photo of Chinese woman northeast and southwest China
China glossary


(CHINA 2 - Southwest)








Wenqian, Bama county, Guangxi


23 April 1997



Section 1
Meixin was in a family of six. Her husband worked outside the area as a teacher. She had six children; the first and second daughters were married. Everything within and outside the family - all was managed by her. To make a living, to look after the old people, to send children to school - she got up early and went to bed late. She vigorously developed the family’s raising and breeding of livestock and poultry, and continuously improved the work and their living conditions.

About 12 o’clock, we entered Meixin's house. The whole family was sitting in front of the TV, having their lunch while they watched the programme. They were very happy when we two came in the room. First they served tea and made seats for us, then invited us to join their lunch. Although it was just a simple meal, they were very friendly and they made us feel at home. After lunch, her children all went out and her husband went to feed the pigs. Soon we started our interview with Meixin.

How old are you ?
I'm 45 years old.

What's your name?
Meng Meixin.

Is here your hometown ?
My hometown is in Mudong Landian.

Is your parents' family Yao too ?
[Yes] Yao minority group. My daughter arranged marriage for her daughter (my granddaughter) with my brother’s son.

You can just talk casually.

Have you ever attended school ?
I have never attended the school, I'm illiterate. I stay at home. My husband is a community teacher. I have come here for one year. Oh! I came two years ago after he became the community teacher. I didn't follow him around, going everywhere. There is the family I need to manage. Everything in the family was done by myself: six children were all sent to school. Two elder girls failed the enrolment exam. She married one or two months after she came back. No one works with me, everything is done by myself. I collect firewood, raise goats and pigs, and look after the fields. No one helps me. Sometimes I came back and told my husband. I complained to him that “I came to Wenqian, all those people who visit the home are cadres (government officials). I'm the most tired person.”
Section 2
Maybe because you have more (many) children?
En (yes), [I have] many children. In the past they (the government) didn't have any [population] control, all people had so many children. There are not so many since it's been controlled [by family planning policy]. There were many in Chairman Mao's time. I got married a long time ago.

At what age did you get married?
Probably got married at 18.

How old are you now?

How many years after you got married did you have your first child?
I had the first child one year after I married, had this (son and daughter) in one and half year. For all those boys, I had one every two, or two and a half years. Ah, I came to this family and I did everything, I worked harder. I would not be ageing so quickly if I hadn't worked so hard. I'm old because I'm so tired. My husband drinks alcohol. I didn't know that I would have to do so many tasks first when I came here. My father-in-law was old and had pain in his feet - it had started before I arrived. He still has the pain and cannot go to fetch water. This group of little ghosts (children) of mine - sometimes the sister helped with fetching water [for?] one month, [or?] I fetched it by myself. Carrying these little ghosts with me, I still have to cook by myself tonight and tomorrow.

Did you deliver your children at home or at the hospital?
All of them were delivered at home by myself. Nobody saw the process.

Did you deliver them by yourself?
I delivered by myself.

Did you cut the umbilical cord by yourself?
En, I cut it by myself. When I bore my eldest son, nobody knew about it. After I delivered him, I raised him (picked him up?) and did all the cooking by myself. They didn't know I had had the child. There was a Women's Federation in Dongshan. A woman who worked in Dongshan Women's Federation is my husband’s schoolmate. She went to work in the Women's Federation after she graduated. The person who formerly worked for the Women's Federation was transferred to Bama; another person took her place. She came to visit my husband and saw my husband was killing a chicken. She asked, “How can you kill the chicken when there is no guest?” I replied, “Can't we kill chicken to eat when there is no guest?” She went there to see [pointing to the corner of the room]. She probably suspected that my husband had had a child. She went there and saw my eldest son. She said, “Well, a red face, in the shape of melon seed, very good-looking.” [laughs]
At that time the child was only eight days old. We had no one to help with the work, so I went to work. Everything was done by myself. Sending children to school cost much money. One child is studying in the Teacher's [Training] College. It cost tens of thousands of yuan. Last year I sold the goats and got more than 2000 yuan. I went to work in the morning, then took the goats to pasture from 12 to 2pm. And I had to carry pig fodder together with a bunch of firewood on my back when I returned home. It’s really harsh. Everyone in Wenqian said that we had many kids but had no one to help in the work. I had asked my grandma to help but she had feet pain.
Section 3
Is your grandma living with you?
My grandma is living with us. She has a son who lives in Donglan but she doesn’t want to go there. She said the eating and drinking were not taken care of there! She said it's better to live in your home town. She came to live with us and doesn't want to go to Donglan.

