(Codes have been used throughout these interviews to preserve the anonymity of the
GQ. Character Sketch……………………………………………………………………62
GQ. Preliminary Interview. Beijing. August 2001………………………………………63
GQ. In-depth Interview. Beijing. August 2001………………………………………….72
LW. Character Sketch……………………………………………………………………87
LW. Preliminary Interview. Shanghai: Fudan University. June. 2001…………………..88
LW. Follow-up In-depth Interview. Shanghai: Fudan University. November. 2001…..101
HC. Character Sketch…………………………………………………………………...122
HC. Preliminary Interview. Shanghai: Fudan University. June. 2001………………….123
HC. In-depth Interview. Guang Zhou. August. 2001…………………………………..131
SXB. Character Sketch…………………………………………………………………141
SXB. Preliminary Interview. Shanghai: Fudan University. June. 2001……………….142
SXB. In-depth Interview. Kunming region. July 2001…………………………………155
GQ Character Sketch
GQ is a first year student at Fudan Medical University, previously Shanghai
Medical. GQ had originally applied and was accepted to Shanghai Medical, but after a
merger agreement between the two schools GQ learned, much to her delight, that she was
to be a student of Fudan. GQ is a native of Beijing. Her parents moved to the city from a
rural area and part of GQ’s extended family still lives in the countryside, but GQ has
spent her life in the city. GQ has a twin sister, because she and her sister were born as
twins her parents were allowed to raise them both in exception to the one child policy.
Both GQ’s father and mother work in a city planning office, her father as an architect and
her mother in planning and development. In high school before coming to Fudan GQ
participated in a field trip-study program in development, during which time she had the
chance to travel to developing rural and urban areas in order to gain more perspective.
GQ’s interviews were conducted entirely in Mandarin Her interviews should be
viewed in the context of a foreign male student accompanied by a Chinese male student
interviewing a Chinese female student, all of relatively the same age.
GQ Preliminary Interview
GQ – I’m at Fudan Medical school, originally Shanghai Medical …
GQ – My name is GQ, my English name is GQ.
Q – Ok, where is your hometown?
GQ – My home is in Beijing. It is very big and the culture is very deep. Historically it’s
where the Emperors lived and they made it the capital. You can see a lot of ancient
buildings [here], like this one. For example, the Forbidden City, and the Summer Palace.
Also there are a lot of unique characteristics and there are a lot of gardens, big ones like
the Qing ones. I find those things interesting, so I like them a lot.
Q – What’s your favorite aspect?
GQ – My favorite aspect, is that aspect [pause] hmm, what is my favorite aspect [pause]
Beijing people are very straightforward. Beijing people have a big air about them. I think
that maybe it has to do with the environment they live in, something to do with history
and culture that has caused that particular Beijing character.
Q – Could you talk about your family?
GQ – My family? [pause] My family has four people, my dad, my mom, my sister, and
me. We [she and her sister] grew up together since we were small and our relationship is
very good and we are twins. My mother does design and building planning and my father
does architecture. My father is very happy and we have a lot of relatives that often come
over, so it’s pretty lively.
Q – You have a twin that’s quite unique, could you talk a little about that? That isn’t like
GQ – There [really] isn’t such a big difference. It’s just that when we were young and
would hold hands a lot of people would come over to see us for a sec. I think it’s very
interesting to have a person accompanying you when you’re young. You know China has
the one child policy. Every family can only have one child and so little kids are a little
lonely, but I had a sister. There were two of us, so we were pretty happy together and
there was no lonely feeling.
Q – What work unit are your parents at?
GQ – They are both at a planning and construction department.
Q – What feeling do you have towards Shanghai?
GQ – Shanghai? [pause] There is a big difference between here [Beijing] and Shanghai.
Shanghai is more modern, more open, and people’s thought there is more liberal, more
liberal than Beijing. Also, there is more business there. Beijing has a thicker culture. I
think Shanghai is pretty good, otherwise why would I got to school there? There is just a
Q – Could you talk about the difference in thought between Shanghai and Beijing?
GQ – Difference in thought? Hmm [pause] I think if you want to talk about differences,
they [the people] are all Chinese so there is no big difference. Maybe it’s thought that
Shanghai people are more sensitive towards business, while Beijing people are more
indifferent about it, but now things are slowly developing. So, Beijing people are starting
to develop interest in this [business] because the times are different. So, Beijing people
are starting to emphasize this aspect, but Shanghai people are feverish about it. Aside
from that, I still don’t think there is much difference.
Q – You just said that Shanghai is quite modern, could you talk about what modern
GQ – Modern? [pause] The meaning of modern means that it doesn’t have as many older
buildings as Beijing, because Shanghai is developing faster and accepting more western
things and so a lot of its older buildings have been destroyed and everything is new. Not
like Beijing, which has more older buildings that it has preserved.
Q – Could you describe your life in high school?
GQ – High school life? High school was at Beijing science and technology university
high school It was a good high school. A fairly good school and the teachers were all
pretty good. I think that High School was my happiest three years. I had a lot of friends
and I attended this thing where everyone went to some poorer areas in order to
understand and investigate what was going on there. Then also [we went] to some faster
developing areas to see what was going on there and see the experience of development
and understand the situation [there.] I think that during that time I felt very alive
understanding a lot of things. Also, in high school we had a foreign teacher and we all
talked a lot and learned a lot in high school.
Q – Could you talk about some of the places you went?
GQ – Slightly poorer areas, umm, [pause] some places close to Beijing, because there are
a lot of mountainous areas around Beijing and so the transportation and interaction with
places [located] outside of them isn’t so good. Their [rate of] development is slower [than
Beijing.] They need someone to bring forth new ideas, for someone to use thought to
overcome the conflict in ways of thinking, so that they can develop.
Like for example, Beijing has a very famous construction team called Hanzonghe
construction team. It was originally just a very small village, but they wanted to change
their life and so someone guided them towards forming a construction team. Because
they put forth a lot of effort in what they did, they made their village develop, so now it’s
really cool and they even made a school in their village. So, right now Beijing people and
Chinese people all have the idea that if we want to develop we must bring forth a new
way of thinking, act on it, and then we can develop. If China is going to develop now, it
needs to look at ways of thinking. Personally, this is what I think.
Q – I think this thing that you did is really interesting. What types of changes in your
world view did you have after you did this?
GQ – Umm, [pause] you can’t say there was a change. There were just some
improvements and coming to know some things deeper. A lot of learning through
personal experience. I think that if a person really wants to understand something then
they really have to understand it through their own personal experience and then they can
really understand it. Learning it from a book still isn’t enough. China has a saying that
says: “you need to read books and you need to walk on the road,” meaning that
experiencing more things is sometimes better than studying them from books
Q – Do you think you’ve changed after going to University?
GQ – I think there has been a change. Originally, since I was small, I was just at home
studying in Beijing and never going to such a far away place [as Shanghai] and always
just at home relying on my parents and such. Then, after going to Shanghai I felt I was
pretty independent. Some things I had to rely on myself for and the people I met were
also not the same [as in Beijing] and the culture was not the same. So, you could say that
I received a deeper understanding towards this world. Having a lot of things occur [in
your life] is also a type of learning through experience.
Q – For example, what aspects of cultural difference?
GQ – Didn’t I just say? It’s just that people because of different cultures [pause] different
people [pause] even though this is all China, China’s land is vast and the specifics are
different [from place to place] and the people are all different. So, there is a difference in
culture. America is also like this, isn’t it? So in fact, some Chinese people aren’t the same
and so it’s just experiencing more and understanding more. I’ve only been there
[Shanghai] a year, but I believe if I stay there longer then I will have a deeper impression.
Q – Can you speak Shanghainese?
GQ – No, I can’t really speak it, I can just say one phrase: “thank you,” I can’t really
speak it. I still need to study from my classmates.
Q – Could you describe the life of an average person in Shanghai?
GQ – An average person’s life in Shanghai? I think a Shanghainese person probably goes
to entertainment places more often. Maybe, they go more often than an average Beijing
person does. For example, if it was me, I can’t say for all Beijing people, but if it was just
me and I wanted some type of entertainment, I would probably go to some natural
environment. I would pick a good environment. I probably wouldn’t go to some karaoke
places and such. I’m not too willing to go to those [places], because I think that natural
things are better, but Shanghai people, I think for entertainment they would go to
specialized entertainment areas more. Maybe in Shanghai people’s lives there could be
more consumerism than people here. Maybe [pause] but I’m not too certain.
Q – What feeling do you have towards Shanghai people?
GQ – Shanghai people [pause] umm [pause] I think Shanghai people are very good. I
think everyone is [pause] For example, I have a lot of classmates in university that are
from Shanghai and everyone is very good. They are all pretty good students. If you want
to talk about differences, I still think the biggest difference is in thought. Definitely a
difference in expression, when speaking specifically [pause] it’s like they speak too
clearly. I just have that feeling, but actually, I quite like Shanghai people.
Moreover, to represent what some people have said, maybe some Beijing people
have a bias towards Shanghai, but I think that, after all, the generation is improving and
bringing a different type of thought. So, I think the view [of Beijing people] towards
Shanghai is still pretty good. I think everyone’s biases are slowly becoming less and less,
because the whole globe is unifying and China’s transportation is becoming more
convenient. They’re are starting to be more interactions between people and everyone’s
cultures are becoming more friendly and there is more culture. Also, as I said, Beijing is
paying more attention to business now and Shanghai is beginning to have more of a sense
Q - Why do you think previously or still even now, they have a bias?
GQ – You should know that Shanghai’s development is from business, but the
development in Beijing has been from relying upon politics. So, Shanghai relies upon
business. Business people generally give people the impression of being kind of slick,
and maybe that’s the bias. But I think this doesn’t have anything that’s bad [in it,] I think
it’s some thing needed.
Q – Do you think they [the two cities] are kind of rivals?
GQ – No, how could they be rivals? They are both in China and they are both developing
together. Beijing’s development has to do with Shanghai and Shanghai’s development
has to do with Beijing. If Shanghai wants to develop it needs Beijing’s government
polices and also, Beijing people really like to go to Shanghai to play. Shanghai people
also really like to come to Beijing. I don’t think any rivalry problem exists, just
Q – What type of plan do you have for after you graduate?
GQ –After I graduate [pause] umm, actually it’s hard to say now. I think that Shanghai
has a lot of development opportunities, but Beijing is also not bad. I haven’t decided yet,
I think both cities are quite good.
Q – Could you talk about some of your hobbies?
GQ – My hobbies? I have a lot of hobbies. Umm, [pause] generally I like to come to this
park and play. I used to come here a lot. It’s really close to my home. I started coming
here when I was small with friends and classmates. Now that I’m older, I still like to
come here and sit and draw pictures. Also, I really like exercise: basketball and running.
You can see I’m quite healthy, because I exercise often. I also really like to hang out with
friends, generally just going out with friends playing basketball, or hiking, because in
Beijing there are a lot of mountains. … Also, aside from that, I also like to go into the
city and listen to music and such, I think artistic activities are very interesting.
Q – What type of music do you like?
GQ – I pretty much like the more ancient type. The foreign stuff isn’t really appealing to
me, but I like the older smoother styles. I also like the newer stuff that uses the older
Q – What type of future do you hope for?
GQ – Umm, [pause] a beautiful future [pause] what future? [pause] Actually, me
personally, I don’t have high expectations on people. I just hope to be able to study well
and find a job. Actually, the job I would like the most would be one that would let me go
all around and see things. The type of job where I could [get to] understand different
places. But also, being a doctor [pause] being a doctor has been an ideal of mine since I
was small. I think the medical profession has very good results, but it’s very hard to do it.
Shanghai medical is quite a good school. So, now I think I should study hard and get
medicine studied well, but if I have the opportunity I would like to travel around, that
would be best. I think that a person should be happy and that a person should feel
substantial and do many different things.
Q – So why have you been interested in medicine since you were small?
GQ – Me? Umm [pause] our family has a lot of doctor friends and when we are all
together chatting, or if there is a sick person or something, it’s was like they could do
some [pause] some pretty mighty things and I think that’s a pretty good feeling. So, I
would like to have that type of feeling. I think helping people [pause] helping people
[pause] I think my own mood [pause] I think that [helping people] makes people feel
very comfortable. So I feel that living is for others, so I want to do for others to do for
Q – Could you describe your character?
GQ – I think my character is the type that is pretty open and clear. I really like to make
friends, and meet with different people and understand different things. I have a strong
curiosity and I think that my personal demands are also pretty high. Also, maybe my
character is just open and clear and extraverted. I think this kind of character is good and
appropriate for me. It’s not too good to explain a person’s own character, having
someone else do it might be better.
GQ In-depth Interview
GQ – Why do I want to study medicine? Hmm, speaking humbly, it’s because my
chemistry [scores] were good and I liked chemistry, and medicine and life. I think I’m
very interested in it. And I’ve always thought it was a profession that had high results.
Q – What time did you start wanting to study medicine?
GQ – Maybe in high school when I started to think about my future, around the time of
my university test when I started to think about what I was going to do.
Q – Did you talk to your parents about it?
GQ – Of course I talked about it with them. I didn’t just decide, it was with them.
Actually, I used to be very interested in architecture. My mother and father both studied
it. Otherwise, why would I study drawing so long? Later, maybe after weighing out the
situation, I went [forward] to study medicine and my sister went [forward] to study
construction. I think this is also good.
Q – Could you talk about how you and F met?
GQ – It was in High School, we were all classmates, and she was the group leader. We
spent a lot of time together. I think that we just got-along really well. So, our relationship
is a little bit special. I think it has to do with her character. She puts forth quite a calm
demeanor, but in actuality, she is very open inside. I put forth a very open demeanor,
while inside I am actually quite calm.
Q – Could you talk about what kind of a person your dad is?
GQ – Actually, when my classmates come over he seems very serious to them and he
doesn’t make any food or anything. But dad actually, in his heart, is very warm hearted
and his temper is very good. Since when I was small, our parents have never spanked us.
Our house is very harmonious, and maybe that has to do with my father’s temper.
My mom and dad actually both came from the country to the city. During their
time, a lot of people didn’t have the opportunity to go to school. But at that time, my
parents had a dream that they could go to school. At that time, the people’s thought was
very simple. They just wanted to study. My parents made it [to University] and also,
made it into a company and at that time [making it into] a company was outstanding.
So, now, my family is doing pretty good. I really admire them. They are already
about 50, but they are still studying new things about the industry. I think that’s not easy.
I think that if people want to have success in an industry they need to place constant
expectations on themselves and I think that my father is that type of person.
Q - Do you think your dad is different from your other classmates’ parents?
GQ – I don’t know if he is really so different than other people’s parents. I just know how
he is, because I’m with him. I don’t know about other people’s parents.
Q – Have you been to the countryside?
GQ – Actually, our old home, where my grandfather and my grandmother live is in a
pretty poor place in Hebei. They still plant [the soil] and such. The life there isn’t so
wealthy. Our home is actually, as far as city people are concerned, it’s kind of out on the
Q – What do you think the difference is between the country and the city?
