Part Nineteen in a series of articles about the experiences of an Australian Conversational English Teacher in Hong Hu, Hubei Province, China. Self published author of 'The King's Calendar:The Secret of Qumran', (a study in the history and chronology of the Bible), R.P. BenDedek is a pseudonym.
WOMEN IN CHINA
|These three people are women. What they are doing is obvious and backbreaking.|
This week's article is special, in that I am not the author of what is written herein. It commences with an article written for me by a Chinese friend in Beijing, and it concerns herself and her two friends.
For the sake of clarity, I have edited it slightly.
Following that is an article I composed from notes taken at an interview I conducted.
My subject is Zhan Yan's Grandma. She was one of the victims of the Cultural Revolution, spending Eight years in a labour camp. Interspersed throughout these two articles I have placed various snapshots of women in China.
ARTICLE 1. by Wang Yunqi in Tianjin, China - May 27th 2004.
Three Stories about my female co-workers and myself.
1. Wang Zheng: My Boss.
Wang Zheng was born in November 1951 and is one month younger than I. She is a clever woman, but has not met a good husband in the past. She was divorced because he was lazy and drank too much.
|This might be one of your favourity places to have work done on your shoes. This man's wife is inside this 'home business'|
She and her only son live together. Her son is not like his father. She was a worker in her hometown in the countryside. After the cultural revolution she studied Chinese law part time after work.
Her life involved working in a factory, cooking for her son, and night school, which she did for 5-6 years. Her dream was to own her own business in the field of law, so she worked and studied very hard.
Eventually she found a job in a liquidation office. After some years, she commenced her own business with other two corporations named "Hai na Liquidation Office." She bought 3 cars and rented a large office in a famous building in our city.
Her son is a driver and also a co-worker. Business is developing day by day. Her dream is to have her own large office and a large group and become a famous best teams work in our city.
2. My co-worker Yu Ping
Yu Ping is pretty and tall and clever in good cooking. She is one year younger than me.
Her husband is not handsome, and is shorter than her. Yu ping is a traditional woman. Many years ago she did not even like her husband because he wasted lots of money in the "gu piao" market and he did not work at that time. Because she was so traditional, she began to smoke and has not stopped.
|Nothing like getting together with the girls to catch up on gossip and do a little cleaning.|
She never thinks of getting a divorce from her husband. They have an only child, a daughter. She is a worker in a international factory in our city. Sometimes they fight at home by mouth, mother and daughter are of the same idea and rather lonely. Yu ping is good at controlling money. They are what is considered middle degree in our city. Because Yu ping helps husband find a self-job in our office. She loves cooking for family and friends in our office and at home. She wants to save more money to buy a large house for her old age.
3. Myself: Wang Yunqi : A simple and a happy woman.
I was born in a teaching family. Father taught English and mother taught Chinese. I have a only brother. He moved to San Francisco for 8 years with his wife and only son Mark.
|Wang Yunqi - author of this article - with QC in Tianjin.|
I had a good husband . My aunt intraduced him to me in end 1975 and we got marry in 1977. We had our daughter in 1978. My husband died in July 2002. We had good life together.
I like to travel, and have been to Cong-qing Chen-du of Si-chuan province with classmates in 1966 revolution culture; to Hai-nan land, to Nan-ning, Liu-zhou of Guang-xi province and Shang-hai, Zhen-jiang of Jiang-su province alone in 1972. I went to countryside from 1969-1974. Family paid for me.
I worked in Shen-zhen from 1989-1996. Its famous time for me to work with all young together and I could good used computer. I could teach them. Of course its good pay to me.
|A seamstress in a dry cleaning store, and a sight for sore eyes. No further comment except that she is married.|
I thought I was a rich lady at that time. But husband was sick on Dec.1995. So parents in law paid (his way?) to Shen-zhen. Back together on June 1996.I lost best job.
Because I loved my husband I stopped saving money by myself after we went back to our hometown. Mother in law saved money for all of the family. I looked after him for 2 years and did not go out to work.