Were you born here or did you come here by marriage?
I married to be a daughter-in-law here. My grandma said that my uncle in Donglan, they are both employed (ie both working so they can’t look after the mother-in-law?), so she came to live with me.

Are you kind to her? Why did she come to live with you?
Kind - just cook the meals for her.

You are kind to her, does she feel happy?
She also says she is happy. She also said that she can survive if (as long as) someone feeds her. She's like this! I don't want to talk more about that. Last year, my eldest boy passed the enrolment exam of the Teacher's College, it (tuition fees?) cost 7000 yuan. Another child passed the enrolment exam of the county’s First Middle School. Wa! It cost tens of thousands of yuan. I raised several pigs in a year. Three or four litters of piglets were not enough to pay the 2000 yuan tuition fee. My dad paid the kids 250 yuan each per month. It depends on the family what to use and what to buy. I sold what we had as we had no money. This year we are affected by flood, drought, and windstorm. We have no rice of our own so we have to buy from others.

So you mostly buy from others?
En, mostly. This year till the twelfth month of the lunar year, we have bought more than 300 kg of maize, starting from the Spring Festival (major national festival every January or February, depending on the lunar calendar) till now (April). I bought rice, sent the sons to school and gave them 200 yuan every month. This month we need to buy fertiliser. I have a headache when I think about it.
Section 4
The family mainly depends on you?
Yes! As I said, “you study” you see (?), this semester he is (needs?) 950 yuan.

Is your son in the Teacher's College?
Yes, I have another son in the First Middle School. It costs 450 yuan. This year, my husband said, “Last year was not like this year; we even were short of rice.” Just because we bought too much [laughs]. I raised up my sons well. Otherwise, like other people's wives, other people's wives will [leave the children and] follow their husbands - who would dare support so many children to go to school?

Had you thought about following your husband?
No. Once they asked me to go. It did not cost so much for one person, around 200 or 150 yuan to change from [being a] farmer to a wage-labourer (meaning state registration costs incurred by a rural labourer moving to the city). I said I had many children and I didn't want to change. I could stay at home and work hard. I ate what I laboured [to grow]. I didn't have to depend on you (husband). If I went and depended on you for my living, you would say I'm useless. I don’t want to depend on you for my living. I work hard at home and earn more than you do as a cadre (government employee). Soya beans yield 250 kg and red beans 100 kg per year. Now the piglets I reared earn me 1000 yuan. A thousand yuan!

Did you rear pigs before?
I reared one before.

How many do you have now?
Now I have five sows. Three of them have been mated with a boar; two haven’t. I told my husband, “I'm exhausted doing house work. I had been sick for one or two days. No one goes to take care of the goats, and no one collects pig fodder. I lay here and everyone came to visit me. I could not get up to do anything.”

Didn't you go to the hospital?
I didn’t go to the hospital until the third day [when] a car came. I went to have an injection and asked for some eggs. I have felt better since then. I didn't eat for two days. I told my husband. I just told my family! I had the illness, and I could have died. Those pigs died when I was not at home. I came here and there were so many children here… I didn't have such a serious illness, not the [kind of] serious illness which costs several hundred yuan [to cure] - I would have died if I had had to meet that cost.

Your children are normal (healthy)?
Not one of them has been to the hospital – they have only cost 30 to 40 yuan sometimes. It’s because I managed them well. I carried my children on my back when they were young. I didn't put them on the ground. Who would look after them if you left them on the ground? I worked in the field during the daytime. I washed my four children in the evening. I put them to bed for a nap while I cooked the dinner. When the dinner was prepared, I let the children eat. Then I fed the pigs, washed the clothes, and ground some rice for the meals the next day. Don't want to talk about it. I work the hardest in this family.
You see, at that time my husband went to Nanong, I saw he was tired. I asked the child to sleep. When he slept I prepared the meal and kept it. I didn't have time to feed the pigs. I said the children would want to eat after he woke up. The rice was cold. The rooster was about to crow. I didn't eat anything because I was too tired. At that time my mother-in-law went to Donglan, because my uncle had a child (baby) there. She helped them for three years and came back. Don't want to talk about that. Everyone said that it was hardest for me. There was no water in the past. At 12, at midnight, twice you had to fetch two buckets of water. When the rooster crowed, you had to fetch another two buckets of water. Six buckets of water would be enough for a day.