GQ – I think that in whatever time, there is always a difference between the country and
the city. But I think now that China’s cities have constant improvements and that the
countryside is also changing. They are both changing and they are definitely different,
but I think that maybe it is getting better.
Q - So your grandmother still lives in the country?
GQ – Yes, but they’re a lot better off now than before. Now they’ve built a two-story
house and the whole family [in the area] lives there. During the New Year, all the
relatives come together there. I don’t know how you guys celebrate the New Year, but in
the north we always eat dumplings. Have you eaten dumplings? I think that the New Year
is really lively, because the whole family is together. My grandparents have eight
children, four boys and four girls, so it’s quite a large family.
Q – So how is your relationship with your grandparents?
GQ – The relationship? It’s pretty good [considering] they’re in a far away place. I mean
we don’t have a lot of opportunities to see each other, because I live in Beijing. But I
think everyone is still quite close. I know they are good towards me. I mean one time
when we celebrated the new year they came here [Beijing] and I was coming back from
Shanghai and they said I looked like I had been having a really hard time so they made
dumplings for me and cared for me. I was really moved.
Q – What kind of conception do you think home is?
GQ – What type of a conception is home? I don’t know how other people are, but to me,
I think that home is a very peaceful place and a very safe place. No matter what happens,
you can come home. I think that to me home is somewhat more important than friends
are. I think that maybe it’s just that way [with me.]
Q - Could you talk a little more about it, maybe give an example?
GQ –What to say [pause] umm. [pause] For example, if I have some type of trouble,
maybe I won’t tell my friends, but I’ll definitely tell my parents. It seems [to me] that for
most of my friends, whatever type of issue they have they will [always] tell their friends.
But, I talk with my family. Also, whatever type of issue I have, I prefer more often to
handle it with my family. Maybe it’s because I’m the type of person that is connected to
Q –Do you think your parents are able to understand your situation [in life?]
GQ – I think that for most things they are able to understand me. They have experienced
much more than I have and understand me a lot. Maybe some parents don’t do that.
Q – What kind of thoughts do you have about that, [parents that don’t understand?]
GQ – I think I’m very lucky. Very lucky to have that type of family and very lucky to
have the type of parents [that I do.] I think I’m very content with my lot [in life.]
Q – I meant towards parents, which can’t understand.
GQ – Oh, the type of family that doesn’t understand. [pause] I think that those types of
kids aren’t as lucky as me. Maybe they need to talk more with their friends. But I think
that maybe since they are all the same age, although they are more able to understand,
they’re not able to look at the problem with as much depth. Maybe they [friends] can’t
give you any special advice, maybe they are not as fortunate as I am, but I think they’re
I think we need parents that can understand their children more. I think that
would be better for them. I have a classmate whose parent’s don’t understand her. But, I
think that your parents understanding you is just one side. If you have some issue, you
need to tell them. I think that it’s alright, you need to have more interaction. My teachers
tell me that the two generations have a generation gap, but actually, I believe that this
generation gap doesn’t exist. But, if it does exist, if you can have more common ground
[with your parents], then it shouldn’t be a problem, that’s what I think.
Q – Could you talk about what type of person your mother is?
GQ – My mom? She’s from the country and since she was small she was in school there.
Of their whole village, she was the only one to go to university. My mother thinks a lot
about our family and what we need to do. She is often guiding us. The position she places
the family in is maybe more of a priority than [where] my father [places it.]
I think for my father, maybe work is more of a priority, but my mother also
works. I think that aspect [her work] is something very worthy of admiration. She just
passed the highest level of the work exam. She’s almost fifty and she can still study. I
think that has had an impact on my sister and me.
Q – Do your think your mother has high expectations on you and your sister?
GQ – She definitely has expectations, but all parents have expectations on their children.
But maybe their, [my parent’s,] expectations are pretty high, but they encourage me to
meet them if I am doing well. And, I think it is good for me, because it helps me to learn
more things. I think that parent’s expectations on their children are most basically that
they hope their children will do well in the future. I think in that, I quite understand them.
So, I think that having expectations is pretty good.
Q - Could you talk about the difference between your friends in high school and in
GQ – I think that in high school, since the age is quite young, I think that everyone was
quite pure. I think that there was a direct type of common ground between us. I think that
after going to university everyone was more grown up and maybe there was a little
estrangement. I think that friends in high school give you a closer feeling and also maybe
it’s just because we’ve [already] been together for three years and I’ve only been in
university for one year. This isn’t too easy to talk about.
Q – What type of conception do you think a friend is?
GQ – A friend is just that if when you need help they help you and when you are happy
you guys are happy together. And, when you are hurt they help you carry the burden. I
think that a friend is someone who progresses forward with you. A person commonly
advancing and retreating [with you]. That’s to say you understand them and they
understand you and you move forward together.
Q – What was up right after you went to university?
GQ – About after I went to university, [pause] to tell the truth, I felt very alone. Because,
after all, I left home and was living with unknown people, but after a year I think things
got better. I made a lot of new friends and I think everyone gets-along pretty well [now],
so I think it’s alright.
Q – What feeling do you have towards an independent life?
GQ – I think towards that type of life, perhaps there is more of a feeling of freedom, but
it’s lacking in the feeling of security. There just isn’t as much of a pleasant and agreeable
feeling as at home, but I think I should be able to adapt to it well.
Q – It seems you particularly like solitary forms of entertainment, for example, playing
guitar and drawing?
GQ – That’s because sometimes people need a little bit of their own space, to be in a
space with themselves. But, I think more often people need to be with friends and I like
that [too,] but sometimes I think I also like [to have] my own space and to do my own
Q – Why do you think people sometimes need their own time?
GQ – I think in that way you can have time to think and sometimes you don’t only need
to think. I think that sometimes if you play the guitar or draw it can help your mood. For
example, if you have something troubling you and you just play guitar or draw for a
while then maybe your mood will get calmer and more composed. I think those things
can bring peace to your mood. I think that people definitely need their own space. I think
you’re definitely like that.
Q – Do you think it’s easy to get your own space in China?
GQ – I don’t think that the problem is in easy or hard. The most important thing is just
whether you think about it. I think that if you think that you want to give yourself some
space, then I think you can do it. I don’t think that it’s a problem of easy or hard.
Q – What do you think is most able to be representative of a person?
GQ – I don’t think anything is most able to be representative of a person. I think that if
you look at people originally they are multi-dimensional things and that they have a lot of
different aspects. I think you need to pay attention to all aspects of a person.
Q – After you went to university, what type of conception did you have of your twin?
GQ – Actually, there were some aspects I wasn’t used to, because in China every family
has only one child and that child is very used to living alone. But, since we were always
together since we were small, I was very used to being together. I just felt like someone
should be with me. I think that I really had that feeling, that I should have someone with
me, but as people grow up, in the end, they have to become more independent.
But just starting out, I just felt that I wasn’t used to it. Having no one there with
you to help you and remind you about things. It’s not really possible to have that though.
You just feel that it’s a form of non-adjustment. I feel that it’s a process. I think that
maybe it’s process that people need growing up, but I think that maybe … didn’t have
this type of feeling, because he is an only child.
Q – Do you think now that your thinking is the same as your twin’s?
GQ – I think that everyone’s thinking has to be a little different. I think that we have
some areas where we differ, but I don’t think that this affects the emotion between us. I
think that I can understand some of the ways she thinks and she can accept some of mine
and that’s pretty good, after all. Although, we have differences.
Q – Where are the differences?
GQ – It’s not very easy for me to think of them. Maybe we don’t look at things the same
way on some specific issues, but basically, there’s no big differences. Because, we two
grew up together and I think that people develop thoughts through experiencing things
and the things we have experienced in our lives have been pretty much the same. It’s all
the same family, so I think there shouldn’t be too big of a difference in our thought.
Q – Could you tell me, in this world, how you think a person should be?
GQ – In this type of world? Umm, [pause] I think, [pause] umm, like in China, a
developing country, since it’s in the process of developing, it needs some people that
really have ability and are suitable and that can really do some things. So, if you want to
be able to adapt to this society then the most important thing is that you know something
and are really able to do some things. I think that if a person wants to succeed they need
to put expectations on themselves and to have confidence and an understanding of the
long run. And, not be that type that when if they are happy now, then they are happy, you
need will power.
I think that in that way, if you are like that, then maybe you can succeed. I think
that actually, I’m not really a person with a lot of talent. Maybe it’s because I like too
many things. Maybe I have too many interests and maybe sometimes I don’t have enough
willpower. My mother often says, that I should look at things more in the long run and
not just do something for just a while and then do something else. I think that I’m still
lacking a little in that aspect, but I still think that a person needs that type of willpower. I
should try harder to improve on that, but I think I’ve still [already] improved a little in
Q – What about other people?
GQ – Didn’t I just say? I don’t think it matters who it is, they need those things.
Otherwise, I think it would be quite hard.
Q – How is your relationship with your cousin?
GQ – The relationship is good. She lives in our house right now. She studied music in
university and now she wants to take another step forward with her life and is studying
English at the New Orient School. I think that they place a lot of expectations on
themselves and are trying to improve themselves, they are that type of people.
Q - How about your cousin’s husband?
GQ – I just think that he’s studying hard and putting forth a lot of effort. He wants to go
to England to get his MBA and he’s working hard. I think they are both putting forth a lot
Q – What thoughts do you have about his going to England?
GQ – In the end, I think that a person who just stays in China for their whole life is
experiencing too little. I think that if you have the opportunity to go abroad that you
should and that it’s good for you. Actually, if I have the opportunity to go abroad I think
that I would take it too. It would be good to go out and look around.
Q – Do you think Americans understand China?
GQ –I think that maybe, they don’t understand enough. I don’t think that they have any
particularly understanding. I’m just speaking blindly, but for example, I think that like
during the plane incident, you could see the difference between the countries. Maybe it’s
just that they don’t understand, because it’s two countries with different cultures,
languages, and ways of communicating, so it’s hard for them to understand each other.
So, I say that I think that for you guys to do this type of work is really useful to
help Americans understand Chinese. Also, I don’t think that it’s just Americans that don’t
understand enough about Chinese, but that Chinese also don’t understand enough about
Americans. I think that it’s mutual and if you want understanding that you need both
sides. So, I think that if I had the opportunity I would like to do something that would
help Chinese people understand American people better. I think this would be quite a
good thing to do.
Q – What do you think the difference is between being a man in China and being a
GQ – Differences, [pause] umm, men and women originally just have some differences,
but I think that like now in this society of human rights, I think that male and female
equality, [pause] I think to say that they both pretty much don’t have a lot of differences.
So, that’s saying that in China, men and women shouldn’t have such a big difference in
social status. I think that China is pretty good about this. I think that not only in China,
but in all countries, men and women have differences, but that for some things, maybe
men do them better and for some things, maybe women do them better. That doesn’t have
to do with differences in social status.
Q - What do you think the people of this generation are like?
GQ – I think that we of this generation, compared to my parents generation, have much
more, think much more liberally, and our perspective on things has changed a lot [from
their perspectives.] It’s always been open [for us], we have been accepting new ways of
thinking and that has improved our ability a lot. And, we can experience new ways of
thinking and new cultures easier [than them.]
It’s more open [now,] not like our parent’s generation which was more
conservative. Maybe they are more conservative [than us] and we are more open [than
them.] Also, the material needs of this generation are higher. I don’t really understand it
though, so it’s hard to explain.
Q - Why do you think you guys are open and they are more conservative?
GQ – Well after all, it’s the reform area. The reforms started in the ‘80s, and my parents
are from the ‘60s. After the reforms we were able to experience a lot more things.
Openness, I think that if a person wants to be open then that means that they’ve
experienced a lot. Maybe our parents, that generation, they were more closed off. Maybe
they experienced fewer things and maybe, thus, the things they know are fewer. I think
now that it’s open, people’s thought has also opened up, because now the society is
improving and science, art, and communication, are all developing very fast. So, I think
that people are receiving more information. So, of course, they understand and
comprehend more things and they have had large improvements in their ability to accept
things. I think that this all has to do with the differences in the times.
Q – Could you explain the reforms?
GQ – My understanding of the reforms is that they oppose the closing of my country. I
think that a country is like a person and that if it wants to develop itself it can’t just stay
stuffed up in a room. It needs to interact with things outside [itself] and then it can
improve itself. So, the reforms are a method for communicating with the outside. You
can say it was a type of role. It was a role [that we stepped into in order] to open the
communications [for the outside] with Chinese and to open our doors to let in the good
and useful things [from the outside.] Maybe [we let in] some not so good things, but you
can [chose to] accept the things that are useful and not accept what isn’t. I think that
every country, if they interact more in this way and find more of a common ground, they
can encourage global development and prosperity. I think that the opening [of China]
isn’t just beneficial to us, but that it is also beneficial to the countries that we are opening
Q – How about before [the reforms?]
GQ – Before, [pause] umm, [pause] because I’m from after the reforms, I don’t
understand that too much. Maybe it was just that you did your stuff and you didn’t study
others’ [stuff] and others didn’t study your [stuff]. Maybe it just wasn’t open and then
later, it was open. I don’t understand very much about before. Maybe if you asked my
mom she would understand it more.
Q - What type of conception do you have of your cousin and her husband?
GQ – Everyone [in the family] thinks that relatives should mutually take care of each
other and having them live here is quite natural. I feel that it’s what they should be doing.
Are you asking me what they are doing living here or how are they able to live here?
Q – I’m just asking how they ended up here.
GQ – My cousin’s husband works on the other side of Beijing. He has a dorm over there
but our home is closer to his work. I think that maybe he feels sometimes that his place is
too far or that it’s too late [at night,] and so he comes to our home. My cousin, she is just
going to school.
R – Could you talk about some of the problems you’ve faced [in your life?]
GQ – The problems I’ve faced? I think there have been quite a few. For example, when I
went to Shanghai I met a lot of problems. Some people that maybe didn’t understand me
[pause] I think the worst is having people not understand you and feeling like you can’t
talk to anyone. I think that although it is all still China, that because China is so big and
the distance is so far that the styles are different [in different places] and that maybe
people’s thought is different. And, [also] that everyone may have some different views.
But, I think that I should try to understand their views and to accept their views and not
judge them. Sometimes the things they say I have a hard time accepting and that causes
Q – I’m still a little unclear about the differences between Shanghai and Beijing ways of
thinking, could you explain it a little more?
GQ – I think that it’s like in America. It [America] is just so big that its east and its west
are different. Although it’s the same country the ways of thinking are different on each
coast. It’s a hard thing to explain clearly. Maybe it just expresses itself in some [certain]
things. I think that it’s like [this in] Shanghai, but this thing is in itself just an unclear
thing. I think that maybe the differences have to do with culture and some differences in
history. So, there is a difference in some things, but this difference is hard to explain.
Q – I’ve seen a difference, but I don’t know how to say it, could you talk about the
difference [that you’ve seen?]
