You preferred to cut the trees down because you couldn't stop other people from cutting them?
Right. We couldn't stop them by ourselves. Sometimes when people down on the plain came to cut, the people of the forestry centre were there but did nothing, they didn't stop them. When our people went to cut they came to stop us. This is...[sound on tape unclear]

Which year did you go?
In May or June in 1991. I was there for two months. They started to cut them from that time. At first, it was not so serious. In 1992 and 1993, it became serious. In recent years, people go and cut everywhere.

Did they mainly cut firewood or timber?
They cut timber.

Cut timber?
Yes, they were all that thick, that tall! The luosong (type of pine) were planted by us when we were young. You think about it, we are 41 now, we planted them when we were only eight, nine or 10 years old - the trees were more than 30 years old. People just cut the timber, not the firewood. We have separate mountains for firewood. People usually won't cut trees like that if they are just looking for firewood, and they won't cut so seriously. Not only people in this area cut them, people behind the mountains came to cut too. People from the plain came to cut too.

What's the disadvantage after the forest has been cut down?
It's not good now. You see, those mountains are barren, not only do we feel sorry, but they have been cut and they feel sorry too. The impact is not good - the air, and all other aspects. Some places were converted into fields. So now there is no firewood - the impact is great. After these trees were cut down, every family felt that there wasn't a good tree left - either for firewood or building houses. If they hadn't been cut like that, our mountains were really beautiful.
Section 7
What natural resources are there in the mountains? What can you get from the mountains to eat or use?
Nothing, only flowers. There are azaleas in our mountains, white ones.

How about mushrooms?
Mushrooms? There are! There are many mushrooms. There are Jizhong, a few Gabaju (an expensive variety), and Dajiaogu. We couldn't carry them all in our wicker baskets when we were children. Really, you could find Jizhong everywhere. Now there are still a lot. But too many people go to pick them. When we were young, we liked to pick those things. There were many Jizhong, Dajiaobu, and all kinds of mushrooms. However, there weren't any fruits there, except those we planted in the village.

How about transportation? Any changes?
Yes, transportation is convenient. After the forestry centre went there, they built that road.

Oh, the road was built by the forestry centre? How many years ago? Was it there when you were young?
It wasn't! It has been there for at most 12 to 13 years. I cannot remember which year it was built.

Was the tree cutting related to the road?
Yes, they were related, though the road’s convenient for us. When there wasn't the road, people came to steal only one or two trees because they couldn't take many. Now the mountains are managed by the forestry centre, but they didn't manage them well. People drove big trucks to steal [trees]. Oh, if you were quick you could take one truck[load of logs] in a night. If they were too lazy to check, several truckloads of logs would be taken. So accessible (opening up) transport has advantages but also disadvantages. In the past, when people from the plain came to steal, they would steal one or two trees each time; five to six people would steal one tree. Now one truck can carry 10 people - at night trees were easily taken away on the truck. But they have nothing to cut down now. [laughs] Since last year, there isn't one tree left. It's barren. I feel sorry when I see it. Not only do we feel sorry. When we go back to the village, the old people say, ‘It's really a pity.’ Our trees. In the past, there were trees and water in the mountains, it was really a nice place to live. Now it's barren everywhere. Look at those lands, there are rarely (hardly any) trees. People are rich, but the resources are used up.

How about people? Are the people the same as they were when you were young? What changes are there?
People have changed. I feel that people at the time when we were young were very honest and friendly. [Laughs] There was no quarrelling or fighting between people. Only a few villages had such things. My village Tanglangqing had never had such things. People were very friendly. Most of the families were Pan families like us [Pan is a family name for some Miao people]. There was one Zhuang (China’s largest minority group) family, only two Han families, and the rest were all our Pan (ie Miao people with family name Pan) families. There was one family with Long [surname] [may or may not be Miao]. Generally they got well along with us, so they didn't have any opinions against us. When doing something, people would all come immediately. They called us and we went; we called them and they came. We were very harmonious. Stealing never happened in our village. If our chickens were lost, or any other thing lost, it was only because outsiders came to steal, or other villagers came to steal.
Section 8
Is it the same now?
It's the same. The past was the same as the present. Now there is no stealing at all in our village. Of course things like stealing one chicken may happen, but no one was caught. The people who stole were mostly from outside, from the plain. In our mountains, in Miao areas, I remember from the past to present, people have never locked the door. No matter whether they went to work in the mountains, or to work in the fields, no family locked their door. In the past, you could put things anywhere and they would never get lost (disappear). The clothes you hang up to dry would never be taken away, even if you left them there for 10 days, or 8 days. Now people in the village won't steal, but people from the plains will. About four to five years ago, I had a nephew who found some mushrooms and took them to sell. He got 200 yuan. He put the money under a box. He... [can't hear response clearly]
Clothes, I bought some. I bought two sets of dika (Miao clothes), it was popular to wear dika at that time. In the countryside, people liked to wear the kiji (Miao clothing) very much. I bought two sets of dika. People from the plain - they pretended to buy goat skins, chickens and pigs. They went to knock on doors - if there were people in, they would ask, “Are there goat skins for sale? Is there ‘this and that’ to sell?” If there was nobody in, they would go and search through people's stuff. So now there are many changes, it’s not like before.