He was very strong even if sick at home. He had a stroke. The doctor said it's hard for him to get better as before, but my husband told me that he wants to look after me when get well. I miss him so much. He was a happy male, and me too. I have lots of good friends and good co-workers and happy work everyday and Never fight with anyone.
I went to Hong Kong and Macao last year with one of my co-workers. I like Hong Kong. I remember that: life so short and make the best of each day. My daughter is a teacher now in her studying college and she will finish her study for her master degree. Thanks to God I had a good husband and a good daughter. I am looking for good one to spend the rest of my life with forever. Of course better foreigner.
In China, if a female has good skills it's easy to get good work. I am an accountant; I can type English and good use in Microsoft Excel. So that I have 2 jobs and good pay.
|Former Dress shop owner and English Teacher, this unconventional but thoroughly modern woman 'lives with' but is not married to her man, who is currently studying in University.|
Of course not a lots but enough for my family and my travel every year. Our city is very safe but bad thing is that it is so very crowded everywhere. Crowded streets, cares, and people, and not clean; I'm so sad about it.
My education: When I was young, there are many famous old books in my home. I read old Chinese medicine books and learn simple way for treatment to family Da zhen (zhu she). Liang xue ya, Zhen jiu.massages.
I even learned to make cloth. Of course, not good looking. I went to study English in father`s class.
Parents wanted us have all kinds of knowledges for our future. So today I still easy get job, even if not at hometown for 8 years in south China.
About money: Money is important for everyone. But it's not first, I think. Sometimes I missed old China - pure people and friendship everyone; not needing to close the door when sleeping on night, and peaceful everywhere. Society is changing; some are good, but some are not. It's life.
|Does this look familiar? Don't believe it. Boys do not do dishes.|
I have lots of story in family and office and on internet. I even was a best matchmaker for a Canadian and his Chinese wife. I met him on net from 2000-2002 till they got married in our city in Oct. 2002. Internet let us know, and saw each other. Till them marry. Canadian Steve and his wife Dongjianglan and I all believe in FATE. I am waiting for myself ...
|Members of the Catholic Church at Chibi. Congregation size, around 300|
|This photo taken from my dining room. Someone did something wrong the previous day when they planted the rice and this day they had to pull all the rice back out.|
|If you prefer the limelight and don't mind sharing it with a male, you might get to sing to the crowd in the Wang Fujing in Beijing.|
Article Two: Grandma's Story
This is a short story about the life of a woman I only know as Grandma. These are her words and story, as told to me through my students, as I sat in her home.
They told me that she would not want to talk about her life, but once she started, she just didn't stop.
After I typed up this article, I had it translated into Chinese for her to read, and asked her to provide some answers to some questions I had about certain things.
Unfortunately, at the time, she had to go away, and when she returned, I went away, and when I came back my students were gone. So there are still some gaps in the story, but here it is anyway.
|This is Zhan Yan's Grandmother who spent 8 years in a labour camp during the Cultural Revolution.|
She came from a town called Jian Li (on the other side of the river), and her husband came from Feng Kou, just a few kilometers down the road. She was three when the Japanese left China, and remembers them as nice people who were kind to her family.
During the period of the KuoMingTang (KMT) her husband had been involved in 'underground/illegal' work and activities of some kind. At liberation in 1949, he became a Government officer at Jian Li and worked very hard. Many people who knew him however, and resented his high position.
In their envy they opposed his posting, making numerous allegations against him. They also bribed and blackmailed others to make false statements, threatening them with beatings if they did not. He stood accused of not only being unqualified for his post, but of being a member of the KMT. He lost his job.
In 1953 he was sent home to Feng Kou, but returned to Jian Li to clear his name. He was successful.
|The person with the white hat in the bottom right hand corner is a women, and what these people are doing is unloading coal on the Yangtsze river at Chibi.|
He got his job back and pursued life with a vigor that saw him become the headmaster of a school in economics and business. In 1958 they left Jian Li and went to Hong Hu (Xin Di) to manage the rice company.