GQ – What I’ve seen, umm, [pause] for example, you know “splitting the bill?” Well in
Beijing we are a little bit bigger about that. We like to have a feeling of friendship. So,
different people try to treat each other [to meals,] but in Shanghai people “split the bill” a
lot more often and to us this seems a little different. Although, Beijing is slowly adopting
this mannerism [of “splitting the bill,”] we still tend to like to treat each other [to meals]
And also, maybe we don’t pay attention to small change, but in Shanghai people
tend to pay attention to that. They think they have a right to have what is theirs, but
Beijing people are more likely to feel that we are all friends and our relationship is so
good that those little things don’t matter. But, you don’t want to say that Shanghi people
are wrong or incorrect, it’s just a difference in thought, just a difference in idea, maybe
it’s just like that.
Q – Your one friend that we interviewed. She’s in Shanghai. How is it having her there
GQ - I think the feeling is pretty good. We are able to chat with each other and be there
for each other. Perhaps there is a better feeling of safety with her there. I think maybe that
she also has this type of feeling. So, I think it’s probably a little better [with her there,]
better than being alone.
LW Character Sketch
LW is a first year student at Fudan University majoring in literature. She was born
in Ma An Shan and has members of her extended family living in Hefei. Her father is a
low-level official and her mother works in the town advisory office. During the time
between her preliminary and follow-up interviews LW took part in an internship were she
worked for the local police department and stayed with her relatives in Hefei. Among the
eight interviews provided in the appendix, LW’s follow-up interview is the most in-depth
and articulate as she expresses her changes in perspective since the time of her
LW’s interviews were conducted entirely in Mandarin. Her preliminary interview
should be viewed in the context of a foreign male student accompanied by a Chinese
male student interviewing a Chinese female student, all of relatively the same age. LW’s
follow-up interview should be viewed in the context of a male Chinese student
interviewing a female Chinese student in the presence of a foreign student, also all of the
relatively the same age.
LW Preliminary Interview
Q – What’s your name?
LW – LW.
Q – What school are you attending, what major?
LW – Right now? Now, I’m at Fudan university Chinese department, 1st year literature
Q – So where’s your hometown?
LW – Oh, AnHui province, MaAnShan municipality. It’s a foundation city, not very big
and the population probably is about 300,000.
R – Is it in the city or in the country?
LW – It’s a city, but it doesn’t count as such a big city as Shanghai. It’s a mid-level city
and it’s a steel and iron foundation [city.] It’s only in the past 50 years that the city has
been made and it’s one of the national iron and steel …
Q – Could you talk about what distinguishing features your hometown has?
LW – Didn’t I just say? It has some iron and steel, mainly it’s an iron and steel city, but
recently there has been some development in tourist industries. That’s to say that China
has a very famous man named Li Bai who spent time there, [most] importantly he fought
there. So, there are some sights concerning him like his tomb, cultural things, also during
the three states period there was a famous general named Zhang who has a tomb there.
So, the tourism has been developing. Then now, because iron and steel had a lot of
money before, but now maybe some of the development is of the business type, like that.
In the center of our town there is a lake and it’s a park, bigger than the parks here
in Shanghai, and it’s very pretty. The whole park is made with the lake as its center, it’s
very pretty. So, those are the biggest particular characteristics.
Q – In your hometown, is the environment more natural?
LW – Yes, the town is recognized as one of China’s … and not only that, I also think that
on the civilized aspect it achieved some [type of] award like this. And you can look at
some early pictures and see that there has always been a lot of trees. Because in the center
[of the town] there is a lake so that type of area has a lot of trees.
Q – In your hometown, what’s an average person’s life like? What type of particular
lifestyle does your town have?
LW – Let me think [pause] because our city is an immigrant city, originally it wasn’t
there, but then some “sent down youths” and those types came and occupied it. There
were particular large amounts of the “sent down youths” in Shanghai and everywhere had
a lot of “sent down youths.” So, in that area [the town] you can hear all kinds of dialects
and whatever different types/styles there are, that area should also have them all. And
northern and southern life styles are all there. But basically, the style of living should be
about the same as Shanghai, without much difference. But maybe in that area [the town]
you go to work a little earlier. In Shanghai, it’s around 9 a.m., but there it’s around 8 a.m.
and stores open at that time. And the stores close pretty early, around 7 or 8 p.m. Also,
some people exercise in the mornings, it’s basically like that.
R – Do you guys have any minorities?
LW – Minorities? It’s like, I think we have an Islamic temple, but I’ve never gone there.
We definitely have minorities, like the Huis and such, but they’ve already been Sino-ised.
That’s to say you can’t make out what special characteristics there are that makes them
minorities. They’ve been there for a long time, basically over 30 years we’ve had
minorities, lots of Huis, for example, I have this one Hui friend.
Q – How did you come to know a Hui friend?
LW – We went to school together. He’s a good friend of mine.
Q – But aren’t most people Han? How did you get to know him?
HW – Yes, he’s a Hui, but he doesn’t know their writing style, and his parents basically
don’t understand it either. Maybe earlier, their ancestors or their grandparents understood.
Maybe they go to do some traditional things or some Islamic things, but I think that they
don’t pay attention to the issue of eating, because my good friend eats pork.
Q - What about the attitude of the people in your town towards him?
LW – None. Because I think actually with people growing up happily together, nobody
cares what nationality you are.
Q – What was your life like before you went to university?
LW – Too simple, [pause] just getting up in the morning, eating and then going to class,
and then going to lunch at home and taking a nap. Then classes and then coming home. I
don’t have any impression of primary school and in high school, I was very busy. The 1st
year in High School we have military training, just the same as we do in university. Our
military training is putting up a tent in a military way and then staying there for 10 days
and doing some type military activities.
Then also during the senior year we have a ceremony in a big hall. Everyone who
is 18 years old attends and it is to represent that you have become an adult. It ought to be
a pretty traditional ceremony, it has a set date and such. My life there is pretty average,
just going to class and coming home and on the weekends maybe going out with some
friends to some book stores, because in that area there are some pretty good book stores
and we stay in them for a while. Also, maybe going out and walking around with my
Q – Do you have any particular traditions?
LW – Umm, during the New Year we go to my grandma’s house. Does that count as a
Q – Sure it counts.
LW – I remember at that time my grandma would wrap dumplings and when her health
was good she would make things [to eat], this stuff ought to count as traditional, but
actually my mom already doesn’t do this stuff [any more.]
Q - What’s the standard of living in your town?
LW – Standard of living? Looking on average at income [pause] hmm, the standard of
living definitely has a high and a low. The high level would be fairly high and then the
low level would be around a 300 to 400 yuan income. The high level would be having
your own house and car. For average people I think maybe it’s around 1,000 or so. In,
Shanghai that wouldn’t be too much, but it’s pretty good in my town, pretty comfortable.
You pretty much have the same things in homes in Shanghai as in my town. I’ve been to
some Shanghai homes and they’re all pretty similar. Maybe in Shanghai they have more
stuff and more of a selection. It [my town] won’t be the same as the world you often see,
that’s to say it will open your eyes. Our city, it’s not as developed as Shanghai, but we
still think it’s pretty comfortable. Several of my classmates and I often say that it’s a very
comfortable place to get old and retire. The environment is nice and very clean.
Q – Do you have any very, very rich people or very, very poor people?
LW – Yes, yes, definitely. Those with money are those who have started their own
businesses or have maybe came from outside to live. And then, we have people with
private villas and privately chauffeured cars. Then also, we have people that every month
only get [enough to sustain] their basic life. Also, I think the newspaper said, but I don’t
know if it’s true, that there was a kid that because his tuition was too high, because our
schools are self-pay and the tuition is really high. His parents would go out and often, on
the side of the street, you’ll see people selling things from a mat, that’s very common. So,
they went out to make some more money and get a little commission. Also, there are
people that come out to do special work for money, like fixing cars and electrical work
Q – Your tuition was self-pay?
LW – Yes.
Q - How about university?
LW – Oh, you mean did I pay it or did my parents pay it?
Q – Or was it publicly paid?
LW – Basically in China, Chinese students don’t have the ability to pay their own tuition.
Basically, it’s all paid for by their parents. About public payment, it’s said that the state
invests a lot in education and then when you go to pay you only have to pay part. Maybe
that’s really the case. For example, in the obligatory [education levels] from primary
through jr high. During those nine years the fee is very, very low. Maybe that’s what
people are talking about. You pay a little and the state pays a lot. I think that there has
been a lot of investment in education, but I don’t know if it’s self-pay, public-pay, or
Q - Where do your parents work?
LW – My dad works for the government and my mother works in an advisory office.
Q – What’s an advisory office?
LW – It’s just like schools or hospitals. Actually, I’m not too sure. It’s not the same as
the government, but it’s still working in the same system. Her job is fixed and ensured
and it deals with laws and with affairs of sanitation and of the environment. I’m not too
sure myself how to explain it, but if you look it up, you should be able to find it.
Q – You said your dad works in the government? Is he an official?
LW – He’s is a [pause] he’s an elementary official, but he doesn’t count as a very high
Q – In America if your parents are officials or police, people might have a different type
of attitude towards you, have you found this?
LW – Different attitudes? Maybe they are a little bit nicer to you, but then maybe a little
not so good. Just generally pretty nice when you see them and maybe if, for example, I do
well on a test they’ll tell my dad: “Oh, your daughter is really great!” and such. This is
very normal, well umm not umm [pause] basically it’s kind of like that.
Q – What are your high school friends that didn’t get into university doing now?
LW – You have some that are reviewing, [pause] my school was a track school. So,
basically everyone got in and those that didn’t get in are pretty much all reviewing. It’s
just like, basically no one has gone in any other direction. I’m not too clear about it,
because actually those who even did really poorly finally even got into a University to
study. Because my school has a 100% acceptance rate, 100% apply and 100% get
accepted. So, I don’t think we really have any [students] that don’t go to university,
because it’s a track school. I think they can all go.
Q – Do you have any friends that didn’t get into university or that aren’t reviewing?
LW – None, if they aren’t reviewing then they are in university.
Q – Ok, you and your friends from home who are at other Universities, are you still in
LW – Yes, we still maintain contact.
Q – How?
LW – Actually, now the most common thing is using the Internet. We all use the message
posts and then if somebody has a problem they can write about it and we can help them
and give them our suggestions. That is one method and then we also write letters, but
we’re pretty lazy so we don’t do that very much. And then also we use the telephone.
Then also, sometimes during the break or something your friends will come from their
University down to yours to play, and that counts as a method of keeping in contact.
Q – Have you done that?
LW – Yes, I’ve had friends come over. Last year a friend came over.
Q – Have you ever gone?
LW - Me? [pause] No, I haven’t. Previously I had a plan to go, but didn’t because I’m
too busy with my studies.
Q – Do you have a lot of people in your town that use the Internet?
LW – Yes, a lot of people have computers in their home and we have a lot of Internet
Q – What type of plan do you have for after you graduate?
LW – I haven’t thought about it. Really, I haven’t. Many people have their own ideals,
but me [pause] my ideals [pause] maybe I’ll test for graduate school and take another step
forward in my studies. Maybe I’ll test into another department, maybe physics or maybe
go abroad to study and then come back, like that.
Q – Where do you want to go [abroad]?
LW – Hmm, maybe Europe, England, or France those countries.
Q – Why do you want to go abroad?
LW – I just think that abroad you can study some things that are different than you can
study in the country, just to understand different nationality’s feelings about the Chinese
language and [understand] different cultures. It’s just like studying classical Chinese.
Actually, classical China had a very different culture and also coming back, [from
abroad] it might be easier to find a job.
Q – How’s the weather where you’re from
LW – The weather in my town? It’s a lot like Shanghai, but because Shanghai is nearer to
the ocean and our town isn’t, it’s a little different. In the winter it snows and in the
summer, because our town is next to Nanjing and Nanjing is one of China’s big furnaces,
that’s to say it’s very hot place, so our [town] is that way [hot.] Also [pause] spring and
fall [pause] pretty much the same [as Shanghai.] It’s just winter and summer that are the
most different from Shanghai. Also, sometimes people have allergies, [pause] the
summer can be very hot. [pause] Basically that’s it, but every winter it will definitely
snow. It’s not too thick, but it snows. We wear a little more clothes in the winter than
[people] in Shanghai
Q - So what’s your favorite aspect of your hometown?
LW - Natural or social aspect?
Q – Whichever.
LW – Then of course it’s my parents! My family is there so of course I like it there. Also,
I like the city’s atmosphere. It has a very young feeling and it’s very harmonious, not like
Shanghai with that feeling of having a lot temptations and having all types and all kinds
of complicated things. And there are fewer people there, and it gives a more comfortable
feeling. Also, my family is there, so I think it’s the world’s best city.
Q – Is your relationship with your parents good?
LW – Umm, incredibly, incredibly, incredibly, incredibly good.
Q – Yes? Could you talk about that?
LW – My relationship with my parents?
Q – Yes, because it’s not everyone who has a really good relationship with their parents.
LW – I think this aspect could have to do with character and with my family’s
environment. My parents are that type of [pause] when other people view us they feel that
my parents favor me greatly. But actually, my parent’s don’t really favor me. Actually, if
they see something they don’t agree with or if they feel I’ve done wrong, they will be
straightforward with me. But, from the time I entered jr high they have viewed me as an
adult and not a child. At that time, my dad told me that from then on whatever big things
our family faced, that we three would meet them together. That’s to say that it wouldn’t
just be my mother and he that would handle it, but that I could enter in and that I could
put forth my opinions and views.
Then basically, at the end of every semester when I get my grades we have a
meeting. And whether I have tested well or tested poorly you can’t tell. We have the style
of first talking about it a little and then eating and then talking some more. My dad isn’t
the kind to say, “Oh, you didn’t do well in this class this time, you have to achieve such
and such at the next term.” He just says that I should pay attention to my studies and asks
me about them, and tells me that I should try and improve, but all that is important is that
I feel that I have improved and that is enough.
In other areas, there also aren’t a lot of limits. They give me a lot of rights to my
own initiative, they don’t limit me and say, “Oh, you’re a girl you can’t talk to boys” and
such. They believe that I’m able to judge. They might remind me if something is
impacting my studies, for example staying on the phone for a long time and such. But
they just say a few things.
I think that my parents have looked at me pretty much like an adult. So, I think
our relationship is pretty good. They are the type that if you have some problem you can
find them and talk to them about it. Other people all think so too.
Q - Could you compare your home with Shanghai?
LW – With Shanghai? The population is smaller and it’s not as developed as Shanghai.
Q - Could you tell me what you think developed means?
LW – Development, umm [pause] for example, economic development. In the economic
aspect maybe it’s not as development as Shanghai. Moreover, it is located in Anhui and
Anhui is an old liberated area. Nationally, Anhui’s economics aren’t so good. For
example, basically its buildings aren’t as tall as Shanghai and there aren’t as many
[buildings], and there aren’t as many foreigners as [there are] in Shanghai. Umm, there
are two Universities.
Q - How about the people there?
LW – The people? I think the young generation maybe [pause] Actually, I think the
thought of the young generation is actually pretty much the same [as in Shanghai], not
really much of a difference. Maybe for the people a little older, for example a
grandmother, maybe their thought would be a little more conservative, a little more
traditional. I often go with my farther to the country to visit places father away, well
maybe not exactly the country.