Miao people like to raise dogs, aren’t there dogs now?
Now people are not allowed to raise dogs.

Oh, not allowed?
They are not allowed to raise dogs. In the past, every family raised dogs; every family had a gun.

So the thieves couldn't go into [the area]?
Oh, no, now they are not allowed to raise [dogs]. There is rabies, so they are not allowed to raise dogs. They say it's not good if the dogs bite anyone. People from the Epidemic Prevention Station organised people to kill the dogs. They organised a team to kill the dogs. Now one or two families are allowed to raise one dog at most in a village.

Do you think that there are benefits for Miao people in raising dogs?
There are benefits. Usually it wouldn't bite people in the same village; it only bites people from outside - people it has never met before. It's good if we lived around...[tape is not clear]. It's good for the village. Because it wouldn't bite people it meets every day. It only bites people from outside.
Section 9
Do you think people should raise dogs in the Miao areas?
People should raise dogs! I think the dogs should not have been killed. Because in our areas, dogs are good to guard the house. Wherever you went, it kept guard on the house for you and no one dared to come in. Because of our custom, we didn't [need to] lock the door whenever we went out. You trusted me and I trusted you. I wouldn't steal anything from you; you wouldn't steal anything from me. So a dog there could keep the house [safe] from outsiders. Now there are rarely any people who don't lock their doors. All families need to lock their door. In addition, there should be at least one person at home in the day to keep house, because we don’t have dogs anymore, and there are many thieves now - just the people from the plain - many thieves. Miao people have one good quality, that's unity. But there are more people now - well, I cannot say that for sure.

Have you thought about why there are so many thieves?
There are too many reasons. Everyone is looking for money. People on the plain look down on people in the mountains. They tend to hurt mountain people, especially Miao. Few Yi people came [to the area?]. The number of people in Miao areas is small. If you come to steal produce in my fields, you will be caught by us Miao people. It's clear that the fields were allocated to me when the system changed (to the household responsibility system where people work for themselves). But if someone comes to steal anything, we will catch them, but we can't overpower them. So they tend to bully us. Miao areas have very difficult living conditions - in the past, people were poor so they were looked down on by other people from outside. Now you are rich, people still come to steal things from you.

Are there changes in the Miao custom and culture?
There are changes in Miao culture. I remember there were very few middle school students (usually for ages 12-15). In our generation of the 1940s to 50s, there were very few middle school students. Now the children finish primary school at least. There is almost no one who doesn't go to school. Most of them have been to school. Our culture is good; the changes are great. For example in our Tanglangqing, most of the teachers are Miao, and they teach well. Especially in recent years, many students have been admitted to the middle school. The class of grade 6 of 50 to 60 students; half them go to middle school every year.

Miao people in the past - in your time - did people have the thought of valuing boys more than girls?
Yes. They had the idea of valuing boys more than girls. Because in the past, family planning hadn’t been promoted. In the rural areas, no matter which ethnic group you belonged to, if a family had only girls, other people would look down on them because they couldn't have a son.
[Someone called her outside, the narrator went out for a while. When she came back, she repeated her feelings on the cutting down of trees, which were the same as she related in the earlier part of the interview.]
If a family didn't have a son - first, people would look down on them. Second, for example, if I had no younger or older brothers, I would take a husband (meaning the husband would be married into the woman’s family rather than the other, more usual, way round), [but] my son and daughter couldn't use my family name; they would have to take their father's family name. We were different from the Han, [because] if a Han woman got a husband this way, the children would take the mother's family name.
Section 10
Oh, one has to follow (take) the father's family name? The woman's side has no power?
No power, so the children always follow the father's family name. For Han nationality, if they took the husband [into the wife’s family], the children would follow the mother's family name.

Were there many cases in which a man moved to the woman’s house after marriage?
Not so many. According to our custom, if a Miao woman takes a husband [this way] - first, the man won't stay long (meaning the couple will split up easily); second, the girl prefers to marry and follow the husband. She doesn't like to be in her own village. If I were in our village, I would have married a man in our village. Few people have the groom moved to the woman's house after marriage. There is only one incident in our village where the husband moved to the wife’s house after marriage. All others married and followed the husband. A relative of my family, I call him nephew, has four daughters: none of them brought the husband to their house. The first two were married to other places. Two are still at home. His family life is good.

Do people look down on the man who moves to the woman's house?
It depends. If the husband gets along easily with others, people would appreciate him. Most of those men have good relations with the women’s family. People would treat him as their own son. It depends on the situation. If the husband I took is kind to me, of course, I would be kind to him. If he was...

