I have a friend in China whose English name is Jerry or Jerich. His Chinese name is Yang Guangyou and he once wrote an article for me which I published both here at Magic City Morning Star News and at Kingscalendar.
Today, I am using a recent letter from Jerry, to tell a story - a sad story. It is a story rooted in Ancient and Modern Chinese Culture. It is a story of an impossible love. It is a story I have heard so many times before, of families who refuse to allow their children to love whom they will. It is a story about how in the 21st century, Chinese children must still obey their parents and marry the one of whom the parents approve.
Here then is that story - in part. The final act is as yet unknown.
At the beginning of 2011, Jerry met a lovely girl named Qiqi in Suzhou City. She was working as a Manager in an American restaurant and at that time, in the evenings, he was managing a Bar close to her restaurant. He was also working during the day for a food importer.
The first time he saw Qiqi was at her restaurant, and she was reading a book on business management. Jerry describes her as the most interesting girl he ever me; silent, beautiful, hard-working and studious. He felt deeply attracted to her.
One of her colleagues had asked Jerry if he would help Qiqi with her English studies and invited him to the restaurant to meet with her. Despite having laryngitis, he agreed to the meeting. Of Qiqi and their meeting he wrote:
My throat was injured and I could not speak so I wrote what I had to say in my phone and let her read it. God I loved her smile, like the most beautiful angel in my life. I asked for her QQ number and began talking to her every night.
The restaurant staff like me and were pleased to see that I wanted to be her boyfriend. I got so many peoples' support and they told me her birthday, her interests, her hometown, and the most important thing, that she was single. She said that her parents would never allow her to fall in love with anybody as they want her to get marry someone from her own hometown.
I saw the disappointment and sorrow on her face. She told me that she wanted to have her own life but she had no choice because her parents never listen to her.
Over a few weeks we fell in love. I love her, and she loves me, too.
I bought lots of English books for her because she wanted to learn English and I taught her everyday. She is hard-learning and made big progress. I am happy to have a girl who is so hard-learning and never asks for expensive things and is so gentle.
She is so different to other girls. She can cook and she can wash and made my suit tidy everyday. I told her that I have no money, but she said: "you have me. We will work hard for our future together".
As the year progressed their love for each other grew and one thing led to another until one day they discovered that Qiqi was pregnant. Qiqi told Jerry that they must return to her hometown and talk to her parents. This they did, but not before Jerry spoke to his parents. They were happy to know that they were going to have a grandchild.
I remember Jerry's telephone call and his fear of having to face Qiqi's parents. He was glad that his own parents were happy, but felt sure that there would be hell to pay with Qiqi's parents, and was certain that they would not allow the couple to marry.
At this point in the story, you are no doubt wondering how parents could stop kids in their middle twenty's from getting married, but this is where Chinese life and culture is different to western life and culture.
In order to get married, the couple has to be able to produce their 'Hukou'. 'Hukou' is a common name used in mainland China for the household registration system. (Wikipedia) This document is held by the parents and should they refuse to release it, the son/daughter cannot complete the necessary legalities for the situation in which it is required. In this case: Marriage.
In order for Jerry and Qiqi to marry, they needed to obtain the necessary papers from their parents and Qiqi's parents not only refused to provide them, not only forced Qiqi to have an abortion, not only banned her from seeing Jerry, but refused to let her return to her job in SuZhou.
We bought some gifts and went to Xi'an. She didn't talk to her parents first because she is afraid of her parents. She made a phone call to her mother when we arrived at the gate of her house. Her mother was angry with that.
She asked her about my family, and Qiqi was honest with her mother. She told her that my family is from countryside, not rich. Her mother refused us because I am poor and I am from countryside and I do not have a good job and my family is far away.
When her father came back, he also refused to let us marry and told me to go away. We kneeled down to them and begged for permission the whole afternoon. Her mother said okay in the night and told her daughter that she could go together with me. I knew that she may lied to us but I can not tell my girl that her mother is lying to her.
The second day, her mother asked me to go first and let her daughter stay at home for some days. I knew that her mother changed her mind and she will not let me to see her any more.
When Qiqi insisted to go together with me, her father beat her on her face and told me to (expletive) again.
Her mother told me if I want to be with her then I need to bring 50,000 RMB before spring festival. I could do nothing with that and I finally decided to leave and prepare money for them.
One week later, she told me that her parents do not allow her to use her cellphone any more, and asked me to go there and pick her up. I went to Xi'an city again and wait for her phone call. But she didn't call back. Finally she called me and told me that her mother changed her mind again and they are going to take her to hospital to kill the baby. She cried and cried, and said maybe she has no choice but to follow her parents' idea.
I saw her mother and her relatives the second day after they went to the hospital. Her mother said that she will never allow us to be together unless I take 300,000 RMB to them. Then I can get married with her. I asked permission to see her but they refused. I left Xi'an five days later.
I have called her everyday but her cellphone is powered off. I called her cousin but he didn't tell me anything and he doesn't want me to call him any more.
As I already indicated, Qiqi has not been allowed to return to her job. When Jerry went to see Qiqi's parents, he was away from his regular job longer than the time he originally specified. I do not know and have not asked if Jerry was fired or he just resigned, but Jerry today is working in a factory in Tianjin city. He left Suzhou because, as he put it, "I thought that I might feel better if I was not in Suzhou, but now I find that it is impossible to calm down."
A few days ago, Jerry called asking for advice. He wanted to know whether he should go back to Xi'an and press once more for Qiqi's hand in marriage or just wait. I told him quite frankly that as I am a western man, I really do not know what he should do and advised him to seek the counsel of older Chinese men and women.
He told me that he had already done so, and that their advice was that the parents will not relent and that he should forget the girl and get on with his life. His younger friends however have told him to return to Xi'an.
No matter what we westerners see in China, and no matter how rich, worldly wise or educated Chinese people may appear to be, the Chinese mind is not western. Their culture is not western and the realities on the ground for them, are not the same realities on the ground for us westerners. Their culture is still very much traditional, and of that, Jerry concluded his latest letter to me with: "I hate this kind of traditional culture!"
Jerich Yang & R.P. BenDedek
This article was originally published under the title: Ancient Chinese Culture in the 21st Century at Kingscalendar. Since that time, Jerry's girlfriend has run away from home and is now living in a different city.
R.P.BenDedek (pseudonym) is the Author of 'The King's Calendar: The Secret of Qumran' (http://www.kingscalendar.com
), and is a guest columnist and stand-in Editor at Magic City Morning
Star News. An Australian, he has been teaching Conversational English in
China since 2003.
Writers Journal Kingscalendar
King's Calendar" is a chronological study of the historical books of
the Bible (Kings and Chronicles), Josephus, Seder Olam Rabbah, and the
(Essene) Damascus Document of The Dead Sea Scrolls.