Q – Could you talk about the traditional thought of China? Because most Americans
don’t understand it.
LW – Traditional thought has actually received critique. Moreover, basically now most of
it has been abandoned. But for example, things were very clearly demarcated such that: a
noble should think of being a noble, a vassal should think of being a vassal, a father
should think of being a father, and a son should think of being a son. The different family
levels were also very clearly demarcated. I think now there really isn’t any of this.
Q – Has your grandmother told you anything about it?
LW – My grandmother hasn’t. She is a very open person. My grandmother is a primary
school English teacher and she can also speak Japanese.
LW – I think in my hometown, the main thing is that during the New Year there are very
few people in our town, because many people leave and take their children to see their
parents. Also, during the New Year, the stores basically don’t open. I think that’s fairly
Q – Why did you chose to come to Shanghai to study?
LW- Shanghai? Shanghai is good, the economy is developed, it’s China’s number one
big city, and Fudan is famous.
Q – Aside from that?
LW – Actually, I don’t like Shanghai.
Q- Really? Could you talk about that?
LW – My favorite city is Beijing, but I’ve never been there. Maybe it’s because I’ve
never been there, so I have an awe of it. It’s just that I particularly wanted to go to that
school. Then Shanghai, actually [pause] because my ability wasn’t enough, I only did
good enough to get into Fudan, so I couldn’t get into Beijing. So, I’m at Fudan and in
Shanghai and actually, to me it doesn’t matter what city I’m in. It’s just that if I had the
choice, I’d prefer Beijing. But because my ability wasn’t enough I’m at Fudan and not
Beijing, but Shanghai is not so bad.
Q – What type of changes have you had after coming to Shanghai?
LW – One big change is that Shanghai’s food is sweet [in flavor], so now I can eat sweet
food. Also, another would be that at home my parents did a lot of things for me, but here
I have to do a lot myself, like laundry and such and getting clothes out when it’s cold.
And [previously] that was a very comfortable feeling, but in Shanghai you have to do
everything yourself and for a lot of things you have to depend on yourself. You have to
take care of your own food and buy your own food.
I think that at university people really are pretty independent. Previously at home
when we would go out, there were always lots of people together and I felt that I had a
whole lot of friends. Then after going to university, I think my independence became
stronger and I more things alone. When you see people in university, you often see them
alone. You don’t often see seven or eight people together. When you come you definitely
aren’t used to it, like when you go to eat and stuff, but then after a while you adjust.
Q – Are you a Buddhist?
LW – No, I’m not.
Q – What religion are you?
LW – I have no religion. I think this aspect, and I’m not joking, I think it’s a lot of fun.
For example, when I look at Buddhism [pause] when I look at Buddhist thought and
culture, it’s because I want to write an essay so I read about it. I want to write about
Chinese culture, and because Buddhism has had an impact [on Chinese culture] I go and
read about it. And also western religions like Christianity, I read about them and think
they are interesting.
Q – Do you think you’re character has changed since you’ve come to Shanghai?
LW – I think that my character basically hasn’t changed much.
Q – What kind of future do you hope for?
LW – I hope that in the future, I will be very successful, successful in my enterprises. I
don’t necessarily need a lot of money, but I want to have a happy life and to fulfill my
needs and I hope to be able to make a lot of friends. Basically like that, [pause] maybe
that’s not so specific, but it’s the general [idea.][pause] Actually, anything that I do later
would be fine.
LW Follow-up In-depth Interview
Q – What do you think is most important to you?
LW – Right now? Maybe now it’s studying. Maybe last semester I wouldn’t have said
that, but now I think that studying is very important. [pause] study hard [pause] it’s my
hobby, studying. [pause] Moreover, the time spent in University is very short and this
past year just went by all at once, so I think studying is important.
Q – What type of a person do you think you are?
LW – Actually, a pretty rotten person, but people must raise up their spirits, and in fact
[pause] I’m still a pretty rotten person [pause] I don’t even know if I’m that type of
person, I’ve never thought about it before, it’s like it’s hard for yourself to understand
When I was in High School I was very affectionate and quite hardworking and I
was the type of person that listens. Then, when I went to university, I became free and
sloppy and started skipping class. I liked to do the things that I liked to do and I didn’t
like to have too many limits,I just liked freedom. So, I often changed my mind on the
spot and was lackadaisical with my strength.
Q – Do you like a fast life or a slow life?
LW – I’m pretty much adjusted to a fast life, I think in life, [pause] if you can link each
thing together and do them, then you will have a feeling of accomplishment, always have
a feeling of accomplishment. I can’t take a slow life. Previously, I tried a slow life, but I
couldn’t take it, very slow and boring, fast is better.
Q – Is your life now slow or fast?
LW – Now? It depends how you set fast and slow, because right now my life is at a very
comfortable rate. [pause] My first year at school my life was particularly fast. Everyday, I
was extraordinarily busy doing things. Then, I thought I couldn’t take it, because it was
too fast. Then, I started to set the trend of events at a slow rate. Then, after a while, I
started to feel it wasn’t ok, because that speed wasn’t appropriate for me. Now, I think
I’m at my appropriate speed. Other people might think it’s fast, but to me it’s just right,
not slow not fast.
Q – What type of a life do you desire?
LW – What type of a life do I desire? Ah, [pause] the best would be to not have to work,
but to have money [pause] that type [of life.] Then, everyday just doing things I like to
do, like going to movies and reading books, a very relaxed life, but that is impossible. It’s
just what I can desire for [pause] actually, I should be serious and study hard. [pause]
Your next question?
Q – How about your reality?
LW – My reality? Working hard at my job and making money, then when I relax, relax
well, doing some things that I like to do in my life, listening to music, reading books, and
watching movies. Then, maybe I won’t interact with people so much, very little time for
interaction, just interact with myself.
Q – What do you think an independent person is?
LW – If you can decide what you want to do for yourself and not accept other people’s
intention or opinion’s influence, then, if you’re talking about limits and independence,
then being economically independent. For example, in our department many people are
taking out loans. Actually, their family conditions are very good, but they go and borrow
money and so they can live their own lives. This is also very good, but I can’t do it,
because I don’t want to have to take out loans. But their doing this is a type of faith in
their own lives.
LW – What was your question?
Q – What do you think an independent person is?
LW – An independent person? Economic independence, independent thought, and having
a personal undertaking. I think that’s basically independence, but I don’t think that being
an independent person means that you are alone. Right now it seems we’re all people
who are alone, but not independent.
Q – Why do you think that?
LW – It’s just the way I think. So, I say this [life] is very lonely.
Q – What do you feel the difference is between life at home and life at school?
LW – Life at home has your parents taking care of you and whatever is done is very
comfortable. Actually, life at university is very arduous, but very happy because
everyone lives together and it’s very lively. On the other hand, you have the feeling of
home, but after the feeling of home it seems like everyone doesn’t see each other very
often and everyone has already started to separate. Everybody sees each other very rarely.
I remember someone said that when we used to live in the high school dorm, someone
could just yell and then we would all go and play cards together, but that kind of thing is
already not possible, because we are all already closing the doors.
It’s like everyone is getting even farther apart. Before it was that it didn’t matter
which direction you went, you just ran into friends, but now when you knock on a door
people look through the peep hole to see who you are and decide what you’re like and
ask you who you are. So now, I don’t like to go around visiting, because I don’t like that
habit of knocking and such. And now, when we see each other it’s different. Before,
maybe in the first year things still had the feeling of being in High School, but now it’s
the feeling of being in university.
But it’s still good in person. Everyone’s happy and lively, it’s just that sometimes
there is a little sense of loss. I think that sometimes meeting with classmates is
particularly fun. When we’re all together and see each other, we have the sense of not
seeing each other in a long time, it’s very exciting, maybe life later will just be like that.
Q – If you could change it, would you want to change it?
LW – Change life now?
Q – Yes.
LW – I wouldn’t want it to change [pause] because I’m already used to this life and
because I’ve already become rotten. I’m already rotten and trying to change it is not
Q – In your parents eyes, what do you think amounts to appropriate?
LW – Listening to what your parents say, listening to them, and thinking about their
hardships. Not only persisting in your own simple matters and interests, but thinking
about your parents situation, then [pause] what else? Can you think of anything else?
Q – Being sensible.
LW – Being sensible? I think that for the most part it’s just thinking of them. I can’t think
of anything else, because it’s always thinking of them. Rising to their perspective,
considering their situation, and sometimes my own way of thinking has to be retired. But
actually, parent’s ways in life don’t have any problems occurring...
Q – Do you think you’re like that?
LW – Basically not, I’m very headstrong. A lot of the time I like to go and do some
things that I like to do, but my parents are unwilling to let me do. Often [pause]
sometimes, I’m at odds with them and often at odds with my father and I upset my dad
and get him yelling at me. I don’t add up to a sensible person, but I think that coming to
university has let me understand that today.
Previously, I didn’t realize the feeling of home, but now I think that a family is
really good. When I have break I just think of going home and when I get home, I just
think of eating the food that my mother cooks. It’s fairly [pause] I shouldn’t count as
[pause] what I’m saying doesn’t count as having any importance attached to it. It’s just a
very headstrong surface area reactionary way of thinking, just turning my head and
forgetting it all, and still keeping to my own way of thinking to do things. Sometimes, I
don’t listen to my parents and sometimes I disturb a lot of other people’s face and make
my parents lose face.
Q – Are those times often?
LW – My impression is that there have only been two times when it was a pretty severe
situation. Because at those times there were a whole lot of people, hmm what were we
doing? Oh, eating. And the time [it took to eat] got longer and longer and it was [just] too
long and I got nervous and I ran out. And then, a lot of people came out afterwards and
my father told me I needed to give him face and go back. Twice, once when I was in 4th
or 5th grade and the other time was in my first year of university during break when I
came home. So, I say I’m still not sensible.
Q – What type of concept do you think friendship is?
LW – Many people, many people. [pause] Then, umm, maybe you have different ranks.
You have common friends, friends that don’t fit, [pause] common friends, fairly good
relationship friends, good old friends, at every level for me to just count them I don’t feel
any difference. But you can feel that for each different circle [of friends], you can realize
that your character meets with each of them in different ways.
For good friends you feel that you’re very close to them and you have a clear
feeling, you can just say one thing and they can know exactly what you mean and you
don’t need to explain a lot. Then, for common friends you have to remember to keep a
smile on your face, although that’s a very tiring thing. Then also, hmm [pause] perhaps
that’s enough. It’s enough. For my common friends, I don’t think I can do something that
could [really] move people, because I don’t think I have that much energy. But I have
some friends that are my good friends and I think I should use my full energy to be
considerate of them and fulfill their needs towards me. [Friends] aren’t a type of unhappy
thing, the affairs of friends are definitely a good thing.
Q – What are your friends like?
LW – I think that my friends from high school are extraordinarily good. My high school
friends were all excellent people and very outstanding. Now, everyone is often still
together and when we are together, it doesn’t matter if it’s boys or girls together, it’s like
everyone feels very happy. Because we feel that at that time, like during summer break
when you stay at home, during that time you don’t have the feeling that you [pause] it’s
like you’re just on a very long break, from [the time of] being a [high school] senior, just
constantly on break. But then sometimes you realize that you are all in university and
then you feel like the days that have passed have returned and you are able to talk about
some old teachers and think about them. And although those very pure days weren’t
[long] enough, when everyone is together we still cherish them.
Then my friends at university, [pause] there are some [there] that I have pretty
good relationships with and when we are all together we have a very comfortable feeling.
If you can be together and not talk, but just do some things and be together, you can have
a very comfortable type feeling.
Then common friends, I think I know a whole lot of people who are just common
friends. They’re also really good, because, after all, we’re all at Fudan. I think friends are
pretty much all good. I mean the people that get-along with you, if they weren’t like you
even a little and if you didn’t get-along at all, you wouldn’t be friends. I mean why would
you be friends then, right?
Basically, I think that with friends there is some scope of your life that overlaps
when you are together. When that happens, then you can be friends and interact. Though,
I think that interaction is something that gives you a lot of troubles. When I was young in
primary school, I didn’t interact a lot with other people.
Q – Do you think that having a lot of friends is lonely?
LW – No, of course it’s not. [pause] Actually, with a lot of good friends you feel alone,
you really commonly are alone in society. Wherever you go, it’s just you. It depends how
you look at it. Some people find having a lot of friends to be lively, but actually
sometimes in the middle of the liveliness you’re still lonely. I don’t feel that just having a
lot of friends around is not feeling lonely, because often when you have a lot of friends
you feel that you’re even more lonely…
LW – I think that sometimes when there are a lot of people and things are lively you feel
that you’re even more lonely.
Q – Do you feel that for you there are a lot of those times?
LW – Those times? It shouldn’t be a lot [of those times], because now, basically, I’m
always busy with study. If other things can occupy your energy, then you don’t spend
much [energy] thinking about whether or not your lonely, you just feel that you should
study well. It’s just that simple. [pause] So I say, study hard, if you study hard then
everything is good.
Q – Could you talk about your relationship with F1 and F2.
LW – [F1], our relationship started in the first year of jr high. I remember that she was
our class head and at that time, we ate lunch in the school. There was one day that I was
looking at this announcement on the blackboard and there was a person standing next to
me who said that this girl in the second class was really pretty. She grabbed my hand and
pulled me to show me, and from when she started pulling my hand, I just felt, I just knew
she was my friend, that feeling.
Actually, in the first year we didn’t spend a lot of time together. Then we started
chatting more and our relationship formed from that. But actually, from the beginning in
our friendship it was always her accommodating for me. Actually, I was very headstrong
and she was always accommodating for me and always [pause] to say it nicely she was
always … Then our relationship continued until high school when we split classes and
then … Then we split classes and our relationship has continued until now. She is two
months older than me, but actually I don’t think she is more mature, she really
understands specifics and about how to care for people. But I don’t think I understand, I
don’t know how, I think this is what I need to study from her. Basically, I think she gets
along well with people.
Then F2 [pause] I don’t know F2 as well. I think she’s a pretty gentle and quiet
person and she studies very seriously. She is a very upright person, and [pause] what to
say [pause] and a very old fashioned and inflexible person. [pause] Don’t laugh, don’t
laugh, she was like that previously. She would do everything really seriously, she studied
very seriously and was very arduous. She was our class’s most arduous person, but her
scores weren’t the best. Then after going to university, maybe because she and my father
know each other, [pause] I don’t know how I suddenly started to have a relationship with
her, eating dinner [pause] eating dinner and chatting, and then when she went to
university she became lively, but she was already a very inflexible person. You probably
could tell a little, she actually is very umm, [pause] I won’t say. After she went to
university she was very lively, we started talking more and when our families are
together we usually get along pretty well. So, I just started hanging out with her. The
relationship is not bad, chatting and talking with her on the phone. She is the person that
talks with me on the phone the most. It’s a little odd. I never planned to keep in contact
Q – What do you think the difference is between interning in Hefei and being in school?