Section 5
How many kilometres do you have to go to fetch water?
We all go to Nongying to fetch water.

How far is it from here to Nongying ?
You don’t have to walk for too long. It takes less than one hour to get there. But when you come back with heavy water, it will take one full hour if you don't walk fast. Everybody goes to fetch water in the evening, and works in the field in the daytime. Others have children and they can sleep. I have children but I cannot sleep. I get up to cook and to work. In the past, people depended on the work-score to have your share of food, nobody went to (?) but people would give the work-score (points gained for working hours under collectivisation; these entitled people to a share of the produce farmed collectively). On the 13th day after I gave birth to my second child, people asked me to work. They said that if you don't work, you cannot eat.

Did you go then?
I didn't go. I did not care even if I had nothing to eat. I went one month later. I could not go when I was confined in childbirth. It didn't matter where you went. You just could not go when you were confined for the childbirth, could only go after one month.

Did you have something to eat? [when you bore the child]
What else could I eat? [not clear]. My uncle said to my husband, “If you act like this, she'll get sick easily. You'd better buy some meat for her. No need to buy too much, one and a half jin or 2 jin (1 kg) for a few days. After that, she can gradually take other dishes.” My husband said he did not have money. My parents depended on the work-score for food too. They didn’t have enough grain to feed the pigs. There was no other way. My parents got me one and half jin of meat for several meals, [the meat was] no bigger than a thumb for one meal. I could only have one meal each day.

Did you have chicken? Did you have eggs?
How could we have chickens? How could we have eggs? Where could you get rice to feed the chickens?

Did you have rice to eat?
How could we have rice? It was regarded as the good life if we had corn to eat. Two people got only 3 lang (180 jin); for one year is 3 lang. We didn't grind because there was no pig to eat the chaff (corn husks). There was a pig but it didn't grow, only got long hair.
Section 6
How long does it take to rear one pig?
Doesn't it take two years to become a sow? Two years to become a sow, with long hair, didn't feed (?). You couldn’t get much chaff from pounding one jin of corn. Pounding is different from grinding. One can get more chaff from grinding. Every time we pounded and got only a handful of husks to feed the pig. So the sow wouldn’t have piglets.
When I had my second child, my husband was in Nanong. He said 5 fens could buy one egg; before, he bought 30 eggs. Wa! He didn't have a penny when he became the village school headmaster. He went to Dongshan and asked the headmaster of the prefecture school for leave. He said, “There is something I have to do at home. I have to take some eggs back.” The headmaster said, “You cannot go as you are the headmaster of Nanong school. You have to come back to attend the meeting tomorrow.” He was afraid that he (my husband) would come back to help me to cut the firewood. The prefecture headmaster didn't allow my husband to come back alone. My husband came with another person.
The next day my younger uncle said, “What do you have to eat while you are bearing the child?” He brought one chicken to me. I said it's off (diseased?). My husband was the headmaster so we always had guests. I didn't eat. My eldest uncle gave me one [chicken] and my elder uncle gave me one, but I didn't eat them. If the guests came and there were no food for them, my husband would lose face, so I didn't want to eat the chickens. The next day he came, there was a chicken. He brought 30 eggs and three jin of meat. I asked him, “Is that sow (female) meat or boar (male) meat?” My husband said, “I forgot to check.” So I dared not to eat (perhaps because of a taboo against her eating male or female pig?). I beat the eggs with water and I ate.

Didn't you put any oil with it?
I didn't put oil but just put some salt. I was afraid that it was sow meat. If I got sick, there was nobody at home to take care of me. I didn't want to eat it. Then he went. He said he wanted to kill one chicken. He cooked the 3 jin of meat and eat with that man. I ate the chicken with them but I didn't eat the meat. He left for school and said to me, “I will buy you 1 to 2 jin of meat in three days time because you have no oil to eat.” He said he would do it. But I waited for 13 days and he didn't come. One person went to his place from Dongshan. My husband asked them to send me some meat. He said, “My woman is sick. You help me to take these 2 jin of meat to her. I had the second child who was 13 days old.”

