Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tiger Mother – Part III, family split

(Read the Part I, if you just stumbled here).

After losing the land, Mom’s family could no longer live in the hometown since none of the men in the family was raised to grow rice and vegetables.  As the oldest and married children, aunts Er and San decided to split the family duties: Aunt Er took Mom and her little half-brother uncle Shan to Guilin, one of the 4 cities in Guangxi province.  Uncle E was starting new projects of constructing China Southeast Railway Network there. Aunt San and uncle Playboy took stepGrandma, aunt Jun, and aunt Dai to Guiyang, the capital city of Guizhou (Edit: Aunt Jun said she joined them only briefly after she failed to pass the examination to the best girl's high school in Hunan.  She in fact stayed in Mom's place in Quanzhou, a small city close to Guilin for a month.  She had fun with Mom who suggested her to stay with her so that she could continue to finish her high school education.  But Mom's stepmother/aunt Jun's mother wanted aunt Jun to join her in Guiyang.)

So in early 50s, Mom’s family split into two subfamilies: one headed by Aunt Er and her husband Uncle E in Guilin, and the other headed by Aunt San and uncle playboy in Guiyang.

Cities like Quanzhou/Guilin and Guiyang at that time were much less desirable than today.  Since Guangxi and Guizhou were two of the least-developed provinces in the southeast of China.  Guilin was the city of the choice because it was where uncle E's worked for his next railway project whereas Guiyang had Mom’s extended family (Edit: Aunt Jun said that their cousin Uncle Sun, the son of Mom's Aunt, Grandpa's sister who raised Mom, worked there as the head of the banks.)

Soon after the split/moving away from her hometown, Mom got a job as a secretory for her Unit (Danwei, 单位) leaders.  And shortly after that, aunt Er's family and uncle Shan moved once again to relocate to Beijing, the capital city of country.  Uncle E had become a chief engineer there (according to Aunt Jun, but later they moved again to Xi'an).  Mom was left alone in Guilin and she stayed far away from her big family ever since.

In 1949, China just experienced long-lasting wars and the economy was still in a terrible shape: food supply was limited and hungry kids were everywhere countrywide.  Following that, Mao and his CCP did several crazy things, such as Great Leap Forward (Da Yuejin, 大跃进) in late 1957/ early 1958 that destroyed all kinds of metals including cooking wares that each household owned, the Anti-Rightist Movement (反右派运动) that took uncle Playboy's job in 1959, on the top of the Land Reform that took away Grandpa's power in 1950, all of which severely weakened the already fragile China economy.  Therefore, like many starving children born between 1950 and 1960 in China, Mom’s family in Guiyang suffered greatly from both starvation and lost social status (now you know why your parents ask you to finish your plate, there are starving children in China.  For the life of me, I cannot understand why anyone should enjoy food fight in this world).

After moving the Guiyang, stepMom was still in power within the family, even when she was living on the income of Uncle Playboy and Aunt San. Until today, I still hear stories from Guiyang's cousins about how selfish the stepGrandma was: since she only cared about Aunts Jun and Dai, but neglected the other 5 other small grand children (Edit: Aunt Jun said this part of the story could not be true, since her mother was the kindest human being of the world who would not do anything selfish things. She said she was attentive to all kids equally. I have to admit that I have never confirmed this with Aunt San and this part of story was told her youngest two girls, who could have been too young to really know anything at all. However, Aunt Jun was not in Guiyang living with her Mom in the beginning years so she could not know the real situation either herself.)

It is not clear to me when and how stepGrandma died, maybe early 60s. The family in Guiyang had not split further. Aunt Jun was encouraged to find a job and she was able to acquire one successfully in a postoffice.  She even was sent by her unit to study in Chongqing Institute of Posts and Telecommunications.  Aunt Dai finished her high school education and left the family when she went to a medical school in Zunyi, a key medical college in Guizhou.

Uncle Playboy and aunt San had hard time to raise a big family which expanded from 6 to 10 members from 1949 to 1958.  At the first few years following the family split, both of the heads of the household had jobs: uncle Playboy was a clerk/manager in a post office and aunt San worked in a department store.  Uncle Playboy also acted in various occasions, although I am not sure whether his acting career generated any additional income to help the family out or it was just one of his many hobbies.  The limited income of the family would need not only to support the 5 youngsters, but also stepGrandma, Aunts Jun and Dai, Mom's 2 younger half sisters, who were in colleges at the time.  The hardship of Mom's family in Guiyang did not end until sometime between late 70s and early 80s after Mao died and uncle Playboy got his job back, not in post office anymore.  He was finally discovered by the government after Mao's era as an valuable intellectual and politician in his late 50s. He worked in Workers Culture Palace in Guiyang for years until his retirement in early 90s.

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