LW – Interning in Hefei is not the way I planned to spend a summer break. It was just
going to work at 8 a.m. and then coming home. Interning [pause] I was just at the local
police department [pai tu suo]. It was just to experience some of the concepts of life. So,
you just feel that it’s not the same as at the school. You understand some criminal facts
and you can see some people who are your own age [and are] there and you can feel that
actually you are a very lucky person. You don’t have to be like those people. If you have
a safe place or a book to read, then you are a very gratified person, because presently a lot
of people don’t have a book to read. So study well, study well.
In that internship the people you work with are all people who have worked there
for a long time, your teachers now are… Then, you study how to do a draft from them
and then when you’ve studied the draft you write and you feel that it’s different and
serious and they tell you what content you should write and what content you shouldn’t
write. And then, they help you make your draft their style and although it’s good, it’s not
what you expected. Actually, you don’t really do much, you just sit there and write at a
computer. If it is different from school life, then it’s just another life and it also has rules.
But, I was welcomed and my teachers were good and I did well. They gave me a key and
said that I should open up, because my house was very close and I felt that this is what I
should do for an internship and what my father felt I should do. Also, the editor there, his
son is in Beijing and is studying for the GRE and the TOFEL and he [the editor] looked
after me a lot and sometimes sent me home to rest if I wasn’t comfortable, because I was
about as old as his son. … It wasn’t what I imagined.
Q – Do you like the studying life better?
LW – I like the studying life better. I like the life where you just have to study and you
don’t have to work. You can read a lot of books. Like now, the books I’m reading are all
for my major and that’s great, it’s not like the books you read for physics. I pretty much
like the life now at school, because after interning you don’t feel [pause] you feel that
school is really good, very pure.
Although, sometimes it’s not pure, [pause] but I won’t say what’s impure because
I don’t understand, [pause] but I still want to say that it’s good here, because now I’m
finding that university is going really fast and everyday is very regular. And now, it’s
already the second year and in the third year you have to go out and do a lot of interning
and such, and there is a lot of time that you’re not in school and during your senior year
you basically don’t live in the school at all. Basically, school life ends after the second
year. It’s just now that I’ve come to realize these things clearly, so I want to study hard.
Q – What influence do you feel an environment has on a person?
LW – An environment has an impact, it definitely has impact. But when you visualize
your environment, it’s both what you visualize and what you don’t, because later you will
have to abandon it. And when you have a lot in your environment, then you also have a
lot. No, [pause] you have to look at each person.
To me an environment is very important, because I’m really open to my
environment’s influence, but I think that a lot of people aren’t that way. For example,
there are these students that get up very early everyday to practice English and I went one
day, but I couldn’t persist, because I couldn’t take it. I think it’s easy for me to receive
the influence of my environment. Previously, I studied and paid a lot of attention to
studying, but here [in her apartment] it’s the feeling of not being so busy with studies and
studying slowly that type [of environment]. For me, I receive the influence of my
environment, but I don’t know how other people are. So, I think I should find a pretty
good environment in order to have a comfortable life. Actually though, I’m not studying
as much now, life is still alright….
Q – So what is a good environment?
LW – From the traditional perspective, a good environment lets you progress upwards,
study hard, and have success in your undertakings. But that is also what I think. Also, I
think that a good environment doesn’t make you feel that you’re having a very hard time
and lets you feel comfortable, and lets you relax totally. And then, whatever you do, you
will volunteer to it and be willing to do things. This is something very hard to say,
[pause] before the “tangmei” generation time that was a very good environment. It was
an environment like home, but I don’t know how it will be now.
Q – Is your environment like that?
LW – My environment? My environment now is basically like that. Although, I should
say that I feel that [pause] I should study hard, but actually a lot of things disturb you. But
basically, it’s a good environment. We are all people [here] that get-along pretty well [in
the apartment] we’re pretty lively, not like some girls who are really quiet and you can’t
get them to liven up. We can liven right up. So, our apartment is the liveliest, very lively.
Q – What responsibilities do you think a person has towards their family?
LW – Be considerate about your parents and think about them. [pause] Actually,
presently, families, to a large degree, don’t need you to have any responsibilities, don’t
you think? [pause] Just be concerned about your parents, it’s still just being concerned
about your parents, I think that’s the most important.
I think that in present times you just need to be concerned about your parents and
consider them and come home [to see them.] Then, I think that your responsibility has
been fulfilled. They don’t need those types of material things. What they need is
consideration, because they are older. I think parents don’t need your very intentional
consideration, they just need your full respect and they will feel that is quite tactful.
Q – How do you feel about your life in MaAnShan?
LW – My life during break or my life previously?
Q – First say previously, then say during break
LW – Studying hard. In high school I was really busy studying. I think that from primary
school to high school studying was just a form of obedience with no feeling. I just
thought everyday that, [pause] at this time I paid a lot of attention to the ranked name list,
the first name, the second name. At that time, that’s not really called life, that’s only
called study. After coming to university and then coming back home, I just felt [pause]
Life is just life right now. Right now, what I’m doing is called life. That’s my
feeling. [pause] Then [pause] no difference, going home is always very comfortable.
Q – What type of life do you think people your age like?
LW – Everybody is different. I don’t know what they want, but actually I like a little
busy life. Then when I have time I can just be really relaxing. For example, before when I
had a break I took a quilt and I put it over the windows and then the whole room was
dark, and so I just sat there and turned on the light and sat on my bed and read a book. At
that time that’s the type of life that I liked, but now I like the life of studying well, being
busy and seeing what I can learn and going to see movies, just like that. Everyone’s life is
different. I don’t know what other people like.
Q – Could you guess?
LW – Some people like a life of studying hard, studying really hard, everyday reading
books. I’ve already lived that way. And some people like very relaxed lives, and also,
some people make a great effort in their lives. For example, there are two people across
the hall and one is studying for the GRE and the other for the TOFEL. They don’t go to
class, they don’t go to any classes [they just study.] That’s their lives [pause] for
example, she [points to a roommate’s door] is very lazy, always reading.
Q – Studying for the TOFEL?
LW – No, reading novels.
Q – Could you describe the life of someone of this generation?
LW - You want me to describe it? I think I’ve described it already. I think our generation
is very mixed. You have very avant-garde people, very repetitive people, very depressed
people, very personal people, and very arduous people. Particularly after coming to
university, you feel that everyone is in their own lives. I think you have all kinds and
types. It’s not like our parent’s generation, at that time with everyone thinking of one
objective and putting forth effort for that objective. Actually, even the roommate you live
with you don’t know what type of life she’s living. For example, today I planned to eat
lunch together with her and she went to go online and then to a movie. She said she
would meet me at 11:50 a.m. and so I waited for her until noon, and then I couldn’t stand
waiting anymore. I went to eat and when I got back, she said she waited for me forever
and I said I didn’t know where she waited for me. She said she had called, but at that time
I had already left. So, actually even living in the same environment, I don’t know what
she’s doing. … like I said before everyone is alone.
In university, I once heard a [pause] person say that there isn’t anything good to
study in university. Being in university is just to teach you to be alone and to live in
solitude, so you can find your own way of living.
Q – What do you think is important to this generation?
LW – Oh, this question is back, [pause] each person’s benefit, each person’s affairs of
benefit, the things of value to each person. I think in the end it’s just a person’s worth,
their social worth [pause] what do you think? Study hard, find a good job, make some
money, it’s all social worth. Whatever we do our social worth is the most important.
Also, maybe, oh, I said that poorly, there is also your own personal worth and then your
Q – You just talked about the life of your parent’s generation, could you talk about what
you understand of it?
LW – They were sent down and wasted many years of their life [pause] my parents didn’t
have any chance to go to university. They generally did everything together. They
thought of the country a lot more and didn’t think of themselves. Maybe they were purer
at that time. I think it was like that.
Now what we think about even more is ourselves, isn’t that right? Everyone
thinks of themselves and not the country. But actually, when you are thinking of yourself,
at the same time what you do is [still] being done in the country. I’m just speaking very
broadly. Parent’s world, [pause] the world our parents lived in, is not one we are able to
understand or to comprehend. It’s something that has already passed. For things that have
already passed, if we can know about them, then that’s enough. We don’t need to
comprehend. We know that it has given them a large wound and left them with a lot of
feelings afterwards. So, now we [pause] to just say it roughly, we don’t need to reopen
Q – If I wanted you to contrast this generation with your parents?
LW – We are a joyous generation. Absolutely, we really are a very joyous generation.
We have good opportunities, university students, books to read, we have our parents to
raise us and we don’t have to go and make money ourselves. Like my dad, he went to
work at sixteen. Sixteen think of that, the days of high school. My mother was sent down
to a place in Hubei to work the soil. At that time, when they slept and when they ate, they
were all together and on the dirt. Later, she went to a hospital to work and then took a test
and then she came here. At that time, if she hadn’t tested, she still would have had a lot of
good prospects, but she didn’t want to [stay], she just wanted to come home.
My relative was also sent down with my mother, is still in Wuhan, and didn’t
come back. It was at the time of the population explosion. So, my family has a lot of
people from Shanghai and from Jiangsu whose parents are there, and their children [later]
came back and went to school. I think we [of this generation] really have a very joyous
life. When you are sixteen, you simply don’t have anything in your life that is like how it
was like in your parents’ life at sixteen. At that time you think there is no need to go to
the country. It’s really not appropriate, you just wouldn’t think of that type of suffering.
My father’s experience was just testing into high school then into university and
nothing else, he just constantly read books for class and read them until they were
useless. [pause] I say this like I really believe myself, but I actually don’t understand. It’s
just that one day my mother was chatting with me and told me [about it.] I had never
known they had so many experiences. I just knew they were sent down and had to live
the life of the country, like the type of things I had read in books, but I never thought that
their life was really a suffering thing.
Q – So what’s the meaning of joyous, as you understand it?
LW – Joyousness? Now, a joyous life is just that we have only tasted the sweetness in life
and we haven’t tasted the bitterness. … I don’t know what joyousness is. I’ve never
known what joyousness is. If you ask me this very particular conception, I…
Q – How about happiness?
LW – Happiness and joyousness actually, [pause] happiness is just when you are pleased
and I’m pleased most of the time. So, I guess that for the most part, I’m joyous. It’s like
that. [pause] When we were in primary school didn’t we have a class that told us what
joyousness was? That it was labor, isn’t that right?
Q – For you?
LW – Study, study is joyousness.
Q – Do you think suffering has a type of joy?
LW- I’ve never tried it, [pause] but maybe it has a joyous feeling, but that type of joy is
different than the joy from happiness. If you go through that the first time you wouldn’t
want to go through it the second. That type of joy is an uncomfortable joy and the happy
joy is a type of comfortable joy.
Q – What do you think is the difference between the country and the city?
LW – I’ve been to the countryside to visit, but I’ve never really been there. I don’t
understand, I don’t understand what type of life they have.
Q – What feeling do you have towards America and Americans?
LW – Our literature classes have two Americans in them now.
Q – Your surface feelings?
LW - Our one English teacher is very lively and likes to listen to some Madonna songs. I
don’t like them [the songs]. Looking at them, [Americans] I think they personally aren’t
the same as us, they have very personal lives. I think most of them work very hard to
achieve what it is that they want to achieve, while most Chinese take what is given to
They like to do what they want, like coming to China to study, but this is also an
issue of economics. Like our one teacher, he wants to come here and teach us English,
but he can’t even speak Chinese. He came here really independently. I think that most
Chinese are fulfilled by their families.
I don’t have any particularly bad impressions of America aside from politics. I
think if it weren’t for politics, I would have a very good impression of America. I think
there is also the issue of racism in American no matter if it’s towards black people or
yellow people, this is another aspect I can’t accept.
Some of them [Americans] are very relaxed and open, but some of them have a
very serious demeanor. For example, our grammar teacher is a very strict type of person.
He looks very fierce even though his age is young, around 20. What else about America?
[pause] It seems like Americans are strong in their ability to do things apart, while China
before did everything together, and has more groups. So, in America, maybe the
individual is important, while in China, maybe it’s the group or the company. But no, it
seems that [now] there is a lot more of this individualism [in China.]
What else? [pause] I don’t understand America even though a person from my
same town went to America to study. I think that after she went to America she became
independent. A lot of things that I didn’t think she could do on her own, now after she’s
come back she is able to go and do them for herself. Maybe, I have the conception that
Americans are all very independent, very excited people, the same as in China, but their
excited and the excited in China is not the same.
Q – How is it different?
LW – It’s just different! …
Q – How does it feel?
LW – It feels hard to say, but you know that it’s there.
Q – Do you think that Americans understand Chinese?
LW- No, they don’t understand. For example, our English teacher, he comes to teach us
English, but doesn’t understand anything about China. Actually, he has come to teach
some foreign students and he doesn’t understand China. From viewing him it seems that
American’s actually don’t understand China. Towards China’s subtle style and tradition,
he doesn’t really understand.
They [Americans] look from their own perspective, but the way they solve
problems is not the same [as us.] They think: “Why are Chinese people like that?” And
actually most Chinese think: “Why are Americans like that?” I think actually, this is the
reason that the two countries have contradictions on many things. I know that, from what
he [my teacher] said, that over there, [in America] the people don’t understand much of
China, [pause] our one teacher [pause] They don’t understand [pause] there should be
some that understand [pause] isn’t it that America has a lot of Sinologists? They speak
Chinese really well, and towards China they understand, they understand ancient China.
They understand China even better than Chinese people. But, what they understand is
Chinese culture not Chinese society, ancient Chinese culture.
Q – Do you think foreigners could be able to understand or?
LW – It would be hard. Maybe it has to with Chinese characters. Because Chinese
characters are hard to study. … Maybe it’s because characters are hard to study and
because there is a lot of change in the characters. In order to understand a country you
should understand it’s writing and it’s language, what do you think?
You need to understand a little, you don’t need to understand a lot, but you need
to understand a little. Also, China is too old, over 5,000 years. The time is just too long.
Many Chinese don’t really understand, so I don’t think foreigners really have a chance.
But actually, you don’t need to understand China’s history. You just need to understand
modern China and that’s enough.
Q – Do you think you understand China?
LW – I don’t understand, I don’t understand life.
LW – But this semester we’ve started reading some books like Mencus that can let us
understand some traditional Chinese things. So, now we are starting to touch on Chinese
tradition. Previously, we actually hadn’t started studying Chinese tradition, but now we
have. You start to think that peoples thoughts are a lot of fun, like Mencus, their thought
was all very weird.
Q – Do you think that there is a difference between understanding America and
LW – It’s not the same. America is a government, to say America you think of Bush, you
think of Clinton. You don’t think of the American people. You think of their government
policies. Then when you say Americans you think of American people. I have a teacher,
his daughter was in America during Sept. 11, and he said that his daughter at that time
realized that American people are really a very united people. He said that where she
was, in Boston, that every house lit a candle. They put a big candle in front of their
windows and let them burn all the way out. Then she said that at that time, she could
really see that they [Americans] are a united people.
To be American is also to be a nationality, although maybe it isn’t as ancient or as
old as China and it has a lot of people from far away like Europe and Asia, but in fact,
although it’s composed of [different] nationalities, it [itself] is also a nationality. I think
Americans actually are really good, but that the American government does things that
are actually really bad. Some of the policies that they have implemented towards China,
[pause] well maybe I don’t understand too much.