Didn't you take any meat before?
I didn't take any. He bought the meat and I was afraid that it would be sow meat. I dared not to eat sow meat. They ate by themselves. My young uncle killed that chicken and ate it. They drank alcohol before they left. I asked my husband not to leave for too long, otherwise I had no oil to eat. Those eggs could not be eaten without oil. He said to me, “Don't worry, don't worry.” A man came with him. The man said, “Tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, I'll buy and send some meat to you if he doesn’t do it.” I said, “Fine, fine!” He said that. You see what he had bought. He came home once a month. I said, “Ya! You don't come. Every week you should come to carry me a bunch of firewood. You never come to see me. You don't care about the girl (baby). Even if you don't care about the girl, at least you can come to see her! The girl was not only from me but also came from you.” I said this to him. He said, “I'm not free to come. I was asked to attend a meeting every day. Being a leader is like this. Others will gossip about me if I come.”
You see, he only came by that [one] time. He came once in one or two months, and he always came with other people. He ate what we had at home. When I looked after the child, I said to him, “You should save some money to buy some eggs.” He said, “Wa! Everyone comes. How could I have money for the guests. I need to take bus to attend the meeting. I need to eat on the way. I’ve got only 30 yuan a month. Where can I have the money for you?” There was a time my second child was sick. I said, “You have money. Give me 1 to 2 yuan. I'm worried about the sick child. I would buy some food for her.” He passed me 4 jiao and I was mad. I said, “You! I'm not eating with you. I just stay at home. I've stayed at home to help you to raise up the child. Now I ask 2 yuan for your child but you gave me no money. Who else can give me a hand when you work outside?” I’ve got no money. Where can I get the money from? I had my children and I didn't have anything to eat. The third child is a boy, who's in the Teacher's College. When I gave birth to him, everyone said, “You haven't had a boy before. What will you kill to eat now when you got a boy?”
When I had the third child, they (the government) started to implement the household responsibility system [when people worked for themselves rather than cooperatively]. People gained more and could get more work-scores if they work harder (points gained for working hours under collectivisation; these entitled people to a share of the produce farmed collectively). I had raised one sow. Later, it had piglets. I raised one piglet and killed it. There were two tables of people (it fed them all?). There were still three piglets. They said, “You said you had expected a girl. But this time you have a boy, what would you kill for your wife to eat?” My husband said, “She can eat what our family has. If there is nothing, where can I go to buy her something to eat?” I ate only five eggs when I had the third child. When I had the second child, eggs were cheap in Nanong, and I ate 30 eggs. When I had the third child, eggs were expensive. I had no money to buy them, so I killed one piglet and had some meat to eat. There were chickens.
Many people came here for meetings because here was the important target (could mean the village was a government or Oxfam target for poverty alleviation?). People would say, “Go to the headmaster's home to have a meal.” I came back and cooked for them. It didn't matter even there was no meat and no alcohol. You felt sorry for them if you didn't cook for them. Chickens would be killed. If there weren't any chickens, I would go and find them. Every month he could get 30 to 40 yuan but it was almost all spent for one chicken. Where could he have the money? Even if you don't care about yourself, you should check what you had before you eat. You ate and got into debt. How could you repay the debt? I came to Wenqian for many years. I raised up my children without borrowing a coin from anyone. I depended on my own hands. I didn't take any rest.
Section 8
Are you in good health?
I work no matter I am in good health or not. I came back after I was sterilised. I worked even harder than before. Very tired.

Can other women have good food when they are confined for childbirth?
They can have good food. Their men didn't drink alcohol before they [had a chance to] eat well. Now it's different. I lost my temper when I had my old man. I said, “I bore so many children and I haven’t had a chicken to eat, or an egg to eat.” I went to buy 8 jin of meat by myself. I gave them 3 jin. The man (husband) was here.

Did you use your own money to buy the meat?
En, I used my own money to buy the 8 jin of meat. I said to my husband, “This is the last child I give to you. There will be no more born! I don't want any more even if they don't give me sterilisation!" I took pills before my man had me. I took the pills before. But I didn't know why - the period stopped coming and I got pregnant.