You have been out [of the village] for so many years, are there any changes in the religion of your village?
I remember when we were young, my dad and my mum were religious. My dad had a very good temperament. He never offended anyone in the village. My dad said he was religious. They didn't say any words which offended others. He did things well, worked very hard, was very kind to people. After he died, many people from the village office came to see him. They said it was a loss. My dad was a very good man. Everyone in the village appreciated him greatly. My dad and my mum were religious; they said being religious (meaning Christian) wouldn't offend people. Many things, other than being religious... a person should be kind to people. Anyway, there are religious people who are good, and some who are bad.

Were you religious when you were young?
I was, and I am still a believer. All my sisters are believers, except my two elder brothers who don't believe in any religion, because they are government staff and they are leaders [to reach a certain rank or government position, one has to be a communist]. So they dare not tell us to stop believing. My two elder brothers have very good temperaments. They dare not tell us to stop believing. We are still religious. Usually if I have time I'll go to church.

Why are you religious?
Because I feel that my dad was very kind to people at that time. And I'm a doctor, so I'm religious. With those people who come for medical treatment, I won't lose my temper with them. I'm kind to people, kind to any ethnic group. I treat them equally. And because I'm religious, I feel I'm generous. It seems very good. [Laughs] We have seen the old generation who were kind to people and to things - they never offended others. So I followed them, I chose to believe in Christianity because of that.
Section 11
Did you believe when you were young?
I believed when I was young, I believed when I was staying at home. At that time, the political atmosphere was not open to religion; my dad always taught us in secret. But my dad believed everything. Although my dad was religious, he was never against the policy [of the time]. So during the Cultural Revolution (period of widespread political purges from mid-1960s to mid-1970s), when people criticised and denounced those religious people, they never did that to my dad; instead, they respected my dad very much. My dad was kind to people and things. Besides, he never [tried to] spread the religion, didn't say which day something would happen according to the religion. Though we were religious, [and] we believed the book said that Jesus would come, he told other people that he didn't know - he wouldn't spread [these beliefs] publicly. Some religious people spoke publicly that Jesus would come on a certain day. My dad taught us all the good things; never taught things that were not good. So I think my dad was really good for being religious. I just followed him; all my sisters followed him and believed.

Are there many people who are religious in your village?
Not many. Only my family in our village. Now there are four to five families. Even my sister-in-law, they believe too. In my family I have eight brothers and sisters, two are my elder brothers. Only these two brothers don't believe in religion; other sisters all believe. Because my dad and my mum were very religious, they never did anything that would be shameful to others. I thought I had a bad temper. I thought if I were not religious, sometimes I would offend people. [Laughs.] I feel I am tolerant because I'm religious.

Mu, we are Christians.

Any particular denomination of the religion?

Where is your church?
Our church is over there, on the side of the road to Weding. Luquan Aiguohui (name of the church) is there. Our Tanglangqing church is [called] Xuanwotang.

Why did they (Christian followers) divide into Xiaojinjiao (literally small Christianity) and Dajinjiao (literally big Christianity)?
Xiaojiao is in Yulong.

Are there any in Tanglangqing?
There aren't Xiaojiao (Xiaojinjiao) and Dajiao (Dajinjiao) in Tanglangqing. All are the same, just Christians. For the Xiaojiao there, their beliefs are that they don't take side with the government's policy; they won’t take the chemical fertilisers distributed by the government either. They'll find money by themselves to go to Wuding to buy fertilisers so that can be regarded as their own. [Interviewer laughs.] Just like that. When we went to Yulong, Yulong village in Luquan county, the chemical fertiliser we Luquan distributed to them, they didn't use it. They said they went to buy it by themselves.
Section 12
It meant they didn't want to follow the government’s policy, they believe in Xiaojiao - not like us Dajiao, we want to follow the policy, and we want scientific knowledge too, we want everything. Besides we are religious, we are kind to others. There isn't one believer in Xiaojiao in Tanglangqing. There is only one church; no one believes in Xiaojiao. Some people who believe in Xiajiao don't work but wait for Jesus to take them to heaven. We don't believe like that. For example, I'm religious, so I think I must rectify my bad temper. This change is good for you and good for me too. We are the same. We want the policy, we want scientific knowledge, and we go to church too. So people are satisfied with us who are religious like that.
My dad has been religious since he was very young. He said some foreign missionaries came here; before that he didn't believe in religion. In the past, it was the minister Luo from Britain who came here to do the missionary work. There was a church in our Sapushan in Wuding county. The British came to do the missionary work. So my dad often went to church in Saoushan. He became religious since then. They did very good missionary work. We went to listen to them; we felt that their teaching was very good. They didn't teach us to be thieves, or to treat people badly. They all taught us to do good things, and didn't allow us to do bad things. They didn't allow us to steal; they taught us to do good things. So I feel it's good to be religious.