Q – What problems have you faced in your life?
LW – I have a lot of problems, problems in study, problems in life, problems at home. I
have them all.
Q – Could you be more detailed?
LW – I don’t want to be detailed, many people have a lot of problems.
Q – Ok, the last one. What feeling do you have towards our project?
LW – It has the utmost effort and seriousness, you did it to its finish and very arduously.
This is a very upright attitude to do something.
HC Character Sketch
HC is a first year student at Fudan University, majoring in Physics, because he
was unable to be accepted into the computer science or electronics programs at Fudan.
He is a native of Canton and lives with his grandmother, out of preference and possibly
because of tensions at home. When HC was very young he began to spend time with his
grandmother staying with her at her home and as time progressed, starting in high school,
he began to live with her full time. HC’s mother works in medicine and his father worked
in construction in the past, but his current employment is unclear. HC’s grandmother
worked as a schoolteacher for a large portion of her life and during the Cultural
Revolution. HC is very private in his personal life, but at the same time enjoys expressing
HC’s interviews were conducted partly in English and partly in Mandarin.
Grammatical errors in HC’s English use in the interviews were left unaltered. His
interviews should be viewed in the context of a foreign male student accompanied by a
Chinese male student interviewing a Chinese male student, all of relatively the same age.
HC Preliminary Interview
HC – My Chinese name is HC
Q – What is your major?
HC – My major is physics and my school is Fudan University.
Q – Could you tell me where your hometown is?
HC – My hometown is Canton [pause] Guangzhou.
Q – Is it in the city or country?
HC – City, urban.
HC – My hometown is in Guanzhou, in the city.
Q – Could you talk to me about what your hometown is like? What type of particular life
HC – Well, I think in big cities, colorful lives will take place. And Guangzhou has been
called “flower city,” and so there will be many kinds of flowers. During the spring
festival, there will be 8 different types of flowers and people will come and see them
during the spring festival.
I also think that Guangzhou is a modern city too, because it has a subway, but I think it
looks less modern than Shanghai, and the life and the culture in Guangzhou is always
affected by Hong Kong.
Q – How is it affected by Hong Kong?
HC – By means of television, because we can receive their broadcasts and Guangdong
people pretty much like to model Hong Kong people.
Q – Could you give me an example of that?
HC – The singers, because we have the same language: Cantonese. So, there will be
many things in common between us. Also, the city style, some fashion, and some trendy
things are often coming [modeled] from Hong Kong.
Q - Have you been to Hong Kong?
HC – I’m planning to, but I haven’t the chance because we have to get a passport, so it’s
a hard thing to deal with.
Q – What is the particular characteristics of the way of life of people of Guangzhou?
HC – People in Guangzhou are fond of eating, not the quantity but the quality. They also
often have tea with meals: morning, afternoon and evening tea times. All types of food
and I think the types [of food] are more than in Shanghai.
Q – How do you think Canton compares to Shanghai?
HC – I think first that we are all Chinese and then it’s the city style. Shanghainese look
mostly to Japan and South Korea, where as Guangzhou looks mostly to Hong Kong. And
both places have different relationships with the central government, because most of the
new leaders are from Shanghai, so maybe the government pays more attention to
Shanghai. And maybe because Guangzhou links up mostly to Hong Kong, maybe the
economic development speeds have some differences [between the two cities.] Also, the
people are probably pretty similar because they are both southern [cities.]
Q – How about the people’s attitudes?
HC – Actually, I think often that city people’s status has to do with the economics and for
China, Shanghai is the second biggest city in China and Guangzhou is the third most
important city in China. So, I think they play an important role in the country.
Q – What do you think the difference is between Guangzhou and Hong Kong?
HC – The mandarin level is not the same, our level is better. Those that come from there
to our place are many and few of us go there. Hong Kong people usually go shopping in
Shenzhen, because the goods there are much cheaper. Also, the social system is not the
same, we are a socialist system and they are a capitalist system. Hong Kong is like you
guys, it uses a legislative assembly to govern. You guys have two legislatures. China has
the people’s representative assembly.
Q – Could you talk about the life of an average person in your hometown?
HC – In big cities traffic is still a problem, the roads are very crowed, and hmm, [pause]
peoples lives? I think it’s pretty much like Shanghai, just that Guangzhou people are
pretty hard working and they get up early and come home late.
Q – What was your life like before you came to Shanghai?
HC – Before, mainly because I had school, my life was very busy. I just got up at 6 a.m.
and went to school at 6:30 a.m. and then classes began at 7:30 a.m. and ended at 11:30
a.m. Then lunch break and then classes began [again] at 2 p.m. and then at 6 p.m. we
could go home and have supper and then go on with our study and I went to bed at 11
p.m. On the weekends, we could have some time to watch television, but mostly it was
just instruction because of the nervousness of study, because of the university exam.
Q – What are your friends who didn’t test into University doing now?
HC – Maybe because I was at a tracked school for gifted students; basically most of my
classmates tested into university. I also know some friends that didn’t test into university,
some of them went to work, some, [pause] most just went to some community
universities or to some adult schools and continued studying, because it’s a large
population in China so seeking a job is hard in China. If you don’t have a high level of
education, it’s hard to find a job.
Q - What do you do with your friends when you’re together?
HC – Play basketball, or karaoke, or sometimes we have tea together during those tea
times I told you about.
Q – Does drinking tea there have any special characteristics?
HC – Actually it’s just like having a meal in Shanghai, but the things you eat aren’t the
same, that’s it.
Q – When you have tea do you guys chat or?
HC – Sometimes, [pause] I just don’t know how to explain this type of thing in English.
HC – Actually I think towards drinking tea this aspect; you guys should experience it. It
would be better than me telling you about it. Because drinking tea is quite interesting. It’s
done with light refreshments, quite interesting.
Q – So what’s the standard of living in your town?
HC – Like what do you mean?
Q – What kind of things do you have? Like, are refrigerators common?
HC – Air conditioners are very common and there are many people online and its free to
have phones installed, we can have telephones for free. The standard of living is about
the same as Shanghai. But I heard that some foreigners said that there were no air
conditioners in students’ dormitories and that they are so poor, but I don’t think so,
because the standard of living in China is very low now. It’s only in big cities that you
have this kind of condition. And the ticket for transportation in Canton is cheaper than in
Shanghai. I think the standard of living is just a little different than Hong Kong.
Q – So what do you plan to do after you graduate?
HC – It’s hard to say because I haven’t thought about it now. Guangzhou is my
hometown and Shanghai is a good place to start my career and I think that going abroad
is a good plan. So, I haven’t decided yet.
Q - Why do you want to go abroad?
HC – [answers where do you want to go abroad] Umm, [pause] I think Singapore is a
good place. And if I have the chance to go to the U.S., I would really like to go there.
Q – Why do you want to go?
HC – Because I haven’t been there. I would like to see what their life is like and I would
like, [pause] for example many things that we study are written by Chinese people, so I
would like to know your thoughts. For example Marxism, I would like to know what you
think of Marx, Karl Marx.
Q – What’s your favorite aspect of your home?
HC – The relationship with my parents, my grandparents and me, it’s different than
America, because we have a big family and we live together. I know that in America you
will leave your home at 18, so I know that is a big difference.
Q – How often do you stay with your parents?
HC – All the time, and so, [pause] what do you mean by how long? On occasions?
HC – I haven’t been apart from them.
Q – When will you leave?
HC – When we marry, but some people live their whole life with their parents.
Q – Basically, how do you feel about your hometown compared to Shanghai?
HC – Shanghai is not my hometown, I’m not familiar with here and the people here. So, I
am very glad to go home and I am homesick now. Both places are both good, it’s hard to
chose. If it is to people, then I pretty much like Cantonese people. I prefer Cantonese to
Shanghainese. I think Shanghaiers are more vain and stingy. I think that Cantonese are
Q – How do you know?
HC – I’ve seen it.
Q – Can you give an example on Shanghainese stinginess?
HC – You often see two Shanghainese arguing about a few cents, I think that’s just a
little much, too stingy.
Q – How about Guangzhou?
HC – I don’t think I see this situation very often in Guangzhou.
Q – So why did you chose to come to Shanghai to study?
HC – I thought to widen my vision and strengthen myself.
Q - So what area do you think you’ve strengthened?
HC – My independence ability, just like you guys leaving home at 18. Also, maybe the
universities in Guangzhou aren’t as good as the ones in Shanghai.
Q – Do you think that you’ve changed since you’ve come to Shanghai?
HC – The relationships with my friends and my parents have become even more intimate.
We can’t feel the importance of these relationships when we are faced with them often.
So, when I left I thought it helped our relationship.
Q – Before you left how was your relationship with your parents?
HC – All right.
Q – Could you say more?
HC – What you just said had to do with the relationship of my family and me before I
Q – Yes.
HC – Oh course we had fights, but actually I think this is the difference between America
and China. In America, maybe it’s more equal. Moreover, our home could be like this:
“I’m your dad. So what I said is definitely correct.” “I am your father so my request is
always right, so you must follow me.” These occasions happen often.
Q – So what feeling do you have towards this?
HC – I think that maybe the middle would be good [between the American and Chinese
situations], to have both, because sometimes, really, if we just had a friendship
relationship a few things would be pretty difficult to resolve.
Q – Do you think your character has changed since you’ve come here?
HC – I don’t think it’s changed at all.
Q – So what kind of a future do you hope for?
HC – Hmm, [pause] what kind of future? [pause] If I have the chance I will go abroad,
but I will die in China, I think. I will spend my lifetime in China. I will give my
intelligence to it because it’s my home country, my mother country.
Q - Let me ask you an odd question, what type of a feeling do you have towards Chinese
who move abroad and don’t come home?
HC – I think in this situation, there are two situations. For example, the event that
happened in 1989 June the fourth, do you know?
Q – TianAnMen?
HC – I think the students, they ran to the US under political asylum, and often make
trouble for China, towards those [people] I have a repulsive feeling. I think they have
switched sides. Some scientists, because you often have people receiving the Nobel prize
and some are from China, such as Zhang Zhenyin, and He Dayi, and Sui Qi. I think if
they have the hearts of our home country no matter where they are; they are Chinese. I
admire them, because it is not easy for them to achieve their goals.
HC In-depth Interview
Q – Could you talk about what you think Guangzhou is like now?
HC – Are you talking about the physicality of the city or?
Q – The physicality of the city and the situation of the people.
HC – I think Guangzhou is pretty wealthy and that the physicality is pretty good. The
apartments are pretty good and are the buildings are pretty tall.
Q – You’ve told me before that you were interested in Marxism, could you talk about that
some more? How did you become interested in it?
HC – [Answers why he’s interested in Massachusetts] Because in High school we had
someone come over to our school from MIT and talk to us and tell us about the northeast.
So, I find it pretty interesting.
Q – Could you tell me about what you think of McDonalds?
HC - I think that the company McDonalds is too fierce, because I’ve heard that in Hong
Kong in 1999 or in 2000 that the workers went on strike because the wage was too low.
So, I think if they make so much money, they should be able to pay better.
Q – What is your interest in Marxism?
HC – Marxism? I’m not really that interested in it.
Q - You said before that Hong Kong has an influence on Guangzhou, could you talk
about this in more depth? Give an example?
HC – For example, Guangzhou’s fashionable items come from Hong Kong television.
Q – How did you meet your classmate F?
HC – We shared the same seat [in class.]
Q – How many years have you known her?
HC – That I’m not too sure about [pause] probably in the second year of elementary
school we met, [about] 12 or 13 years.
Q – What type of a person do you think she is?
HC – Open-minded, our hobbies are very similar.
Q – What hobbies?
HC – Music hobbies.
Q – You’ve talk about this before, New Age music?
HC – Yes, New Age, Japanese, Classical, [pause] some pure violin, piano, guitar.
Q – Your interest in music is pretty refined. It’s not very mainstream. Could you talk
about that a little?
HC – Yes, that’s because towards mainstream culture I have a little bit of a repulsion.
Actually, a lot of the mainstream music is created by business. So it, [pause] I think has
to do with their business profit. Their music is there because their companies have
money, not because their music is powerful, especially the Backstreet Boys.
Q – Now aside from music, what kind of view do you have towards mainstream culture?
Like movies or dancing?
HC – Oh movies, [pause] originally I liked to watch Hollywood movies, but later I found
I liked movies with more culture like Italian or German films.
Q - What do you think is important to you?
HC – My family is the most important. Then, it’s my studies and my future. Then it’s my
friends, also my country and the city I am in, especially Canton.
Q – Why?
HC – Because I was born and raised here.
Q - Do you think you have a responsibility towards Canton?
HC – To its development do I have responsibility? Umm, [pause] maybe I won’t
necessarily be devoted to its development, but I think I’ll help its development.
Q – When I asked you what was most important to you, you said your family, but I’ve
stayed here five or six days and this is the first time I’ve heard you talk about your
family. Why don’t you talk about your family?
HC – I talk about it very little because I don’t want to [talk about it.] There are some
things I don’t want to let other people know.
Q - Why?
HC – It’s just my thinking.
Q - How about your Canadian friend?
HC - He was my classmate in the first year of jr high. Then he went to Canada.
Q – What did you think after he left?
HC – At that time my thoughts were just that Canada was a distant place. Then we
constantly exchanged letters. So, I came to understand the foreign situation. I think
Canada is more developed then here.
Q – What did he talk to you about? For example?
HC – Umm, [pause] we exchanged letters often, but I think I’ve forgotten a lot of the
content. Just some things like transportation there, schooling, his family’s situation, and
Q – So why don’t you guys still write?
HC – Mainly it’s because he can go online, because it’s so developed over there. Maybe
he’s lazy and doesn’t want to write letters, just sends e-mails.
Q – Do you go online a lot?
HC – I think it could amount to a lot, in one week probably 2 or 3 times, probably around
Q – Do you think that the Internet has an impression on the people of this day?
HC – Actually, I think it has a big impression, because information can develop even
faster. Also nowadays, things are cited and you can meet some people that are far away
and you couldn’t meet otherwise. Towards all aspects of business, trade, and society, it is
a revolution, but it also brings some social problems, because online there are a lot of
essays which are just me yelling at you and you yelling at me. There is also love online
and also moral problems.
Q - For example?
HC – For example, I’ve heard a lot of times there are divorces because of loving online
and then divorcing. Also, there are a lot of things online that aren’t for children and are
illegal. So, towards morals this is a problem.
Q – Was yesterday’s party organized by you?
HC – Yes, I organized it, but it didn’t amount to a success.
Q – Why?
HC – Because we had ten people from our class go, but about sixteen should have come.
Last time in the second year of High School we had over thirty.
Q – I thought it was ok. Do you guys do it every year?
HC – Didn’t I just say that we don’t? We couldn’t do it senior year because everyone was
busy studying and in university. It’s hard because we are far away. So, I just thought that
maybe we could all just see each other, but it’s not a set date. It was previously, it was
once every semester.
Q – You guys were all in one class in high school or ?
HC – In jr high.
Q – How long have you and your grandmother lived together?