Did you forget to take the pills ?
I didn't know why it came. I said to him that this was the last child for you. I didn't want any more. What's the benefit of having children? I haven't had any good things to eat and could not sleep. No one assisted me with my work. Why should I have children for him? I went to buy the contraceptive pills by myself. I took more when my man came. Other times I didn't take them. I said, “Wa ! Come to Wenqian. Others are sterilised and they don't have to work. They can eat without working.” Once my husband said that I ate better when I stayed with him - but everything was from my parent’s home. When did I eat with him? Pigs, goats, beans - everything was sold at home. I could not eat anything. Did I eat with you? People have a wife and the wife eats with the husband. I don't know [why?] you are the schoolmaster for so long. I don't know where your bowl is. I never wash your bowl. You look at other people's wives. They came back and sleep for one to two days and eat with their husbands. If I were like that, you would have died.

How many people are there in your family?
There are four boys, my grandma and me, in total six people. My old man (husband) is away from home so he is not included. My six children all go to school, leave one at home. I don't want to raise goats.

How many goats do you have?
I have 10 goats and five sows. I sold one the day before yesterday and got 700 yuan.

How many piglets are there?
There are 16 piglets, three of them have not been sold. I probably can get 1000 yuan if they are all sold. I sold six pigs when my second and third children were in school. I got 600 yuan by selling five piglets. I used the money to send him to the school. I raise two fat pigs every year, one will be for the celebration of the Spring Festival, the other one will be sold to pay for the children to go to school. I said to my husband, “I think more than you do. I am too worried to sleep but you always sleep well. I think more than you do.” I don't have good luck. The two girls don't go to school. But at least one or two of the four boys should study. Only when one to two of them are able to earn money, only then could I close my eyes when I die. I try to work hard even when I am exhausted
Section 9
Do you feel you are at a disadvantage without literacy?
Yes. My mother had no money to send us to school. In the past, it didn't cost much to go to school but my parents didn't send us. My dad said he had no money so he didn't send us to study. We had attended some evening classes for one semester. We went to study in the evening. After spending much time, we knew only a few names, so we were not allowed to go any more. I went to work at the age of 8. My husband always said, “Wipe out (get rid of) the illiterate! Wipe out the illiterate!” Meaning me - I didn't know how to read - and he wanted to wipe out the illiterate. He didn't want the illiterate. He said that, and I was mad at him. I quarrelled with him. I said “The Secretary General still wants the illiterate. You said I'm an illiterate and you don't want me, what kind of teacher are you? There is nothing to be proud of. Without me - this illiterate - would you have anything to eat?” I was so mad. I had spent my whole life supporting these children.
When my first son went to school, I gave him 3000 to 4000 yuan. My two daughters also wanted to go to school but they failed the enrolment exam. I would risk my life to support them if they passed the exam. I borrowed money to support my first son. I told him, “You get it now. Your old mum is here, and your younger brother. I will also risk my old life to send your brother to school. There is a boy who is studying in Dongshan. He has no money to study so he gave up the opportunity to study at Bama twice. He'll stop the study or will probably go next year. Because of lack of money, he deferred one year. Your dad scolded me much. He scolded me for being an illiterate. But I risked my old life to send my two children to go to school.” The one in the First Middle School is not bad. He ranked 15th or 16th among a class of 70 students. He's not so bad. I raise the pigs and goats to send you first for three years. I don't want to raise many. I’m too tired.

Have you attended the technical training about how to rear pigs and goats?
I reared the goats by my own knowledge. For the training on pig rearing, if I don’t go, I won’t know how to rear pigs.

Have you learnt anything from the training?
I’ve learnt some. But because of no education, I cannot read books. So by sending the children to school, they can help me to read! [They laugh.]

If there are literacy classes, will you go?
If someone is willing to teach me, why wouldn’t I go? The only worry is that I have a lot of work to do. I come back to cook until 12:00 then I feed the pigs. People would not go if it's getting dark. It would be better if the class was held at someone’s home.

Will you go if the school runs literacy classes?
Probably there will be no time in the evening. The elderly are not sure if they are able to study or not.

