您的浏览器不支持FLASH,无法播放语音,请点此下载并安装FLASH PLAYER


Lesson 23

                                       All For a Son

                                            Text A

    The desire for a son and heir is common to all mankind. In our country, especially, to have as many male descendents as possible has always been regarded as the greatest blessing in life. The failure to produce a male heir was considered the most unfilial of all unfilial crimes. A man was justified to cast away his wife and take another if she failed to bear him a son. For the rich, the problem could be solved by taking a concubine or several concubines.

    All traditional ideas die hard. The desire for ason is as strong as ever, and the problem has been aggravated by our onechild family planning policy. Hence the numerous tragedies and comedies we hear and read so often. There are fathers who drop down in a faint when they hear their wives have given birth to daughters. There are "guerrilla" couples who roam from place to place dodging family planning officials to give one birth after another until they finally have a son. 

But more often we hear of tragedies of wives being ill treated by their husbands and by their parents-in-law because they failed to give birth to sons. Recently I saw a photograph in Yangcheng Evening showing a woman with a baby in her arms appealing to passers-by in the street. The caption says she is telling people of her plight of being thrown out into the street with her baby girl by her husband'sfamily, all because she has given birth to a daughter instead of a son. I remember some time ago reading about a man pushing his three-year-old daughter down a well.

 Fortunately the girl was saved by someone who happaned to pass by. The man only got a year and a half imprisonment for attempted murder. To my mind , he was just as guilty as if the girl had really drowned.
    By comparison, the story of Zhou Chenghu, an ordinary farmer of Changning County in Sichuan Province arouses more ridicule than indignation.

    Zhou's parents had died when he was still young, and he was the only son to carry on the family line. He had married early when he was only twenty. The first child was a girl, so he tried again, and the second child born the following year was also a girl. Zhou was vexed but still not unduly worried, but when the third birth turned out to be a girl too, he could sit tight no more. He began to consult doctors, quacks, witches, and fortune-tellers. 

One geomancer told him that his ancestral graves were wrongly located, so he dug up his mother's grave and had her remains reburied. But that didn't seem to help him as he had a fourth daughter. Now really desperate he disturbed the dead again and had his father reburied this time. But it seemed nothing could help, for the fifth was still a daughter. In the meantime he had incurred upon himself heavy fines for violating family planning laws. 

Another geomancer told him that the gods would help him if he had a temple archway built. What would he not do as long as he could get a son? So no expenses were spared and he did as the geomancer told him. But the gods remained unmoved and gave him another girl. As the newborn baby uttered her first cry upon entering this world, her father began to wail most miserably.

    He was now a bitterly disappointed and broken man. He became a heavy drinker. He habitually beat up his wife and daughters for no reasons at all. He had nothing to live for. He felt he could not look people in the face because he had no son. When the whole village had electric lights installed, he had to go without because he had no rnoney. In fact, his debts ran to four figures and he could see no way of repaying them.

    Then one day early this year, after loading himself heavy with drink, Zhou Chenghu ended his own miserable life at the age of forty. Perhaps he was not as guilty as the man who tried to drown his own daughter, but to leave his wife and six daughters to fend for themselves, though no crime was certainly not excusable. And all because he had no son!

                                             Text B

    After ignoring family planning policies and siring three girls Zhang, who lives in a village in Henan Province, finally got the son he was waiting for this year.
    Despite the heavy fines exacted for breaking the regulations on family planning, Zhang was overjoyed.
    The honest and simple peasant does not hesitate when asked why he so much desired a son. "Why? Who'll support me when I get old?"

    Actually there are some homes for old folks in the village and nearby. But though he supposes they live well there, Zhang still does not believe the old folks are happy.
    "It's just so-so there. Wlio knows what it'll be like over there when I get old. It's better to have a son," Zhang said.
    And a son-in-law cannot be depended on to support him, says Zhang.

    A son-in-law who lives with his wife's family is looked down on by the community. He cannot be expected to replace a naturalson.
    A family nearby ha's four sons. Life became very hard when the two older sons got married. However., the third son says he would rather be a bachelor for life than risk having to take in some day his wife's aged parents.