Can you read Miao characters?
I can. My dad and my mum taught me from my childhood. Both of them could read Miao characters (characters make up the written language). My dad could read both Han and Miao characters, he had attended school. My mum knew only Miao characters but not Han. But she knew every Miao character, there was no one character she didn't know. If you randomly picked up a book for her, she could read all of it. Such as hymns, the book of songs, my mum could sing all of them, and her voice was very nice. [Laughs] All my sisters can read Miao characters.

You learned the Miao characters from the church. Besides [using them for] singing hymns, does it have any other uses?
Yes, you can use it to write a composition, or write other theses. Like my elder brother, he can write anything. He wrote a thesis in Miao characters. He wrote a novel in Miao characters. My elder brother is Xuede. For us, we don't have anything to write but just letters.

Who do you write to?
I usually write to my sisters and brothers, all in Miao characters, because all my sisters know Miao characters. So we never write letters in Han, because in Miao characters, we can write well and smoothly. I can write whatever I like. They can also read as they like. If I write in Han, you may not understand all the characters, sometimes you may need to think for a while: Yi, how to read this character?! [Laughs] Because some of my siblings have attended school, but some didn't, like my two elder sisters. If you write in Han, they have to ask people to read for them. If we write in Miao, when she receives the letter, she can read every character, and she understands.
Section 13
So it’s still useful? [Laughs]
Very useful. I feel that Miao characters are very useful.

Besides religion, are there any changes in Miao women's clothing?
Yes. In the past, we Miao were very poor. I remember when we were children, most of the people wore sackcloth (made from flax or hemp). Now very few people wear sackcloth. As for the young men and women - well, sometimes the kind of clothing we the older generation cannot afford to buy, they would buy some and keep it, and wear it only when they go to visit others. There are big changes in clothing.

How about the Miaos’ traditional gunny (flax) skirt?
Mu, still exists.

Are there any changes in Miao's traditional costume and headdresses? Such as the gunny (flax) cloth, do people still wear gunny cloth?
Yes, but fewer people wear it now. We Miao people just cannot stop thinking about - I mean, cannot forget - our sackcloth. For example, if I were a young woman, if I couldn't spin the flax, couldn't weave the sackcloth, no one would be willing to marry me. Like drawing on the skirts - drawing patterns on the skirts - everyone can draw [these]. If I couldn't spin flax, couldn't weave sackcloth, and didn’t know how to draw patterns on the skirts, didn't know how to make clothes, I wouldn't be able to get married. So when girls are born and just about [ready] to learn, at the age of seven to eight, parents teach them to do this work: embroidering, flax spinning, sackcloth weaving, and waist–belt weaving. All these were taught to her by her parents when the girl reached the age of seven to eight. Girls learned it gradually and by the time they were up to the age of 15 to 16, they would be able to finish the whole set of clothes by themselves.

I see that especially today - market day - all the Miao women on the streets wear ready-made clothes, which are not sackcloth. They buy the white [cotton?] cloth, draw on it with wax, draw the (decorative) patterns. Was it like this in the past?
In the past, rich people could buy cotton cloth for wax drawing [patterns] for the clothes. People who didn't have money would just use sackcloth for drawing.

Oh, it was like that.
Because it took a long time to make a piece of sackcloth. Every yarn was spun with effort, after that you had to weave it, then you had to take the cloth to boil it [in order to dye it], and wash it after boiling it. It took time to wash. In a complete year you can only make one to two skirts and a few sets of clothes. Now living conditions are good, people have money, they prefer to buy the white cloth, do the drawing by themselves. This is more convenient. And the white [cotton] cloth is lighter; sackcloth (made of flax) is too heavy.

Cotton cloth is lighter?
Mu, cotton cloth is lighter; it looks nice when you wear it. The sackcloth is heavier, and it's difficult to make. You can only make a few skirts in a year. So we buy the white cloth, the cotton cloth, to make clothes, you can make as many as you like... [her voice is too low on the tape to hear]
Section 14
Can you make [the clothes]?
I can make it.

Can you make the whole set?
I can make the whole set. [Laughs]

You are really capable - you have studied and can make clothes.
En (yes), when I was at home, when I was a child, my fourth sister taught me to make clothes, my other sisters were all married. My fourth sister had skilful hands. She taught my younger sister and me to make clothes. So now I can make it, but I cannot draw the patterns on skirts as well as they do. I'm as good as them in spinning the flax. I'm good at weaving sackcloth.[Laughs] I'm not as good as them in drawing patterns on skirts. I cannot draw well. I can embroider too. I have embroidered two curtains. The curtains I embroidered when I was a child are still there. Anyway I'm not worse than them at embroidering. [Laughs]

Since you are busy with your work now, do you still embroider? Do you still weave sackcloth?
I often spin flax. Sometimes when my sisters were too busy, I asked them to bring the flax to me. I could spin when I was free at night. After I spun it, they took it to weave. We don't have suitable conditions here. Now my niece and my nephew's wife, they both have a spinning machine, and a machine for weaving clothes.