If there are classes, will you go?
I'll go if there are classes. I'm only worried that it would affect my housework. I want to study. People scold you just because you have no education. People didn't scold me. It's my husband who scolded me.
Section 10
Can you do calculation when you go to the market to sell pigs and chickens?
I don't know English and I cannot understand much about Mandarin. My husband was not as clever as I was when we went to market to sell the piglet. He said, “This old sister is clever even [though] she’s had no education.” I went to the market to sell piglets. People took out 120 yuan and asked me, “Do you want to sell at this price, old sister?” I said, “No, that price is even lower than 7 yuan per jin.” I didn't sell them. Some people tapped my husband's shoulder and said, “Tell your wife to give us it at this price.” You see, I was not the only one who sold pigs in the market. You take what you like. If you cannot offer me a good price, I won't sell it to you. What did my husband know? I was the one who reared the pigs but not him. He just followed me to come. The pigs were reared by me and I sold them by myself. What did he know?
They said, “Your wife doesn’t listen to you.” My husband said, “I can do nothing if she doesn't want to sell them to you.” I did some bargaining and got 125 yuan for one pig. I need 5 yuan to pay the tax. If you can’t offer so much, please don't come to me. It doesn't bother me that this old sister is illiterate. If you can’t offer the price, who would give you a pig of 18 jin with a price less than 7 yuan a jin? Everyone came to see me. Before Oxfam came, I had reared two local pigs. They gave birth to four litters of piglets a year. I had goats and chickens too. What can we peasants do at home without pigs? Someone from Oxfam HK came and asked me, “How do you rear the goats and pigs?” I told them how I reared the goats. You lead an old sheep, the other goats will follow. Wherever the old goat goes, the others will follow.
He asked how I reared the pigs. Before Oxfam gave us any money to rear pigs, I wanted pigswill, I needed rice to feed the pigs and had to spend money to buy the piglets. My children hadn’t been to school, so the money hadn’t been used. I took the money and saved it in the bank. My husband didn't give me a penny of his salary. His salary was used to buy oil, salt, and other things. The money in the bank was earned by my own hands. He didn't have money, so what could you do? You did so much, had to work even when you were exhausted. I was exhausted but a child still had to go to school. I risked my old life, borrowed from others but had to pay interest. I had to work even when I was exhausted. I went to work very early at the morning. My old grandma cooked at home. I came back to fed the pigs, and looked after the goats. I looked after the goats, made the pigswill, collected firewood, and fetched water. Everything was done by myself. Those children all went out.
People said, "You work so much. Other people who have three or four kids at home would not work harder than you. You do not have enough rice to eat, but you still can send your children to school and you have the bank book." People borrowed money from me. I asked them to repay so my child could study when he passed the enrolment exam of the Teacher's College. They said they didn't know that I had money. I dressed raggedly, but I washed them clean. They laughed at me saying that this old sister had money to save. I said I didn't have money. There was only 2000 to 3000 yuan left for the children to go to school. My third child went to study at Bama. Sometimes my husband didn't have any money, and I would use mine. I was afraid of getting sick. I was not afraid of work. I couldn’t work if I was ill, or even could not raise my head. I had my second child and I was sick for two years. Worked too hard so I got sick.
My husband said he wanted me to go (get divorced). I thought I was sick and it was not cured. He's annoyed. He didn't say directly that he wanted me to leave. People heard about it. He took me to Bama to get an x-ray because he said doctor Fu was in Bama. "Lao Lan, they said you would let your wife go. Then where would you get the second one? You cannot find anyone like her! She is so kind at heart! You'd better not let her go. Your wife, I have checked, has got no serious illness, but just some old stomach problems. Her heart is normal, no serious illness, no problem at the liver but just stomach problem. Go and ask my wife for some medicines, and take injection. She'll be fine."
In Bama, everyone blamed him. He said he had no money. But this kind of sickness didn't cost much before, about 20 yuan. He said, "I didn't say I'll let my wife go. Who spread that rumour?" They said, "You have two daughters and your wife has been sick for 2 years. Some people said that you'll let your wife go. You'd better not do that. I've been to your home. Your wife is very kind. Don't let her go." My husband laughed, "I won't let my wife go. I take her for treatment. I won’t let my wife go." I had not been treated with many herbal medicines. That doctor was kind. His wife gave me injections and 20 bottles of medicine. I took rest. The doctor got a wind-blowing snake (some form of traditional medicine). He said I had got sick and should eat some. I ate. And he gave me injections. I got well in two months. I came back and I didn't get sick any more before I had that child [now studying in Teacher's College]. I didn't have any serious illness. There was not a time when I had to spend more than 100 yuan on seeing a doctor. Last year, I got high fever. My nose was bleeding. I felt very hot for an hour. My face was all red. I went to take the glucose IV (intraveneously) which cost 40 yuan.
Section 11
Where did you take the glucose IV?
At Fenghuang.

