Ken, Ellen and Bei in China

Ken, Ellen and Bei spent a year in Lijiang, Yunnan teaching English. This is a place where we kept in touch with everyone while we were away. If you'd like to comment we'd love to hear from you on e-mail. Send to You can view more photos on Flickr at

Location: Laramie, Wyoming, United States

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Adoption Issues: One-child Policy, etc. (Text only)

I recently asked my writing students to produce short “memoirs” describing things in their lives that were important to them. Many of the resulting essays were overdramatic accounts of boyfriends, girlfriends or middle school teachers, but a few were considerably more substantial. I’ll share a few of them here without much interpretation since I think they speak for themselves. These essays mostly address the impact of the one-child policy in China though one (The Apple Tree) captures a sense of the loneliness of growing up away from one’s parents as many kids do in China. Out of a probably unnecessary sense of caution, I won’t provide the student’s names with these essays, since some of the opinions are critical of the one-child policy.

Born in 1983

If my parents didn’t tell me these things which I will never know, just like these stories I will tell you. Then you can know how hard life my parents lived through caused by me at that time.

It was 1983, a tough time in China’s history. At that time Chinese government called for One-child policy and punished the people who didn’t obey family planning. By my parents touched “the tiger’s ass.” When my elder sister was two years old, I, as the second child in my family, was born in 1983.

One month before I was born, my mother hided in home and never went out for avoiding being found by government. One month after I was born, my mother hided in a big mountain, being looked after by my aunt. The food was provided by my relatives. Being lack of sunshine and nutrition, my mother was very weak and I was valetudinarian [a person overly concerned about their health] boy when I was born.

Fire can’t be kept in paper, this is the reason why my mother hided in the mountain. At the same time, my father had been jailed in a small house. He even had been suspended on a tree for the cannot afford 700 yuan [fine]. One month later, my Grandpapa gave the money which he collected from everywhere to the government and my father was released. When my Grandpapa went to see my father in the house with a steamed bread, but he found that the house was empty – my father went to see his wife and one-month-old son immediately! 700 yuan equaled to my whole family’s one year’s income at that time!

At the same year, another child who was the second child in his family was born. His father handed out 700 yuan at once because my father was a living example. But the boy had a sonorous given name in my hometown – Seven Hundred (Qi Bai).

Birth Control

In the year I was five years old, my mother was pregnant. My Grandma told me I would have a brother or sister in the near future. On hearing that, how happy I was then. However I did not know it was against the One Child Policy. During I was looking forward to the baby’s coming, my mother was missing without letting me know why and where. I kept crying for the whole day and asked Grandma for Mum.

The next day, the local government came to my home and asked me where my Mum had gone. I was terribly afraid of them, because they all looked so fierce. In fact, they were appointed by the local government leaders as “dogs.” They shouted at my Grandma with eating the apples from the tree in our yard, and took our furniture away. I hated them, because they killed my loved dog which kept shouting towards them. Eventually, they put up a seal on our door in order to keep the family out. They fined my Dad 50,000 yuan. It was a large of money to our family then.

About one month later, my Grandma took me to the hospital to see my mother and baby brother. In the hospital, I saw two men waiting for their own baby’s coming. They were so anxious that they could not sit down but walking over and over again in the front of the delivery room. The nurse told a man of the two that he had got a baby daughter. The man was so sad and in total despair that he did not say anything but beating strongly on the wall with his fists. At this moment, the other man came to him and said, “Don’t be sad, brother, a daughter is as important as a son. Daughters are more lovely than sons.”

The nurse made a mistake, and the baby girl should be the other man’s. After he learnt the baby girl was his own, he looked as if he was crazy with the truth came like bolt out of the blue to him. “What went wrong? What did I did wrong? Why the God punishes me like this? It is my fifth daughter,” he cried. He forgot his words and did not say “a daughter is as a son” any longer.

Seeing this, I walked away with a smile.

In the adoption community we often speculate about birth mothers, but we seldom talk about birth fathers or birth siblings. The following story is an interesting one from the perspective of a sister to a boy that was given up (I’m not sure why the family gave up the elder boy and kept a younger girl).

Goodbye My Brother!

When I was in the junior school, a boy who elder than me often visited my home. At first I asked my parents who he was. My parents told me he was just our relative. But I thought our relationship were not easy day by day. Eventually, my father told me the whole story.

At a cold winter day, a beautiful boy was gives birth by my mother. When my parents saw this beautiful baby, they cried with happy tears. Then although our family were very poor at that time, they also led a happy life. But three years later, I was born. My appearance tousled my family’s peaceful life. Because of my appear, the responsibility of my family became bigger and bigger. My father told me that there was a little food to eat at that time and my older brother often didn’t eat full for me. But sometimes when my parents went out for work, my older brother took care of me carefully, although he was three years older than me. As time went by, we brought many troubles to our parents. But they did everything for us with no word.

But one day, a couple went to our family. I didn’t know who they were. I just played with my brother. But my parents were wiping tears. A moment later, that couple when out with my brother. I saw my brother and my parents were crying. I didn’t know what has happened. So I cried loudly with them.

I forgot my older brother day by day for my young. But I know my parents often sobbing at night. Until he came to my home again, my parents told me this story. I asked my parents why did thy gave my brother to other people. They said sadly: “We have no condition to bring up two children, the couple couldn’t breeding, so...We are sorry to him, but we love you!” They burst into tears. Now my brother went to abroad with his parents. I think they must having a happy life. Maybe I couldn’t see him again, but I will always remember him and love him forever.

Goodbye, my brother!

An Apple Tree

When I was five years old, I lived together with my grandmother in the countryside because my parents’ work were very busy and they had no time to take care of me. I could remember that there was a big apple tree in her garden. I had a good time on this tree. So, this tree became my friend when I was a child.

The trees leaves was so much that they could help me to cover sunshine. When spring coming the bird song on the branch. In those days, I always wanted to catch a bird. I couldn’t catch them because when they saw me toward to them, they flied away quickly. The branch was so big that I could sleep on its. When I felt tired, I slept on this tree as my bed. I often saw some butterflies surrounding me. In my dream, I always became a beautiful butterfly to fly into the blue sky.

My Grandmother loved me very much. I took my whole days in this tree, and she also did her housework under this tree. She didn’t know why this tree attracted me so deeply and what did I do in this tree? She often asked me: “Do you eat in there?”

“Yes,” I answered.

Then, she got into home and gave food to me. So, I sat the branch to eat my lunch. I thought this tree maybe was my heaven...

Now, I was far from this tree and my Grandmother to enter University. Many times I dreamed I was on an apple tree and my Grandmother did her housework under the tree.


Blogger kittiya said...

thats such a sweet story. i stumbled across your blog just now searching for a place to stay in Lijiang this december - that is warm..and has heating!

1:51 AM  

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