Oh, they moved to the town?
They moved here. They both weave. So if I want to weave, it's easier. But now I'm not in the mood to make clothes. I'm old, I’m over 40. But my nieces are in the mood to make clothes. They even take the machines to the town, put them at home. We are here, where although the work is hard it is not as hard as in the village. They also said, “Well, when we come back from work in the dark, there are electric lights. It won’t be difficult for me to make the cloth [to make clothing] at night.” They make the cloth for the family. I don't spin together with them because I don't have the machine. So I weave with them. I cannot draw the patterns well; however, my daughter and daughter-in-law all like to wear beautiful skirts. When you are invited to be a guest, I mean, when we Miao people go to the houses of the others to be the guests - for example, if your family takes a wife, the whole village will come to your house as guests, so everyone will dress well. The better the clothes, the more times they will wear them.

Do people wear [traditional] gunny (flax) skirts when they celebrate the Spring Festival (major national festival every January or February, depending on the lunar calendar) and when they are invited as guests? Or would it be okay to wear cotton cloth?
It depends. Cotton cloth will do, [but] only if you have good drawings (patterns). Anyway, it will do to wear the most beautiful skirt and clothing you have. Usually people won't wear it when we celebrate the Spring Festival. We Miao have a Huashanjie festival (mountain flower festival); it's on the 5th day of the 5th month of the lunar calendar. Do you celebrate it?
Section 15
We celebrate Huashanjie during the time of Spring festival.
Oh, you celebrate it with the Spring Festival? We do on the 5th day of the 5th month of the lunar calendar. On that day everyone should wear the most beautiful clothes, just like that.

Do you wear them too?
We wear.

Do you wear them at ordinary (everyday) times?
We don't wear them at ordinary times - because it's inconvenient to work [in them], and we are too busy to change clothes. Besides the clothes are very difficult to wash. We just keep a few sets [of special clothes]. One family would have four to five sets. When we go somewhere or are invited to be a guest, or when we celebrate some festivals, we will wear them. We don't wear them at usual times at work. We don't wear them in [the Maternal and Child Health] Centre because it's inconvenient.

How many brothers and sisters does your family have?
My family has eight brothers and sisters: two sons; six daughters.

Mu, all are... Can you say it again? All these 8 children are your own [father’s] or...?
[In the former part the narrator told the story of her 8 brothers and sisters, but because there were many people around, the interviewer didn't record it. Now the interviewer asked her to say it again.]
No. My mum brought three of them to my dad’s family. She had been married once before. After the man died she brought three [children] to my dad’s family. My eldest brother, my second sister and my eldest sister were brought by my mum. My second brother, my younger sister, my fourth sister and me, we four were from my dad and my mum. They lived together and had us. I have an eldest sister who was from my dad's first wife.

Companion : Oh, your current... this dad who had you, he also had a ...?
He had a daughter.

[So the] two families combined as one?
Mu (yes), the two families combined as one. My dad had a wife before. The wife died. She had my eldest sister, and a son. After she died, my dad married my mum. My mum, after she had three children, her man (husband) died. She and my dad had us four. Although we have a family like this, my dad and my mum had very good temper. No one ever told us this story. When we were children, I asked, “Dad, why is the family name of my eldest brother and eldest sister Long?” He said, “Well, I asked them to take it.” He never told us. After we grew older, we came to know these things. My dad was very kind to us, and very kind to my mum's sons and daughters. So he tried all he could to support my eldest brother to go to college. My eldest brother was brought [to the family] by my mum.

So he tried all he could to support my eldest brother...
Section 16
Oh, your eldest brother who's in Wuding county hospital was brought by your mum? The child who has his first father's family name?
Mu, yes, yah.

Your mum was? Oh, it's your grandma, you said, who fled from a calamity (disaster) from Weining.
My mum, yah. My grandma took my mum. They fled from a calamity [?] from Weining to here. They fled to Xundian county, and married my mum off to Xundian. Later the man (husband) died, she remarried my dad here. My dad said he couldn't throw my eldest brother away, because he was brought by my mum. He couldn't throw him away, and he only took him as his own son. He supported my eldest brother. And my two elder uncles all supported the studies of my elder brother.

You have a younger sister?
I have a younger sister who got married in Congde.

Did she go to school?
She finished primary school. My fourth sister and my younger sister, not that my dad didn't support them to study, they came back by themselves. [laughs] And I was the same. I didn't want to study. I didn't like studying. But my fourth sister and younger sister studied well. But they said they wanted to stay home to work; they didn't know why studying was good, so they didn't go to study.