Did you walk there or take a bus?
I took one walking stick with me and went up to wait for a bus. I waited for the bus to take the glucose IV. My husband was in Nongshan by that time. That doctor found some people from Nongshan and asked them, "Did Lan Zhongming come to the market today?" People from Nongshan said No, he didn't come today. The doctor told them, "His wife is dying in the hospital. Would you please go and ask him to come quickly to see her tonight. I have injected three bottles of glucose but she hasn’t become conscious. There is no one at her home, so ask him to come to see his wife." One Fanyao went to tell the village secretary. The village secretary called him and he came in an hour. By that time, I had taken four bottles of glucose. My eyes were blurred even after I took three bottles of glucose. But I started to come to consciousness when I took the fourth one. I could see light. My husband took some rest till 6 o'clock. I said, "Go home if there is a bus. Pigs, goats and chickens have no one to look after them at home. [There’s] no one to feed them today." He went back but didn't tell the old sister (eldest daughter) to feed the pigs. Nobody…nobody knew I was sick. I could not speak. All the children had gone to school.
Section 12
Did you take the bus by yourself?
I went by myself. I went to the village entrance to wait for the bus. I didn't sit inside. I sat outside and went to Fenghuang like that. I didn’t feel better after taking two bottles of glucose. I didn't know why. It was just that time in my life, in 45 years, got sick for two years. It didn't cost much for the medical treatment. At that time, it didn't cost much to treat. My children would not easily get sick. They would not easily get sick since I take good care of them. If you don't take good care of them but put them on the ground, they'll eat anything they can reach by hand, and then they will get sick. Where can you get money for the treatment? I'm the toughest since I came to stay with this husband. He likes drinking. We do not have enough money to use.

Does he have many friends?
Yes, many friends. You see, every time they came here to attend a meeting, they said, "I'll go to Lan Zhongming's home to have the meal. I didn't come here (?) - we’ll just go to the family we are familiar with to have the meal." If people came but you didn't cook… how could you let that happen? [Interviewer interrupts: You have a good attitude.]
They all said, "Yeah! Lan Zhongming's wife! It doesn't matter even if there is no alcohol and no meat, we’ll eat anything, will even drink water." My husband didn't say anything. He's easy going. He didn't say how [can we feed them?], or scold anyone or not let anyone to come. I cook for everyone if they come. We provide our guests with all we have. We kill piglets if there are piglets; kill chickens if there are chickens. There was a time, Liu Yixuan who was retired from Nongmei Sanlian, came and said, "Ya! Headmaster Lan, I come to your home but there is no huoma (tree with small black edible seeds) in your home. I’ve brought some seeds for your wife to cook for us. We may ask her to cook the kumaicai (local green leafy vegetable, slightly bitter taste) for us later.” [Laughs] I said, "There are kumaicai at home if you want to eat. You want to eat [them], we have [them] too. We just don't have meat and alcohol. But it's enough that we have something to eat. You are the same group so eat what you find available here." He said, "Ya ! You said all the good (right) words."
My husband was not (was no longer?) the headmaster after we had the youngest child. He has been to all the places - from Kaji to Nongshan. He has been to Sanlian. They get together here. Our target (group?) was here. They said, "Don't go anywhere. We just come to your home." I said, "Come, come. You know what we have at home. Eat what you find available. It's good that you won't say how mean the old sister is or whatever, it's fine you won't say such words." They said, "Ya! We won't say those words!"