HC – Regularly, it was from my senior year [in high school] on because travel from her
home was pretty convenient. My home was pretty far [away.]
Q – Isn’t your and your grandmother’s relationship is a little particular? Doesn’t she
particularly care for you?
HC – Actually, when I was young my grandma lived in the dorm area that I showed you.
I went home about once a week. Also, my father was an only child and I’m also an only
child, so she pays particular attention to me.
Q - What feeling do you have towards people of that age and of that generation?
HC – I think their ability to accept modern things is already too weak. That’s to say they
can’t learn some new ways of thinking or computer things.
Q - Do you think this is a problem for their generation?
HC – Actually, I think you have to look at the situation. Some people who have already
retired are fine. But maybe some people whose factories have closed down and that don’t
have an income and have a small living space, they could have a problem. So, it’s half-
and-half. But at that age they’re mainly depending upon their children.
Q - What do you think is important to your parents and people of that generation?
HC – I think because of the Cultural Revolution many people didn’t accomplish their
uses, and that’s a real pity.
Q – Do you and your parents still see each other often?
HC – Yes.
Q – Could you describe you and your parents’ relationship?
HC – My parents’ and my relationship? Umm, [pause] I think its pretty much the same as
an average person. I have pretty few opportunities to talk with my father. I have more
opportunities to spend time with my mother.
Q – What do you feel people of your generation, this generation, are like?
HC – I think people of this generation are basically only children. So, their living ability
and their ability to be out-on-their-own is all pretty weak. Moreover, their ability to
accept new things is pretty strong. Also, they are the country’s future.
Q – Could you talk about the life of a local in Guangzhou and the life of an outsider in
HC – First I’ll talk about my situation, because I was born here and was raised here. I
have a lot of connections here, but if I was an outsider like I am in Shanghai, then I think
I would feel a little lonely, especially during the Spring Festival or during holidays. Yet,
if you’re talking about development, I think Guangzhou is pretty appropriate for
outsiders. If I was a foreigner, [pause] I think that Guangzhou’s culture is deeper than
Shanghai’s. It has more things of its own. Also, Guangzhou people pay fairly good
attention to the quality of life. So I think, living in Guangzhou is a pretty alright life, but
if it was an outsider or a foreigner then maybe there would be a period of adjustment.
Q – Are you a little lonely in Shanghai?
HC – A little, because my family is here and my friends are here.
Q – But you have friends in Shanghai.
HC – But they are not as familiar as those here.
Q – Do you have an interest in foreign countries?
HC – If I have time and if I have the opportunity, I would like to go to foreign countries,
especially, Hong Kong, Singapore, or the US.
Q – Why those three?
HC – Because, as I’ve said before, Hong Kong has a lot of influence on Guangzhou. So,
I’m interested in seeing what its like. Singapore also is very safe, has little crime, it’s
comfortable, and most people there are Chinese immigrants. So, I’m very interested in
seeing what it’s like there and what their view on their relationship with China is.
America is the world’s most developed country, so I am very interested in seeing what
kind of situation the most developed country in the world is in. But I’ll have to see how
my future develops.
Q - What type of a concept do you think friendship is?
HC – When you have a problem a friend helps you, when a friend has a problem you help
him and during misunderstandings you have mutual negotiation.
R – How about family?
HC – Family? [pause] Family should be even closer to you than friends. Moreover, I
think the ability to negotiate things with your family should be even more than with
friends. Also, whenever you have a problem the final help should come from your family.
That should be family.
Q – Do you think your family is like that?
HC – In a few situations they are, but in some situations they can’t help me.
Q - For example?
HC – For example, when I have certain differing views or methods [from them], [then]
they are unable to help me.
Q – Do you think your friends are as you said?
HC – A few here are.
Q – In Shanghai?
HC – In Shanghai I don’t think I’ve found any [friends] like that.
Q - How do you think a person should be in this world?
HC – Hmm, [pause] In all aspects they should have some restraint and then also some
strength. Also, they should accept new things, be trustworthy, love their country, etc
Q – Could you describe your own character?
HC – Just like this, selfish and self-centered. Then, [pause] me, [pause] umm, sometimes
I think I’m a little “say yes and mean no” because I’m pretty firm with my mouth but soft
with my actions. So, sometimes I’m very hard to understand for others. 60% interests
Q – I’d just like to ask, do you think when you’re online your character is the same?
HC – I think it’s a little more open. …
Q – Why do you think so many people like OICQ? [a type of internet chatting software]
HC – The first reason is that you can talk with you classmates. The second is that you can
meet some people and have a private feeling. The third is because its popular so more
people use it.
Q – What kind of a feeling do you have towards Internet cafes?
HC – If it was me I wouldn’t go to a Internet cafe. I think that using computers in an
Internet cafe isn’t as free as using a computer in your home. Moreover, [pause] what to
say, [pause] in this one place I went to people would look at what you where doing, it
was loud, and the air was bad, and there was just every kind of person in there.
Q – What kind of feeling do you have towards Americans?
HC – I think Americans are pretty individual, independent, and sometimes some are
selfish, and patriotic, but I think in America there are all types of people. But maybe
some Americans have a strong country and self-masterish view of themselves as world
citizens and international police, like Gorge Bush Jr. But the Americans I have
experienced have been pretty open-minded and have a strong desire to show themselves,
I think that’s all.
Q – Do you think Americans understand China?
HC – I think most don’t understand, because in the American conception of the conflicts
with Tibet and Taiwan, [pause] they give agitators some important official positions. So,
I think that American’s understanding of China is perhaps on a very surface level. You
should say they pretty much don’t understand.
Q – Do you think Chinese understand America?
HC – Do you mean America or Americans?
Q – Could you say the difference, I know it [the difference], but could you say it?
HC – If you’re talking about America then I think they understand quite a bit, but if
you’re talking about Americans I think they understand very little. Because many people
haven’t seen foreigners before and haven’t seen Americans, so they think that you are
curious. Moreover, towards America, because many products here are American or have
been built by American investors’ factories, we have a definite understanding of
America. Also, I think every evening’s news definitely has some news on America. But
Chinese and American news have some mutual differences in perspective like human
Q – What feeling do you have towards our project?
HC – Its pretty free and the distance between us is quite close, very little distance, but I
think you should leave some private space for the interviewee.
SXB Character Sketch
SXB is a first year student at Fudan University, majoring in history. She was born
and raised in a subsidiary town in the region of Kunming city. Her town is
self-administered by the Chinese Hui minority. SXB was the first member of her town to
be accepted to Fudan University and gained somewhat of a reputation as a result. Her
father was employed in a movie theater, but after movies became popular as a form of
home entertainment he was placed “off-post” and now drives a rental car for a living. Her
mother is a teacher in a local school and SXB recognizes that her family has difficult
situation economically compared to many of her classmates at Fudan. SXB was raised as
Han Chinese among the cultural diversity of Yunnan, she expresses her views on
minorities in China in her interviews and also holds strong views on gender.
SXB’s interviews were conducted entirely in Mandarin. Her interviews should be
viewed in the context of a foreign male student accompanied by a Chinese male student
interviewing a Chinese female student, all of relatively the same age.
SXB Preliminary Interview
Q -What is your name?
SXB - My name is SXB.
Q -Which University do you attend and in which department?
SXB - I am at Fudan University History Department, travel management major.
Q -So where is your home? Is it in the country or in the city?
SXB - My home is a subsidiary city near Kunming in Yunan province
Q -Could you tell me what your home is like? What are its particular characteristics?
SXB - My home is Yunnan. Yunnan it is a province that has a lot of minorities, over
twenty-six. The place where I live, it is a city self-governed by the Hui and Yi
nationalities. That’s to say most of the people living there are Hui and Yi nationality and
the Han nationality is a small group. In that type of place, eating for example, is mostly a
Muslim style, because they are Hui nationality, they don’t eat pork. Then, we Hans in
that area are really already a type of minority, but for example, in most other places Han
nationality is the majority.
Q -Do you know any Hui people?
SXB - Yes, I know some, many of my classmates in jr high and high school were Hui
nationality. They, [pause] I think probably now, because they have been with Hans for a
really long time, they have already become very Sino-ised. They don’t posses a lot of the
minority characteristics, aside from the eating aspect, they still insist on not eating meat.
But there are a lot of reasons for this [not eating pork]. One saying I’ve heard is that for
the Hui nationality their ancestors are pigs and thus they don’t eat pigs to respect their
ancestors, but another saying is that they don’t think that pigs are clean animals to eat and
thus they are unwilling to eat pork.
Q -You said that in your home the Han nationality is a minority, then when you came to
Shanghai how did you feel? Because here [in Shanghai] they are not a minority, there are
quite a few [of them].
SXB - I think, that when I came to Shanghai my first impression was just that my
classmates asked me, “Where is your home?” and then I said, “My home is in Yunnan.”
Then they said, “Are you a minority?” and I told them “I’m not, I’m a Han.” Then they
thought that was really weird, [they said,] “You’re not a minority?” Their, [pause] I think
that the impression that Yunnan gives many people is that, “If you’re from Yunan, since
Yunnan people are mostly minorities, then you definitely are a minority.” The results:
when I tell I’m their Han nationality they all feel it’s very strange. Then their second
question is: “Isn’t it that at your home…” … I tell them no it isn’t … it has many
animals, but that doesn’t representatively say that people and animals can live together
Because I think, Yunnan, right now it actually, in respect to Kunming city, isn’t
too different from Shanghai. Its not that type of really very poor minority place. Its
actually very modernized. In that type of an area it’s really hard to find the particularities
of minority [culture.] It [the culture] has already been thrown away. It has already
followed economic development, already been modernized. It’s very hard to see [real]
minorities very closely, it’s just in some places like the Bana that you can see minority
characteristics. That’s to say that many people now don’t understand Yunnan. When they
think of Yunnan they just think first of guys on horses, the second is minorities. It’s just
Q - How do you feel about those people’s thoughts?
SXB – Towards their non-understanding, [pause] I think I’m first surprised. We’re one
country and Yunnan is a pretty famous province, they should understand it. Then my
second thought is that they don’t really have an understanding of Yunnan’s economic
development. Yunnan right now has developed a lot, but it still hasn’t put forth an
impression in the whole scope of the country’s economy. It still doesn’t have a very
important economic status. In that way, I think if you want to talk about changing
people’s views of Yunnan, then developing it to its peak should do it. That’s how I feel.
Q - Could you tell me about an average person’s life in Yunnan?
SXB – Well, I’m just a pretty normal person and my life is just an average life. I’ll just
tell you about my life. I think where I’m from it’s just, [pause] umm, [pause] average.
[pause] No! It’s not. Where I’m from there is a slight difference from here, because there
are a lot of minorities, so we have a lot of holidays. Now for example, something with a
lot of character: China has the spring festival, the Hans celebrate it on one day, but the
Huis just view that day as their small year. That's to say not their real new year. They
celebrate a different day. Also for the Hans, they just celebrate it [the new year] on their
own, but the Huis have to go to a temple, find a master, have dinner, bring gifts, etc. The
holidays are all done very formally like that [for the Huis.]
Also, right next to my house there is a movie theater and across the way from that
there is a Hui mosque, and in there, they have religious events. Also, if someone passes
away, they don’t do as we Hans. They usually bring a lot of people together and give
gifts and come and give their condolences. They place the body inside [the mosque] for a
period of time and then bury it. It’s all very formal.
Moreover, the most important thing is just when you’re over there and you’re
talking, you need to particularly be careful. That is, if your talking with a Hui person you
can’t just casually say pig something or pork such and such. To say that is to show
disrespect towards their worship, it is particularly taboo.
Also, normally Hans don’t invite their Hui friends to come to their homes to eat,
because most of what we have uses pig oil and pork. So out of respect for them we don’t
have them over to eat and normally [we] don’t go to their houses to eat. Of course
actually nowadays, many Hans eat Hui food because it has a special flavor and they can
do some really amazing things with beef. For example their dried beef is really famous
and the Huis sell it pretty expensively and the Hans buy it and like it quite a bit. [pause]
Other than that, [pause] other than that, I’m not too clear, I don’t know very much.
Q - Can you describe the life of a normal Hui?
SXB – Huis, [pause] I think there are two types. One is the same as Hans, that’s to say he
works at some work unit and his life doesn’t have very much of a divergence from Hans.
He just goes to work and comes home, just like that. Then there is the type that belongs to
the peasants and such. They don’t have a job. They just depend upon the agricultural
industry or they herd cattle and such. Then when the time comes they make beef. Their
life is probably pretty particular, because they’re not like normal people going to work
and coming home. They depend on agriculture so they do those sorts of things. …
Q - How do you think most Han people feel about Huis?
SXB – Maybe Hans get along very peacefully with Huis. That is that Hans can accept
most of their lifestyle habits. But Huis are that type that has a very violent spirit. For
example, sometimes when Huis and Hans are together and there is a problem or a
contradiction, then nationality becomes important. At those times Huis will call a large
group together or a lot of family members together and oppose the Hans, whether or not
what was said made sense or not. Most of the time it’s like that. The Han spirit is
different. Usually when they [Hans] arrive at a point of danger the whole nationality
So most of the time it’s peaceful, but occasionally in some small areas there are
problems. So some people say it’s best not to have conflict with Huis. Otherwise it’s very
difficult to oppose them. Also, sometimes, I think Huis are really a very fierce
nationality, the way they bring whole groups to a fight. Also, you know that at our
location it is their area, so sometimes it seems whatever they say goes.
Q - Could you give another example?
SXB – Let me think. [pause] Ok, so one time there was this Hui and this Han on the road
together and they had a problem and they both started yelling fiercely. I think the Han at
that time wasn’t arguing that much, he just said some things about how the Hui was being
disrespectful and offensive. At that time that Hui didn’t do anything, they both went
home. Then the next day the Hui brought a whole large group of people to confront this
Han. It was really fierce. It has been a long time since this happened. It is just that when I
was small I heard my mother say this and from then on I just thought that Huis were very
a fierce nationality. That’s how I know that when living with Huis you can’t have a
contradiction with them. They really are very fierce, over such a small thing, to kill a man
and then to trash his home.
Q - Do you have any close Hui friends?
SXB – Friends yes, but very close, no. Before with my classmates, in my class, there was
a little more than 10 of us Hans, the rest were all Huis. But I think that the generation of
Huis that went to school with us, they don’t really possess the nationality characteristics.
Slowly over a long period with the Hans they’ve accepted a lot. I think they have already
become accustomed to it. [Han life]
SXB – Of course Kunming isn’t like Shanghai, but it’s quite developed and on average it
should rank up there in China’s cities. My county is not as developed of course because
it’s not a city, but it’s ok. I think the most undeveloped areas are the villages.
SXB – In the villages the view is that if a girl is married she has been given to the other
family and is not part of the same original family. Also, the older people disfavor it if
they have a girl child. Some people can become very upset and want to persist until they
have a son. Some people are still like that, but now we have the one child policy so it
should slowly get better. … Like my mother’s generation, girls of that time generally
weren’t able to study and couldn’t go to school to study. And if economics at home were
bad and they only had the ability to let one boy go to school. Then they definitely
wouldn’t let a girl go to school. It would definitely be a boy.
