Peasant Autonomy
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Story 126

Gaomi District, Shandong Province, China – 1967 (1)

Aunty is a goddess

for bigger picture click on this photo

(Photo: 周 浩)

Shandong Province, China.

When Trotty Wan was ten years old, his father Liufu Wan had told him the story of Aunt Heart Wan. “When you were born, Gugu (aunty) had just arrived in our district. She was a new style midwife; she had received a real education. It was 1953, only a few years after the revolution. At the time, most women in our village didn't trust her. They preferred the old midwives. But Heart Wan, your Gugu was my brother's daughter, so we asked her to help with your delivery.”
Once Gugu had successfully delivered a few children under difficult circumstances, the villagers began to gain confidence in her ability. According to Liufu Wan, “Some traditional midwives were very capable and careful, but others didn't have any idea about the female body. They performed the strangest rituals and pulled the babies forcefully out at the wrong moment. Their incompetence cost the lives of many little ones and their mothers.”

Because of Heart Wan's unrestrained energy and her unbridled commitment, wonderful stories soon started circulating. For example, some told how fast she could cycle describing it as if she had wings. Because Heart Wan knew how to put the new mothers at ease, the births almost always went well. In return, she only asked for a tiny consideration. In no time, the villagers worshipped her. Everyone called her 'Gugu' whether they were family or not. She earned the status of a bodhisattva, a goddess.

for bigger picture click on this photo

(Photo: Mike Dong)

Shandong Province, China.

At the time of the Cultural Revolution, Trotty was fourteen years old. The District Revolutionary Committee convened a 'struggle meeting'. Thousands of villagers came to watch the spectacle. From many surrounding villages, 'counter- revolutionaries' or 'capitalists' were summoned and brought to the stage. Red flags waved, banners with slogans hung, and rallying-cries echoed from loudspeakers.

Gugu was one of the 'culprits' because she’d had a relationship with a jet-fighter pilot who had joined the Nationalists in Taiwan. All 'counter-revolutionaries' bowed deeply in the dust, apologized, and confessed to anything of which they were accused. But not Gugu! Although she was forced to sit on her knees, she didn't bow. Every time that she was thumped on the back and pressed to the ground, she came up proudly. She confessed to nothing. But when a Red Guard, still only a girl, put a tattered shoe with a rope around her neck, she ripped it off and threw it to the ground. She could bear being called a 'spy', a 'counter-revolutionary', a 'capitalist' or a 'bourgeois', but denouncing her as a 'tattered shoe', a whore, was too much for her.
The Red Guard tried to pull Gugu to her knees by her hair, but Gugu shook her head with such anger that the girl fell backwards leaving two bunches of hair in her hands. Gugu’s head began to bleed, and blood spilled down her face. The Red Guard left the stage in tears. Dead silence overcame the crowd. To bring back the mood, the Chairman of the Revolutionary Committee began shouting the slogans again, but the crowd barely reacted. One by one, the villagers stood up and walked away silently.


The novel Frog (2009) is written by the Chinese writer Mo Yan who tells about the peasants resisting the birth control policy of the Chinese government. The second part of the book shows how easily the new rich in the 1990s could circumvent the rules.

Go to:
= part 2:
First a goddess, now a demon - Gaomi District, Shandong Province, China – 1970 (2), story 128.
= the next page:
The secret agreement - a village in Western Africa – 1968, story 127.
= the Table of contents, story 126.