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(CHINA 26 - Southwest)








Fale village, Weining county, Guizhou


22 April 1997


Another interview conducted in Han with a Yi woman. The interviewer comments, “Dingzhen's Han Chinese was very good, so in the end there was no need for an interpreter” (although one was present), but Dingzhen’s answers are mainly short, making this one of the less informative interviews in the collection. The interviewer’s style may not have helped; her questions are rather abrupt, and several times she urges the narrator to sing – which Dingzhen is reluctant to do (but eventually does, briefly).

According to Dingzhen, some things in her village “are becoming more convenient” – for example the year before the interview they got a school, and the new road has improved access to the market. But they badly need electricity and livestock pens. “…electricity and livestock are important. We depend on these two. You see, as an ordinary person, you have to do many things in the evening, such as cutting up potatoes. If there is no electricity, you cannot do it. You can only do it when it's bright. When we dig out the potatoes, it is best to wash them in the evening, and put them to boil at night. Then we can eat them after we get up at the morning. Then we can go to work right away. Money is so tight so they can’t afford to buy livestock pens themselves, and the animals frequently trample the grain. The cost of education is another major worry. She speaks quite fully about health needs, human and animal. At present veterinary services are lacking and local doctors under-trained.

As a young woman Dingzhen showed talent as a singer and dancer but was unable to pursue a career in this. Instead, she has obviously lived a life of considerable hardship and pretty unremitting work. Towards the end of the interview she says, “I only hope to make the family better, wishing the children grown up. I only pin hope on the children, only the children have a future. We are old, we don't have a future.”

detailed breakdown

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Section 1-3  3 sons, 3 daughters. Youngest is 10. Only the second daughter did not study. School is far, and they couldn’t afford it; needed the girl’s help at home. Grow potatoes, buckwheat, corn. Use plastic sheeting. Four horses, four buffaloes; no pigs or goats; more than 20 chickens.
Section 3-4  Says she and her husband have joint charge of the family. And of finance: “Both of us can have control of it [laughs cheerfully]. As a family, it’s always whoever has the time who will manage it. Money? It is just some pocket money, no big sum.” Not many differences in conditions for men and for women. “Men do field work and the work is tougher. Women work a little bit more, they take care of this and that at home and they don’t have hands free.” Is religious; husband isn’t but doesn’t stop her practising; children also non-believers. No electricity or “accessible” road (a road has been built but it’s v rough)
Section 5-7  Frost and hail April-June can destroy harvest. Area conducive to livestock-rearing, but they lack money to build pens. Livestock often ill; never vaccinated. Treats them with herbs. Costs several thousand yuan a year to keep a child in school. Local doctors: “Their practical experience is not enough, and nor is their training. Local doctors just know how to press your belly to test your health.” She has rheumatism, as do many others who work in the fields. No trained midwives. Rest after childbirth: “Some rest for a month, some less than a month. There are women who have to start work in three days” – can have ill-effect on their bodies; many postnatal diseases. Nutritional needs of pregnant women not always met, but maternal health is better than before. “A few years ago, when we had children, life was bitter.”
Section 7-10  Vegetables grown. Used to sing and dance in her youth. Lived in Weining for 2 years, as part of a dance organisation. Interviewer tries to get her to sing; she says her voice is no good now. Has appeared in a film (dancing/singing part). Describes a song about flax – from sowing to spinning. Only she in the family is illiterate: “That's why I try hard to support these children [to study].
Section 10-12  When living away from the village, learnt about hygiene and sanitation. Li people all speak Han. Few differences between lives of Li and Han. Need electricity. “You see, everything has to be done manually. Like pulling the grind-roller, if we have a electric grinding machine, life would be much more convenient.” New road has helped access to market.
Section 12-13  Loss of forest: “The trees were so big that even drillers couldn't drill through. Now they were all cut down.” Frequent frost, hail, heavy rain – grain gets washed away. “They are probably related. I heard old people said that the trees were cut down so it gets frosty more often.” Care of old. “There isn't a family which doesn't support their parents.” Says large families are good, if united. People help each other.
Section 14-17  Marriage customs. Bride rides on a horse, with two people supporting her either side. Differences between Li and Han customs. More on going to Weining as a young woman. Song and dance troupe wanted her to stay. Doesn’t sing at any village occasions. “When I sit in the house at night and have nothing to do, I feel happy, then I will sing. When I don’t feel happy, there are lots of things haunting my mind. The burden is heavy.
Section 17-18  Has no more hopes for herself. Reiterates that electricity and livestock are important. Can’t work in evening without electricity. Use kerosene lamps. Government support is inadequate. “The poverty alleviation fund they allocated this time rarely took care of us Liangshan people. They seldom take care of us here in Liangshan.” Need money to build pens, to keep livestock away from the grain.
Section 19-21  Young people enjoy singing in the evening. Courtship in the past. “Snatch marriages” – when one side wasn’t in agreement. Nowadays consent necessary. Some wife-beating goes on. Few divorces. Problem of livestock theft.