Cheng Qianzhen is the daughter of a soldier who sacrificed his life during the revolution in 1949, before the People's Republic of China was founded on October 1 that year. Now 75, Cheng looks energetic. She urges her relatives to inherit the moral virtues passed from previous generations of her family, especially the virtues passed down from her father, Cheng Fakui. Cheng Qianzhen's family lives a thrifty life. Her relatives do their best to support the construction of their hometown, a small village in the mountainous region in North China's Hebei Province.
Donglukai is a small village in the mountainous region north of Cixian, a county in Handan, in southern Hebei Province. Cheng Qianzhen was born in the village in 1941. Her father, Cheng Fakui, joined the Communist Party of China (CPC) when he was 17. He died in a battle in 1949.
"I was 8 when my father died. My family received a certificate, which nominated my father as a revolutionary martyr. That certificate contained the signature of Chairman Mao Zedong. At that time, my mother was ill in bed. My brother, Qianhai, was only 6. My grandfather cried. He couldn't imagine how we were going to live without my father. But I told my grandfather that I would shoulder the responsibility and take care of my family." Cheng Qianzhen has lived up to those words for six decades.
When she was a little girl, Cheng got up at 5 a.m. every day. She lit a fire and cooked breakfast for her mother and brother. "One day, after I put some rice into the wok, I suddenly realized I hadn't stored enough water in the vat … Besides cooking breakfast, I needed water to wash my mother and brother's clothes. So, I rushed to the well near our home to fetch water. After I returned home, I found the rice had overcooked … I tried to remove the wok immediately from the fire. The wok was too heavy. I failed to hold the wok steadily, so it fell onto the ground. My arms were scalded by the boiling water and the rice spilled from the wok," Cheng recalls.
During her childhood, whenever she felt that life was too hard, and whenever she did not know how to hold on and support her family, she would take out her father's martyr's certificate. She remembered that her father had told her to be a person who was brave enough to shoulder her responsibilities, and to support her family and her motherland.
Cheng often studied late at night. In 1959, she passed the exams to enter Handan Normal School. After she graduated, she was offered a teaching position at a middle school in Cixian. However, Cheng turned down that offer because she wanted to teach children in her hometown, so she could be close to and look after her family. "I am grateful that my husband, Dong Wenliang, who is from a village near my hometown, also helps take care of my family members," Cheng says.
Cheng and Dong have two sons. Cheng sometimes shows her father's martyr's certificate to her sons. She tells them it is important to love their country, and their family. "Both of my sons have seen that I have dedicated myself to teaching rural children in my hometown. They have done their best to support our family. My oldest son works at a bicycle plant. My younger son serves in the army," she says.
Cheng not only cares about her family, but she hopes her "bigger family" — the people in her hometown — will live happy lives. She retired from the school, in Donglukai Village, in 2000. That year, she was named secretary of the village's CPC committee. When Cheng assumed her post, the roads that connected Donglukai with nearby villages were not paved well.
Also, the village committee did not have an office. To solve such problems, Cheng renovated a room in her house, so the village committee's members could have an office. She discussed with the members how they could pave the roads. She donated 90,000 yuan (US $13,846, her family had saved the money to build a new house), and she borrowed a combined 30,000 yuan (US $4,615) from her former colleagues. The money was used to pave the roads. To date, Cheng and other village committee members have donated the money to pave a combined 3,500 meters of roads. They have also used the money to repair drains and install streetlights.
Cheng and Dong have established a troupe in the village. They sometimes rehearse traditional operas with other villagers. Cheng invites children to her home, and she teaches them craft-making skills, such as paper-cutting and embroidering.
"I think it's my duty to help villagers cope with various difficulties in their lives. I often say to my fellow villagers 'if a large river gets drained, there won't be any water (flowing into) those small, tributary rivers.' So, we cannot care only about our own families, we have to think about each other, and we must help take care of our 'bigger family' together," Cheng says.
Family culture has long been rooted in traditional Chinese culture. Family helps form the foundation that supports each person's life, and which helps each person as he/she develops as a person. Each family is regarded as a cell of society. The level of harmony in a family affects the development of civilization, and the stability and harmony of society.
In response to the "Looking For The Most Beautiful Families" campaign, initiated by the All-China Women's Federation (ACWF) in February 2014, Women of China English Monthly has published articles, since the March 2014 edition, to share families' stories about their happy and harmonious lives, and about their family traditions and virtues.
(Executive Editor: YE SHAN, Women of China English Monthly September 2016 Issue)
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