Daughter of Good Fortune




Daughter of Good Fortune


The book records the life experience of Huiqin Chen, who was born in 1931 in a village in the Shanghai suburbs. This is how her life began:


“I was born in 1931 in Wangjialong, Wang Family Village. Mother said that after giving birth to me, she could not stop bleeding. A cushion filled with kitchen stove ash was placed under her to absorb the blood. The cushion had to be replaced every several hours. A traditional Chinese doctor was called in. The doctor said that he could prescribe a traditional Chinese medicine to stop the bleeding, but the medicine would prevent Mother from having any more babies.

My father was nineteen and Mother was twenty-one years old at the time. Despite the fact that I was a girl, Father decided to save Mother’s life and my grandmother agreed. Mother took the medicine. Her life was saved, but she never got pregnant again. “


Huiqin Chen did not receive any formal education and does not read or write. As the first surviving child, Shehong Chen listened to her mother’s (Huiqin Chen’s) stories and wrote the book on her behalf.

The book covers more than eighty years of a rural woman’s life, which parallels the ups and downs of modern Chinese history.


This is a photo of Huiqin Chen, taken in the 1950s.




Table of Contents


Preface and Acknowledgments by Shehong Chen                                                        ix


Introduction by Delia Davin                                                                                         3


 Chapter 1         Ancestral Home                                                                                 12


Chapter 2         War and Revolution                                                                            35


Chapter 3         Benefiting from the New Marriage Law                                               53


Chapter 4         Rushing into Collective Life                                                                 67


Chapter 5         The Great Leap Forward                                                                    88


Chapter 6         “No Time for Meals All Year Round”                                                 108


Chapter 7         Years of Ordeal                                                                                 129


Chapter 8         Reaching beyond Peasant Life                                                            151      


Chapter 9         Changes in the Family                                                                         173


Chapter 10       Farewell to Collective Life                                                                  198


Chapter 11       Rural Customs and Urban Life                                                            217


Chapter 12       A House-Purchasing Frenzy                                                               238


Chapter 13       Crossing Borders and Leaving the Ancestral Village                            258


Chapter 14       Between the Living and the Dead                                                       280


Chapter 15       All Our Children Are “Plump Seeds”                                                  297


Chapter 16       Return to Ancestral Land                                                                    320


Glossary                                                                                                                     333


Index                                                                                                                          339