When you studied, why didn't your peers, other girls, go to school? Was it because the parents believed in valuing boys more than girls, or was it that the family was in financial difficulties?
It was mostly because the family had financial difficulties; they couldn't afford to send the children to school. Life in our generation, at that time, was really harsh. A family couldn't support children to go to study. There were no middle school students (usually ages 12-15), [this was] very rare. There were some, but very rare. So only one person came out with me. She is in Cuihua village clinic now.

Is she from Tanglangqing as well?
Mu. Tanglangqing. She's from the village office at the team down there. I'm from the upper team. I'm in team 1.

Companion: I haven't heard about that.
She came out [of the village] with me.

How about now - I see that there are not many girls going to school?
[There are] many! In our generation, people of my age, there were many, but they all didn't continue studying after primary school. Most of those who went to middle school didn't finish studying. Usually we had more than 10 girl students in a class - all of us didn't finish, didn't finish the whole course of middle school.

How about now?
Now all parents support children to go to school. Rarely are any families too poor to support their children. [There are] only one to two families like that in a village.
Section 17
But I see that there are not many people who leave for work outside [the village] after studying, among we Miao women?
Not many.

What's the reason?
They don't want to study, some of them; the girls in our village office. There were more than 10 who got admitted by the middle school in a year, but they all came back when they had studied half-way.

They just didn't want to study. They just said they wanted to go back home to make clothes.

Oh, to make skirts, and make clothes?
En (yes)… make clothes to wear. Because according to our Miao custom, if you cannot make these things, no one would be willing to marry you. And it seemed that they had been bullied by other people in the village down there. They were bullied during their study, so they came back. At the beginning, they were very enthusiastic in their studies. But when they studied to grade 2 and grade 3, they couldn't continue. Mostly because of others’ bullying; those people criticised Miao people and said many unpleasant words. Besides, the girls weren't tough enough, they didn't want to study. Many parents support their children to go to school. Now, in this society, many parents support.

Is marrying early and dating early also a reason for not continuing to study?

For example, when the girls studied at middle school, when they reached the age of 17 or 18, did they go back to get married?
This is a reason too. Oh, this has some influence. Some girls studied, they started dating in grade 5 or 6. When they studied up to grade 1, 2 or 3 in middle school, they got married. [Laughs] There are several influences. This is one reason - another reason is because they didn't like studying. Some others said that they couldn't bear other people’s bullying (insults). If people said something unpleasant, they couldn't tolerate it and left. Miao people, especially the girls, are very sincere; they cannot bear being insulted.

What do you think about that? You said just now that a Miao woman, if she couldn't spin traditional sackcloth (from flax), she would not be able to get married. This is related to studying... because they cannot study when they go back home, but they cannot make costumes if they study. Which one do you think is better? Is making costumes better, or studying better?
As for studying, usually, we Miao people have no problem with it if we study when we are children.

They can do spinning then?
The girls can still weave cloth. But she isn't willing to study. She starts to learn to spin and weave sackcloth, to embroider, and things like that. This doesn't hinder the studying.
Section 18
You mean they can learn to spin while they are studying - they are able to do both?
Yes, they can do the spinning and weaving when they are back home after a day’s study. You cannot spin at school; you can do it when you go back home. Most girls can make it, only very few people cannot. Only one or two among several hundred people cannot do it.

Would spinning and embroidering affect her studying?
Yes, this would affect her studies, so gradually they cannot study, and come back. But for most of them who go to school, their parents usually don't allow them to do these things. She can learn if she wants. Of course, in the past, in our generation, studying was not as demanding as now. We studied during the Cultural Revolution (period of widespread political purges from mid-1960s to mid-1970s). We were not busy. I could do everything I like. When I came home I could go and earn work points (points gained for working hours under collectivisation; these entitled people to a share of the produce farmed collectively). I could… I had no homework. I went to class at 10 o'clock. School was over at 3 o'clock. I could come back to do a half-day’s work, could get three to five work points. I had nothing to do after dinner, because my parents did all the housework. We children could learn spinning and weaving, could sing, and dance.

How can one spare time, on the one hand to develop the skills to make Miao traditional costumes, while on the other hand, go to school? I mean, how can one manage not to upset or lose either of these learning activities?
It's better not do weaving work when studying - like those children in the town, when they study, they just concentrate on studying.

But then she wouldn’t know spinning and weaving when she grows up, what should she do?
Usually, all of them know spinning and weaving, they know.

Like me [laughs]. My parents never taught me. I studied all the time. Now I know nothing about spinning and weaving.
Well, we are in the mountains. Although a girl doesn't do it herself often, she has seen how other people do it, so after she has studied up to certain level, after the middle school, if she couldn't go to college, she could do spinning and weaving naturally.

She can learn?
She can learn. For example, I started to do those things after I joined the work in the [MCH] centre. I studied all the time when I was young. During my schooling, my dad didn't allow us to do that kind of work. My dad said, “You should mainly concentrate on your studies. Try to go and get a job outside after studying. If you can't go out (migrate), you could still do these things.” So after I joined the work, I started to learn about drawing patterns on the skirt, and embroidery. I started to learn.