    As China's family planning programme enters the 1990s, traditional ideas on family life are posing the major barriers to limiting China's population.
    These ideas have formed over thousands of years.
    The concept of "more sons, more happiness" still exists in some rural areas , especially in poor and remote ones.
    For some families, the presence of several sons gives parents a feeling of protection. Families with no boys , or few boys, may feel intimidated by families with many sons.

    Another problem the country must face is early marriages. A survey in a town in Zhecheng County shows young people marrying earlier than the law prescribes.
    Some are engaged by the age of 15. Parents dream of grandchildren,
and sometimes they encourage early marriages, ignoring the government's call for "marriage at mature ages ".
    Changing these ideas is hard as tens of millions of peasants are illiterate.

                                Additional Information

    Wang is a school teacher in Shimen in east Sichuan. At 36 he was still a lonely bachelor and was likely to remain one until one day towards the end of 1988 he happened to read in the matrimonial column of a magazine an advertisement which read; Yang, a woman of 31 who is a family planning officer in a certain township in south Sichuan, seeks a reliable and understanding man for a spouse having been disappointed in her first love affair by the man she has lost her heart to . . . '

    Somehow this advertisement appealed to Wang greatly. After much thought he plucked up his courage and wrote to this woman Yang. It was first love letter he had written in his life. To his surprise and great joy he got a very warm response. Things went so smoothly in fact that very soon the woman appeared before him in flesh and blood, with a divorce certificate in her 6and to prove that she was a free woman and was sincere in .

 her desire to marry him. Wang could hardly believe in his own luck, and so with great haste he said good-bye to his bachelor life. On the wedding night , however, he got a great shock when he discovered that his bride was already three months pregnant. But he was a reasonable man, and instead of blaming her he did his best to console her, assuring her that nothing could alter his love for her.

    And he was as good as his words , so the newly-wed couple lived in harmony and bliss until half a year later when Yang gave birth to a lovely plump son. Wang cared for the mother and child as if he was the real father.
    Then on the day of the full month of the baby, Wang came home from school to find that his wife had prepared a small feast.Overjoyed and teuched by this show of affection,he nevertheless admonished her for overtiring herself while secretly congratulating himself for having found such a considerate and loving wife.

    Then, before he had finished eating and with the wine still warm in his heart , Yang suddenly said to him : "Happily we got together, now let us gladly part!" Wang could hardly believe his ears. "Please don't talk such nonsense!"
    "I'm not talking nonsense. We have to divorce. To be quite honest, I don't find it easy leaving you like this, and I feel very sad having cheated you. You are a very good man. But I was a happily married woman with a lovely daughter. Our only regret was having no son. What were we to do? I couldn't very well give a second birth, especially as I am a family planning officer. 

So my husband and I worked out this plan ...We agreed to divorce temporarily after having made sure I was prcgnant again. I had secretly gone to see a doctor and he had given me hope that it was likely going to be a boy, and so we went ahead with our plan. After I put out fhe advertisement, I got many offers We picked on you for two reasons. First, you are a teacher and therefore are likely to be a reasonable man and would not make things difficult for me. Secondly, you are no longer so young and would not be too choosy and therefore would readily take me ... Now you know all. Say whatever you like. Curse me, call me names ... All I ask is that you forgive me and let me go back to my former husband."

    Wang was dumb-founded. In vain he tried to plead and remonstrate, and begged her to stay. But Yang was adamant. "I still love my former husband.
Our divorce was not for real in the first place. If you don't let me go. you can only keep my body, but you can't keep my heart. I had madeit clear in my advertisement that I had lost my heart to my first love!"

    In the end the good, honest Wang had to agree to divorce hcr and let her go. Left alone again, Wang thought not only of the injury done to himself,but the deceit and trickery on the part of the couple to dodge the law, and the woman was supposed to be some sort of officer of the law too. Could such a monstrous thing be allowed? Was the force of feudal ideas so much stronger than the force of law?
    We may well ask the same questions.