Growing up in China
I was born in 1966 at the beginning of the cultural revolution. I grew up in China and lived there for forty-one years before moving to Australia.
I want tell you many stories about my life in China. About my experiences and about growing up in China through profound change; from the heart of Mao’s China to the Olympic Games. Maybe you can, from these stories, to understand about Chinese life, understand China.
Every morning six-o-clock my mother took me to the old women’s home, before walking to work. My sister was six years old, but she couldn’t go to kindergarten because my parents didn’t have enough money. So sister stayed at home by herself. She did a lot of cooking for the family. No one believe such young age could do a lot of housework.
Graeme – We visit Xiaosui’s sister and her family often in China. Her husband is an engineer and also a magnificent cook. He prepares sumptuous feasts for his extended family. He came from a family with nine children. He says that when he was growing up he never remembered being full. I sometimes ponder that now the little girl of six who prepared the family meals can now sit back while her husband prepares a feast for her. Sometimes ‘the sky’ gets it right.
That time, all of China used wood or scraps of wood to make small fires for cooking. I didn’t know at the time, I was too young, and took for granted that my sister set the fire and prepared the food. I now realize how young she was to make the fire in the small stove. She did not make a big thing of it, she just done.
Our home had a black dog, it was very good dog, his name was “a hei” ( ‘hei’ in Chinese means ‘black’ and is pronounced ‘hay’; the ‘a’ is pronounced ‘ah’). Sister often went to the food market to buy the vegetables and meat. Every time when sister went to the market ‘a hei’ must go with her. My father would attach a purse to a rope collar around ‘a hei’s’ neck. In the purse was the food ration tickets and the money. My sister and ‘a hei’ would set off to do the shopping together, the little girl and the big black dog. At the markets all the people knew ‘a hei’. Sister would choose the food and the shop keeper would put it in her basket. Then ‘a hei’ would stand up and put his front paws on the counter and let the shopkeeper take the ration tickets and the money.
If someone bully sister, ‘a hei’ just made a big noise and bite their trousers. So when ‘a hei’ accompany sister, my parents never worried. Also, in this area, everyone know ‘a hei’. Many people talk about ‘a hei’, and say how he is such a loyal dog.
After the old women looked after me three months, my father got into trouble and lost his job (See ‘The Cultural Revolution through my eyes). He had to stay at home and write many statements of repentance. He didn’t have any income and my family couldn’t pay for the old women. So my father looked after me.
Everyday, mother went to work and father at home wrote a lot of this trouble things. He also looked after me and sister. Each Thursday, my father must take his written statement of repentance to the government and attend a meeting. When he was away sister looked after me and ‘a hei’ always sat near the door. If there was any strange footfall, he made big noise and let the person know not to come near our home. He knew my father was not at home and he must look after the two young children. We all loved ‘a hei’ and felt safe with him around.
In that time the “ju wei hui” people ( ju wei hui was a government office to manage a area) often came to our home and checked on my father. Every time the ju wei hui’s people came ‘a hei; always big noise and never let them get in our home until my father asked ‘a hei’ to stop. But he still was suspicious of the ju wei hui’s people and would walk round our home all the time they were there. So the ju wei hui’s people were very afraid and hated ‘a hei’. Eventually, they didn’t came anymore because of ‘a hei’ and my family could have some quiet time.
When I was one year old, that year China government had a new law. Every family couldn’t have any poultry and animal at home. Mao called this the ‘cut capitalistic tail’. It sounds funny now, but it was not funny then. When the government made the proclamation the ju wei hui’s people came to our home and told my father they were going to take ‘a hei’ to be killed. My father said to them, “we will kill ‘a hei’ by ourselves, we will do it tomorrow”.
When the ju wei hui people left our home, my sister hugged ‘a hei’ and cried. She begged father not kill ‘a hei’. She asked ‘a hei’ to run away. Father cried too. He told to sister if ‘a hei’ run away someone must find him and must be kill him soon. My mother said maybe we can hide ‘a hei’ at home. My father talked to ‘a hei’ and said that “the people want kill you, now you can’t make any noise, you must hide under the bed”.
At that time our home used two long stools to put a board on to become a bed. So under the bed had many space. We used a long bed sheet so people couldn’t see under the bed. ‘a hei’ hid inside. He knew everything. From that night, he never had any sound. When the people sleep, father let ‘a hei’ outside. But, it was just a few days before people told the ju wei hui that our home still had dog. One day the ju wei hui’s people came and told my father to kill ‘a hei’ in a minute.
Father hugged ‘a hei’ and told him he must kill him. ‘a hei’ cried. Yes, I tell you, ‘a hei’ cried. He then sat and looked at father in understanding. ‘a hei’ did not try to run away or make any noise. Father used a stick to hit 'a hei’s' head, just once. ‘a hei’ died. Sister cried a month for ‘a hei’. Now, she still will not touch a dog. A young child’s memory can be very strong.
After 'a hei' died, my father needed to go to the government every day for self-examination, because he had confronted the law and didn’t kill the dog soon. Sister by now was in school, year one, so there was no one to look after me. My mother sent me to another person’s home. They had three children at home and mother paid them 10 yuan per month. The wife looked after their three children and me. I was young, but I also cried for ‘a hei’ for a long time.
Growing up in China