You said just now, you can't embroider as well as your sisters, is this ...?
I can embroider as good as them; I cannot draw the patterns as well as them.
Section 19
You cannot draw the patterns as good as them. Is this related to the fact that you didn’t learn when you were young?
It is related.

If it is related, in the village, will it affect [someone’s] chance of getting married...?
Usually it will, it will affect this. But if you only cannot draw the patterns, it won't have much effect. But lacking the other skills will affect your chances of getting married, such as spinning, making skirts, making clothes - she (a woman) should be able to do them all. Like me, I am only not able to draw the patterns well, so it won't affect whether I can get married. Generally, everyone has the skills, but only half of them can draw well. Like us, we cannot draw [patterns] as good as them, but we learned by ourselves, no one taught us. Because I started to learn after I joined the work here. Those who live in the village (countryside), the old people and their parents will teach them when they are young.

How about marriage? Compare to the past, are there any changes in women's marriage, courtship, etc?
There are. Now usually most of the marriages are arranged by the parents. [She corrects herself below.]

In the past, the generation before ours, most marriages were arranged by the parents. There were people who chose their own loved ones, but this was very rare. Now, in recent years, most people chose their own love. We hardly see the parent-arranged ones.

Usually, at what age do men and women get married now?
Seventeen to 18. Most are this age. It seems that the young people know more than us now.

How about other aspects?
There aren't many changes in other aspects. This is the Miao custom.

When I went down to the village, I felt the problem of no one supporting the old people. It seems that for Miao nationality, after all children get married, all of them will live apart from the parents. At the end, the two old people live alone. They are willing too. If the son is conscientious, they can live together well. Two old people, very free, I feel it's a good model. But if the son has no conscience, the old people will be pitiful. I just want to ask: Was it the same in big communes during collectivisation when you were young, was it the same?
It was the same before - parents and new couples lived apart. Because the old people, we Miao old people, don't like to live with their children. Unless they get very old, or one of the elderly couple has died, [only then] will they come to live with their children. If both old people are alive, they cook (live) by themselves as they like. It’s rare that young people lack a conscience, very rare, most are...

Probably there is one family [like this] in one (every?) village?
En, yah, there is one or two. Like in our village, there wasn’t a single case where the children didn't support their parents. If the parents are alive, the fields are all farmed by the sons. When harvested, they'll carry the grain to the parents' place, they won’t carry it back home. Like those ripened crops, all will be taken to the old people’s place. If the old people feel that they cannot eat all of it, they will say, “You take some back.” Then the sons can share some. You cannot persuade the old people to live with you. It’s mainly because if both old people are alive, they like to live by themselves. We think in that way too. When we are old, it's more convenient for us two old people to live together. Because old people eat softer and better food. They can raise a pig, fry and cook some meat every meal. The young people, however, like to play, have many friends, and have children too. Now they have fewer children. Like in the past, those who had many children, if the old people ate better, if their sons gave them better food, then the children wouldn't be able to eat. Basically old people don't like to live with their sons.
Section 20
I asked different old people and their answers varied. But I think all of them have their reasons. One is about food - they can eat any time they like. Another reason was, an old woman said that she loved money. She could raise pigs and chickens by herself, and sell them on her own. She'd feel shy to sell them if she lived with her son and daughter-in-law.
It’s not good to live together. For if she raises pigs and chickens and she sells them by herself, then she can buy some food to eat, some good food. She can buy and eat any food she likes. To live with her son and the daughter-in-law is really... For some nationalities, even if the old partner is not alive, they are not allowed to re-marry. Their children don't allow them to re-marry. Most children don't allow them to re-marry. Han nationality? But we Miao people want to find an old partner for him/her [she refers to both sexes here], hope he or she can live cheerfully. If you don't go to find him or her one, s/he will live a very lonely life. S/he cannot eat well, cannot sleep well. It seems this kind of life is a suffering one. So usually we Miao people will find him/her an old partner. Of course it's impossible for people in old age, like over 70. But aged between 50 to 60, it’s still possible to find him/her an old partner. They can work for themselves, but of course, the heavy work will be done by their sons. But usually, about eating, living, doing light work, it’s good to find him/her an old partner as a companion. I think this is good.

Were there many families like your family, which was combined from two families?
Many, there are many now. But there are only a few who get along well like mine. Although we have a family like this, such as my eldest brother, he's very kind to us younger sisters. My two elder sisters, and another eldest sister who was brought here by my dad, they treat us like their own sisters. Whatever on food, spending, and clothing, we are all the same. If I have, I give to you; if you have, you give to me. We can get along well like this. About all these, we should give thanks to our parents. My dad and mum knew how to do good; how to draw us together. Although both of them are dead, our family is still united. We never have had things happened like, someone refuse to go and do something, or we could not get consensus. There are many things in the village now. But there are rarely families which can get along as well as us.

