Xie Lihua, ed. Zhongguo nongcun funü qinggan zishu (Rural Chinese Women Reporting on their Emotions). Guiyang: Guizhou renmin chubanshe, 2000. 213pp. ISBN 7 – 221 – 05115 – 1 (paperback).

 

This publication compiles letters which rural women from all over China but mainly from the inland provinces, over a time of two years wrote to the magazine Nongjianü baishitong (Rural Women Knowing All) narrating their life experiences. The publication never explains which guidelines or themes were suggested for the letters but only mentions that women wrote for different reasons such as taking the opportunity to express long-repressed feelings or hoping to find a solution for a difficult problem.

In the eyes of the deputy editor, Song Meiya, who wrote the foreword this collection is situated at the interface between women’s problems und rural problems. She claims that its particular value lies in it being a first-hand report reflecting voices that are hardly ever heard. By publishing this collection the chief editor and the Rural Women Knowing All magazine respectively want to allow more people to gain a deeper understanding of the circumstances surrounding rural life for women to win the readers support and sympathy for these women.

The journal Nongjianü baishitong is published monthly under the auspices of Zhonguo funübao (Chinese Women’s News) and the All-China Women’s Federation. Since its initiation in 1993 Nongjianü baishitong has shown great concern for rural women, with nearly every issue of the journal running letters and articles devoted to a range of aspects of their lives. The journal’s editorial office also launches a variety of projects to support rural women for which it receives financial help from outside organizations in China and overseas including the Ford Foundation, The Global Fund for Women and Oxfam. The journal’s chief editor, Xie Lihua, has received national and international awards for her work with rural women.

The book is divided into two parts – the first one about the difficulties and problems in women’s lives related to women’s growing up, marriage and divorce; the second one about ways women tried to exert themselves to make their lives more positive. Altogether the book contains nine chapters; each chapter contains about nine different letters and starts with a short introduction written by the Guizhou Daily’s (Guizhou ribao) reporter Zhang Youqi. In the first part, women talk about the following subjects: the disadvantages and difficult fate of growing up as a girl and the hard lot of their mothers; in most of the cases, their unfulfilled hopes and dreams for education, for individual freedom within marriage, and of a loving and friendly family; themselves or their husbands falling in love with a third person after marriage; and their difficulties after a divorce. In the chapters of the second part women speak about their painful search for a meaningful and less difficult life in the countryside; about their experiences as working sisters (dagong mei) in the cities; and the success they achieved.    

On the whole, this easy-to-read collection constitutes a useful source of information for scholars who do research on rural women and wish to complement it with voices of those women themselves.

 

(Carola Krüger, Berlin)