Are young people here as kind to the elderly as you are?
I don't know. Wa! I have seen many [things]. I saw someone from outside in Wenqian. They cooked and didn't allow the elderly to eat. They always quarrelled with their old grandmas. Some are kind to old people. You see, my husband was at home. He said, "Don't scold my mum." I said to him, "You can take her with you if you're afraid. I don't love her. You can take her with you and see if she'd like to go with you. I have not been here for very long. It's already five years, for over 20 years I didn't scold or beat your mum or didn't allow her to eat (stopped her from eating). You have a sister who lived up here - you can ask her. She knows that. She got meat and she asked your mum to go to her place but she didn't go. She chose to eat at home [with me]. She didn't want to go. Whether I treated her well or not, you almost get the old sister in Wenqian. You'll know whether I have respected your mum or not. There are some (?) here too. She'll let to eat if her mum comes, won't let [her] eat if your mum comes, to see if you are angry or not (?)"
Section 13
Do similar things happen here?
Yes, they happen. These people are so mean. They are not like us. Forget about that. I always say that we would eat together whatever we have. I don't eat on my own. There was someone whose mum came and she said, "She'll say good words if her uncle comes but she'll not say good words if others come."

Would they divide families and live apart from their parents after they got married?
Yes. They would live separately from their parents after four months of getting married.

Is this the custom (tradition) or do they choose to separate from the family?
They choose to separate from the family. They are young and want to live by themselves. They want to be separate from their parents. Why would the elderly want to divide the family? For example, in our family, how could my husband say I was not good? I said, "You'd better look at your uncles. You see, her mum came and her sisters (?) - she laughed. You see, your old grandma is there and she lives alone. You said I was not good, then why you go there to look for me if I was not good?" I said, "Some people have overdone (done more than this?). They don't let old people eat much. Or [when] their mum comes, they hint to their mum to leave. She'll do like that if there is any good food."

Is the husband's mother or the wife's mother?
No. For example, she married here, her mum came and they lived together. She came and asked her mum to go, but there was the younger uncle! She was shy to ask the uncle, just dropped a hint to her mum to run outside, so her mum went to with her. I've seen many of this (I’ve seen this often).

Didn't she let her grandma eat?
She didn't let her eat freely. Few people allow their grandma eat freely. My two sisters (daughters) went and I said, "I don't mind you going to grandma's place. No matter who comes, even there is no meat, you'll cook for them. It's good to behave in this way. They won’t eat much even if there is meat and alcohol. They won’t drink much, at most 3 to 4 jin. They won’t drink too much."
Fenghui came here and told me, "Ya! What a group leader they have in Dongshan! Old Zhi came down here to Renfang's place. Renfang took him to our home. He said, "I love you more, so I come to talk to you." Renfang and Fenghui came together; later I killed a chicken for them. Group leader Tan said, "Ya! Don't do that! It’s 1pm already. You don’t have to kill the chicken." I said, "Leader Tan, you don't often come to our home. You come only when Renfang takes you. If Renfang don’t take you, you may not come even if we ask you to. My husband comes on the weekend, and you'll come. If my husband doesn't come back, then you won’t come. I'm at home alone, and you don't come to my home." I said that to him, "What does it matter to kill one chicken? You are the same group. Just for talking." Fenghui said, "Ei! Lao Geng - he calls my husband Geng - Lao Geng, your husband is easy to talk to. I buy 5 jin alcohol and chat with Lao Geng. But I won't take this to my home." I said, "Lao Jiu (meaning uncle), you say that because you are afraid that I don't have alcohol to serve you, don’t you? How much can you drink? About 2 to 3 jin at most. You come to my home and I pay [for it] myself. And later when Lao Geng goes to your home, you’ll pay [for it] yourself too."
Section 14
What you have said is good! Do you agree that for me to take it to Oxfam for them to publish with other stories?
Who will go and take it?

No. We will make a transcript of this tape-recording and put it as an article in a book which is about women. If we want to use your story, do you agree?
I agree, but who can understand it after corrections?

If the book is published and has our story in it, the publisher will give us a copy of the book. Then we can read about how other women live and how we live in different societies, environment and cultures. We can understand others and others can understand us. It's good like this.
En (yes). I have talked about my husband. Sometimes he shouted at my grandma (mother-in-law), her ears have difficulty hearing. I said to my husband, "She is an old person, [she] is not a little child. You should speak to her slowly. Why did you shout at her like that? You said I didn't give rice to your mum to eat, and said how I behaved to your mum. But you yourself spoke so loudly and frightened her. Can't you speak slowly?" I said to him, "Old mum and old dad must not be beaten. If you beat them, your child will beat you in the same way in the future. You should educate your children well, then your daughter-in-law will be kind to you."