One last point, do you have any thoughts about how to develop your hometown, Tanglangqing?
We have many thoughts [laughs]; probably they are not realistic.

Just say them…
In our place, water is needed most. What we hope for above all is that water can be channelled up to our Tanglangqing. About fixing light bulbs, there are light bulbs now. It will be good if the TV aerial can be connected to our village, or to our village office, so that the whole village can watch any TV channels, as we can in the town - so that they could follow the information shown on the TV to improve their living conditions. But water is a difficult problem to be solved.
Section 21
Where is a better location to draw water?
Water - now we pump the water up, it can be pumped up, but the water comes out too weakly.

I don't know much about team 1’s situation (cluster or group, made up of several households) - do you pump water from Xuanqotang or from the pond down there?
We pump some from the pond, but the water [pressure] is too weak.

Yi, it seemed that water wasn't pumped up, or has it been pumped?
It has been pumped up. It [is] pumped up to plant the tobacco, but the stream of water which comes out is too weak. Now we go this way, behind our houses [they collect extra water from behind the houses]. We probably have to walk for about 10 kilometres. There is a small stream of water, just such a thick...

Is it a plastic pipe?
En, a plastic pipe. This kind of steel pipe, it's a steel pipe, but the water [pressure] is too weak. If everything can be developed in our Tanglangqing, it would be nice to live there. If there was water, we would have more than enough rice to eat. In the past, we pumped water from the pond down there for planting rice seedlings.

Oh, planted?
I did. In the commune during collectivisation (when people worked collectively/in communes), we three teams combined as one, so we pumped water from team 2. The crops grew really well; they were that tall, very... After the teams were split up, our Tanglangqing team 1 was located in the upper part, it was impossible to pump water up. Team 2 and 3 had wasted the funds, which the government gave the whole village as a subsidy. I remember...

Was there any water?
There was water. At that time, the water was pumped up through such a big thick steel pipe.

Where is that steel pipe now?
It was sold by them and [the money] given to the team, given to team 3. That team where the village office is located. It was sold by them. The machine was sold, the steel pipe was sold. Such a thick steel pipe. Probably the Water and Electricity Supply Bureau and the government... I remember when we were children, we went to dig that ditch, pumped water, planted rice seedlings. I remember the crop was the best in those years.

Oh, I would have thought that the elevation is too high.
The elevation isn't too high. It's as same as in Luquan [town], it’s not high. The crop was very good. It’s mainly because it lacks water [that it isn’t good], it’s too difficult to have drinking water. Now transportation is convenient. In general, there are one or two tractors in a village.
Section 22
I'm afraid not just one or two.
Average… on average, there are two to three tractors in one (every) village. But transportation is really convenient, but it’s just that the area lacks water. The TV receiver can only receive the channels of CCTV (Chinese Central Television) and the YNTV (Yunnan Television) - only two channels. If our place could be like… as in other places, on the plain, we can get connected to the TV aerial, set up a relay station, probably could... People will be able to follow the changes in the society, we probably will be like this.
Now most of the young people who finished middle school or some sort of higher education - the generation aged 20 and 30 - all believe in science and technology. People were asked to plant tobacco, they accepted the idea and started planting. They learn from other people how to plant it well. They were asked to plant in that particular way, they did as they told. So if they could watch all the programmes on any TV channel, their lives would become better. Building houses now - you see what I built; then you’ll build better than I did. I had a cement floor, you have it too. So you learn from me and I learn from you. When you compare the past and the present, there are great changes. I remember, in the past, we lived in thatched houses, our life was not good; we couldn't have good clothing.

Did you divide the rooms up in the house then?
We divided the rooms up. A few people did. My family had one big room, only the room for my parents was not divided up. We then divided our own room into two; one room as a small room at the side for guests. Sometimes my sister-in-law would stay there. We divided a small one from the middle. Now every family is separated (meaning they follow the practice of dividing up after the sons marry); all live in tiled houses. Especially in these last 10 years, all live in tiled houses.

About what we discussed just now - about the forests being cut down - what do you think should be done?
We should plant more trees.

Plant trees?
Mu, we should still plant trees. Plant them and manage them well. We should allocate a specific area for planting. If you allocate it, the villagers will plant. People manage their fields well. For example, I allocate this plot to you, you should plant here - you should manage it well. I should manage my plot well. If every family can have a plot to manage, it can be managed. But this society is really… people only cut down trees. We people who live in the mountains don't cut trees like that; people from the plains cut them. We protect them, but people come to cut. There is no way to help [prevent this]. It’s better to plant, plant trees all over the mountains and turn them green.
Section 23
Can we use your name, and sort out what you talked about just now into a book – would you agree?
It’s just a chat [laughs].

If I take it for people to read, is there anything confidential? That you won't allow others to read?
They can read it! There is nothing confidential. You can give to others to read, but it’s just a chat.