During the cultual revolution they were accused of being capitalists and were beaten and sentenced to 8 years in a labour camp. They had three children with them at that time.
In 1973 after serving their sentences, they were 'restored' or reintegrated into society and in 1974 were sent to work in the agricultural office in Hong Hu. Following their return they had two more children.
|What a blessing to have your own kitchen. Dinner is ready folks.|
Her husband continued to work for the company until his retirement, at which time they were given a pension of 240 yuan per month. At that time however, the last of their children (their youngest son) was in university. Of their 240 yuan a month, they needed to provide 200 per month for his continuing education.
In 1987 their company gave them a house and in 1988 their last son graduated from University.
Summary of her life:
|Of course there is always opportunity to be a successful business woman... er .. I mean business person of course. She made my suit.|
Overall, she had a good life except during the cultural revolution. While her children understand the history and reality of life in China since 1949, the younger generation does not.
She holds no animosity toward those who falsely accused her husband either in 1949 or 1966, because she considers them to be but the poorer examples of humanity. While she did not like Mao Ze Dong, she did like and appreciate Deng Xiao Ping.
She has two daughters, one of which is a business women. Her three sons are employed in; the oil fields, the public security office and the Wuhan train station respectively.
|Equality in job type and work load is common in China. This garden was put together in just over one day.|
Her views on the various paradigms:
Prior to the 1949 liberation, when the KMT was in control, rich people were afraid to go to their homes in the evenings lest they be threatened and beaten by those wanting their wealth. Farmers were considered to be on the lowest rung of the social ladder.
|This is what you call taking care of things at home.|
After the 1949 liberation, life for the poor farmers changed a lot. The country became very 'left' politically, and many of those employed in government positions who were politically 'center', lost their lives.
Life was very much controlled under the communists, and though it was hard, it was far more secure. People worked very hard in the fields with their faces to the ground and their backs to the sun all day. They tried their best to improve their own financial positions, often lying about the yielding abilities of their fields. They also learned not to care about other people's their lives or deaths. Many times there was no rice or meat to eat, and they were forced to live off vegetables alone.
|Going for a stroll in town, doing a little window shopping, buying a few vegies or whatever.|
Mao's class struggle between communism and capitalism saw many people imprisoned and doomed to a harder life. She felt no respect for him at all, but Deng Xiao Ping was another matter. After Mao's death he began to change things in China, and at that time her husband's life returned to normal. Life was much better than before.
During the cultural revolution (1966 ?76) the government didn't pay any attention to education, and sent many people back to the countryside to work on the farms. These people were called 'agricultural industry graduates,' which she thought was strange because they were often completely uneducated.
Many teenage students killed themselves during this period, because they could not bear their new lives. In 1977 however, Deng Xiao Ping re-implimented college education, and students futures once again began to burn brightly.
|These women appear to be weeding the garden, but from what I saw, they were actually picking out special parts of the grass. For medicine? Herbs?|
Today however, there is a new phenomenon in China. Many students and young people are very badly behaved, and she fears that if things continue, the country will degenerate. She was absolutely astounded when she read a newspaper report of a 16 yr old boy who was killed in an internet cafe after an argument with a petty thief. That boy started his life of crime with petty theft and now is a murderer, who must spend the rest of his life in Prison.
|And you thought your work was backbreaking.|
|Whilst you might not find this job appealing, it is reassuring to know that you can actually have fruit delivered to your door.|
|Life for women in China can be backbreaking and while every woman would like to imagine herself as a princess, you have more chance of that than women in China. Could you smile doing this type of work, and consider yourself a man's equal, or would you see yourself as an object of slave labour?|
R.P.BenDedek is the pseudonym of the Author of 'The King's Calendar: The Secret of Qumran' (www.kingscalendar.com), and he is a guest columnist at Magic City Morning Star News. An Australian, he currently teaches Conversational English in China. Other Stories