But my mother at that time was rather fortunate because my grandfather was
pretty open minded at the time. Although in those days my grandfather couldn’t read, but
he was still very open minded and he felt later [in the future] things wouldn’t be the
same. My mother [pause] They were three girls, and my mother was the second daughter,
with two little brothers. They all five basically all studied and to the high school level.
At that time, my mom’s generation studied really hard, particularly women.
Because if you didn’t study you couldn’t go out and see the world. If you didn’t study,
you just married and stayed in the same small place. My mother feels that a lot of women
in the village spend their whole lives in a village never leaving that small place, just
minding their husband and children with no objective. I think that aspect is very pitiful.
Q - Why?
SXB – In fact, in our times, I think that both men and women have a right to happiness.
But in the village, you have some women who get married and then after they get married
end up with a misogynist male. Our friend has a relative who got married and her
husband gambles and plays mahjong and would beat her and when she told her friend,
her friends said she couldn’t help her because she got married and gave her freedom to
Q - Could you talk about marriage in the cities?
SXB – Just having a lot of people over for dinner. [pause] Huis have a different way of
doing it. I think their way is actually very good, the Han way is just, if you have money
then give it.
At that time [pause] marriage, like my mom said, was just [pause] women got
dressed up and men bought some things for the home. … like my parents how they got
married. They weren’t the type that freely fell in love, it was arranged by their parents,
but at that time they had a definite derivation [of each other]. That’s to say that in
elementary school they went to school together. They each had an understanding and
knowledge of each other and knew what type of a person their partner was and knew
what they looked like. So it wasn’t like now with everyone doing things themselves.
Q - Is there a difference between boys in the city and boys in the country?
SXB - Yes, I think there should be. [pause] In the country it’s the family perspective,
that’s to say that their families are the most important in their lives.
Q - Why did you choose to come to Shanghai?
SXB – I think there were subjective and objective reason for it. My subjective reason was
because since I was small I’d head of this school [Fudan.] Then objectively, after I tested,
the scores weren’t the greatest, but [I thought] maybe I could get in …
At that time I wasn’t thinking about Shanghai, [pause] I mostly thought about the
school. But now, I think Shanghai is really great, nothing bad about Shanghai.
Q – Could you explain your feeling for Shanghai with more depth?
SXB – Prosperous, developed, Shanghainese [pause] I think every place has it’s own
hospitality, but sometimes you can’t over come cultural differences. Shanghai is a very
materialistically developed place, so I think that people desiring material [things] here
makes sense. My classmates from Shanghai pay a lot of attention to material things. Very
practical, they think a lot about after they graduate and finding a good job. [For them] just
having money is fine.
But I think to me, personally, I think my requirements are not just about money. It
has to do with resulting growth. That’s to say it wouldn’t matter how much money I
made, if what I was doing was what I wanted to be doing, then I would have a very
natural feeling. So in this aspect there is a difference. Their requirements are more
materialistic and what I want is different, but actually I think a lot of students have this
type of feeling.
Q - Could you talk about your view on Shanghai?
SXB – Convenient traffic, very free, very good, but the environment in Yunnan is better
Q - After coming to study have you changed?
SXB – Yes, I’ve had a large change. Previously, I existed in a very small space and this
space was very limited. The people I experienced, the events I experienced, and the
knowledge I received were all very limited. At that time, I thought I knew everything. At
that time, I thought I understood everything. Then when I came here, I felt the world had
widened. I experienced a lot of people and a lot of things, realizing that I didn’t know
anything and I needed to study everything over again. That was my largest feeling.
I felt that when I was at my parents side, I just thought that there was so much
natural about it and that a person placed over here, independent all at once, [pause] I just
felt it was wanting a person to forget a lot of things, [pause] [there were] a lot of things
and I wasn’t used to it. Fudan is also a very good school, good tools, good environment,
good teachers, and a good library. You can study whatever you want. I don’t think four
years will be enough.
Q - After you graduate do you want to be a graduate student?
SXB – I think that way now, but we’ll see. It’s not definite that my grades will be good at
that time. If I don’t get good enough grades I might first get a job and then test again
later. Also, I think it will have to do with my family’s situation. I think you can study
your whole life and not stop.
Q - How about your character after coming to school?
SXB – Pretty much the same.
Q – Could you tell me about your friends at home who haven’t gotten into university?
SXB – The largest part are currently reviewing and want to test again. They felt before
they didn’t have time and now they have time and can study again for a year. Also, there
is a group whose family has a different view. They feel that now the economy is difficult,
but that later after they get out of university it will be even worse, so they should hurry up
and find a job. The most important [thing] is to look at their parents, I think the parent’s
view is very important.
For us of this age, I think to choose our own actions is very hard. Most the time
it’s just listening to your parents. Yourself, [pause] sometimes it’s very hard to be your
own master. You also have another group of students at home whose parents don’t expect
them to go to university they start to look for other methods and after graduating from
high school they just find some job appropriate for a high school graduate. Then in jr
high it’s also not the same, we have a choice in jr high to try and test into high school and
some people just go their own way after jr high.
Q - What view do you have of them now?
SXB – I think that friends are still the same friends. It’s just that the things we’ve studied
aren’t the same. But there is also a cultural difference. That’s to say when we are all
together there isn’t a lot of common language. I think coming here [to school] you can
experience a lot of positive influences. Positive art influences, I really like art. But the art
they study isn’t the same and also they don’t have the real university training. A lot of the
time when I say things, they say they don’t understand. They think I speak differently. So
there’s not a lot of common language, [pause] also the topics of conversation are very
Q - How do you feel about that when it happens?
SXB – At first I used to get upset, because we were good friends from before. But then
after thinking about it some more I don’t think it’s a problem of our subjectivity. I think
it’s a problem created by objectivity. I think it’s really too bad that they have stopped
studying and I wish they would continue.
Q - Why do you think it’s too bad?
SXB – Because in high school there are a lot of things you don’t understand and you
need to go study them to understand them.
Q - What are your parent’s work units?
SXB – My mother is a teacher and my father is at a movie company.
SXB – My family just has this one child with no brothers or sisters, just me. Though I
have a lot of cousins.
Q - Could you tell me about your relationship with you parents?
SXB – Very good. I think us, this family, because our family isn’t a family with a lot of
money and my mother is a teacher and their salary is fixed and isn’t very high and my
father’s work unit isn’t very good, in my home material things aren’t so important. You
could say that my home is [pause] just right, a warm family. But I think that in this type
of family you have a very close mixing. That’s to say, maybe they can’t meet all of my
material wants, but they come from the emotional aspect to fulfill me.
They’ve always been very, very good to me since I was little. In that way, in our
family, all the way to now, I’ve never once experienced having my parents yell at me.
My mom and dad’s tempers are both very good, particularly my father’s. His patience is
very, very good. [pause] My mother’s temper is a little more overbearing and her mood is
a little more nervous. She can get upset over things, but my father checks her.
Also, from when I was small it was always my mother who instructed me, my
father didn’t instruct me much. Towards me, he just very purely loved me and liked me.
He very warmly cared for me. My mother very strictly looked after me. She was always
very strict with me, but it was only up to the third grade. After that she considered me
grown with my own perspective and would more just check up on me. Before that, she
would scold me, but afterwards she didn’t scold me the same [way.] If I did something
wrong, she would ask me how I did wrong and have me think about it. Actually, I think
that this is very good. She always had me decide about my own studies and she said it
was my own choice. I think my family is very democratic like that. I like my family.
Q - What kind of a concept do you think development is?
SXB – I think that you have to look at a couple parts. The first is the standard of living.
The second is the way people interact. … So, I think that development is first material
and second people’s spirit.
Q - What type of future do you hope for?
SXB – My personal future? I just hope, [pause] umm, actually I think right now I’m very
hazy. Right now, I don’t have any fixed target. Right now, I’m in the type of phase where
I’m looking for my target and slowly finding where my interests are, knowing what I
want and what my end is. I just want to be able to realize what I want to realize, but I still
don’t know its structure. I trust that now in university, in these four years, I can find my
objective and then try hard for my objective.
SXB In-depth Interview
Q – Now, after returning home what type of different feelings do you have?
SXB – Different? I don’t think I have any different feelings about my family, just the
same as before. But talking with friends I think there might be a small difference. What I
talk about, they aren’t necessarily able to comprehend and the events that they talk about,
I don’t necessarily understand. That’s to say, the things they do, I think differently about
and the things I do, they think differently about.
Q – Can you give me an example?
SXB – For example, one day I talked about what a handsome guy is with F. She liked the
really cool type, for example wearing what type of necklace, how they look and what
type of cloths they wear. She thinks a handsome guy is like that. She just likes someone
who looks good. I like the refined type. She just thinks the most important thing is the
outside looks. I like the type that isn’t that great looking, but has a pretty good character.
I think previously we never had that type of difference, but [pause] previously we had a
little bit of that type of difference. I think before we were both in the middle about looks
and then she started to go one way and I went the other.
I think that she and I aren’t as intimate as before. It was like previously we never
had any differences and now a lot of our ways of thinking are different.
Q - What do you think will happen with you guys in the future?
SXB – I think in the future we will still probably be good friends, but perhaps we will
become a different type of friends. That’s to say, not the type that understands each other,
but the type that still supports each other. We’ve talked about this before, how sometimes
we don’t understand, but will still trust each other to do things correctly.
Q – Over these six days what types of feelings have you had towards your home?
SXB – I think that my hometown has had a lot of change. I think if I hadn’t been with
you guys I wouldn’t have noticed. But going around with you guys, I noticed a lot. Like
previously I had never been to that library, but going there, I realized there was a lot of
stuff in there. Also, before, I thought that the school didn’t have much change, but going
there with you I realized that there has really been a lot of change. For example,
previously we were unable to have computers and even in high school, the computers
were very few. But now there are a lot of computers there and that’s a big change.
Q - Do you think your and your teacher’s relationship has changed?
SXB – Not really, [pause] well I think before our relationship was of the type where he
was really strict with me and I was a little afraid of him, sort of respectfully. But now
after I’ve graduated and experienced some more things, we can talk about more things
and ideas. It’s a lot better now.
Q – What view do you have towards your father now?
SXB - My view towards my father is that my father is very normal and also a little
conservative, it’s not very easy for him to accept new books, but he doesn’t oppose new
books. So towards me, he doesn’t interfere with my life, he can accept all that I do.
My father is the type that stays with the statuesque. He doesn’t really try to
change his life station. He thinks as long as his family is making it and basically gets by,
then that’s enough. His material expectations aren’t too high. Sometimes I think that type
of thinking is actually very good. He's not so interested in new things. He just likes a
peaceful life. But sometimes, I also think because materially now, [pause] my father,
[pause] like that he doesn’t really have a life. But actually, my father, I think he has a lot
of experience and also his work unit isn’t very good.
Maybe some things that he would like to do, he can’t do. He can want to do them,
but can’t because he is older and it’s not as easy to study new things and to find work. So,
he just drives the car. About his driving the car, my mother and I don’t really agree with
it. But now my mother thinks that after I graduate and their load is lighter, my father
won’t have to work so hard.
Talking about my father, I think you could say that personally he is very happy,
because he’s being diligent for his family and the family is also in harmony. My father,
my mother, and me, we’re all taking care of each other and I think that to my father this
is a very good life. It’s a little hard, but he feels it’s very happy.
Q – What type of way of life do you think is best in a town like this?
SXB – I think that my family’s method is probably very good. Like my mother and father
both do the work they are supposed to do and they have some very good friends in this
place and occasionally they go around with friends, talking and staying over, that’s very
good. Because my family is the type, [pause] my family isn’t a family with a lot of
My mom and dad aren’t the type that wants to benefit through conflict with other
people. They are very average people. So to me, that type of life style: not having a lot of
beneficial connections and being honest in one’s comings and goings, I think that’s the
best type of life. I think that the other way is too exhausting. This way they don’t have to
worry about a lot they just send their daughter to school and stay with friends, I think this
way is very good.
Q – So what is the relationship between your family and your “little brother’s” family?
SXB – Our families are each other’s best friends and our relationship is very close. Both
families pay a lot of attention to each other and care for each other. We often spend
holidays and time off together. There are other families that also have good relationships
with my family, like some of my mother’s associates, but it’s not the same, it’s not as
intimate. It’s like whenever anything happens between our families we always help each
My dad and his dad met previously when my dad was working at the movie
theater and his dad was working at the bank across the way. I think his dad probably
watched movies a lot and they probably got along well and then our mothers became
friends and then he and I became friends. The relationship is very good.
Q – Now why isn’t your father still at his original job?
SXB – He still is, it’s just that he’s off-post. Because their business was going too bad,
now the company still exists, but he only gets 600 yuan a month. But it doesn’t really
come, so sometimes my dad doesn’t even get one cent a month, because the work unit is
doing so bad.
Q – What type of feeling do you have towards “off-post”?
SXB – I think “off-post” towards our country, towards this country and this society’s
development, it has a benefit. I think that a lot of people would have already lost their
motivation if they were still in those [old] work units. I think there would be no
competition and this would not have a good affect on our economic development.
I think to put a group of people “off-post” is rational. But moreover, I think that looking
at individual people, that “off-post” people are very pitiful. I think those people feel as if
they’ve been cheated by society. They thought they could have a job their whole life and
then when they are already old, they’re cheated and their work unit doesn’t want them.
Of course, my family is still pretty good. I think if both my parents were off-post it would
be very difficult and then life would be very hard. Also now, their child is studying so
there will be a lot of money. But I think that this is a necessity of society. It’s not bad. I
think that although there are problems, they can be resolved and the person “off-post” can
still find work. Maybe not at the old work unit, but somewhere else.
Q – So how is your relationship with your “little brother?”
SXB – First when we were young we were very close and then as we grew up it was a
little different. He was reluctant to tell me things. But later after being apart for a while,
he started to tell me many of his heart’s views, towards his family and many things. Then
sometimes I think because I’m two years older, I can help correct some of his incorrect
ways of thinking, like when he yells at his mother or doesn’t study hard. You could say
that we are brother and sister, but also friends.
Q – Does he listen to you?
SXB – He tells me he listens to me more than his mother, because there isn’t as much of
a gap between us and I can understand his thoughts and he can understand mine.
Q – Don’t a lot of people seem to know your mom and dad here?
SXB – Yes, I think it’s because of their work. My mom meets a lot of people and she
knows a lot of people, because of her associates. Also, when my father was at his old
work unit a lot of people came to watch movies, so they all knew my dad. Also, later,
because my scores were pretty good, a lot of teachers liked me and then I got into Fudan
and that became known. Mainly it is because this town is just too small.
Q - Do you like this type of small town?
SXB – This is where I grew up so I like it. It doesn’t matter if it is big or small, I just like
my hometown, because people here are very normal. But because the economy isn’t so
good it can’t really compare to Shanghai or anything, but I like the people here.
Q – Don’t a lot of people know you here?
SXB – Yes, because I know a lot of classmates and my parents know a lot of people and
some people just heard of me through my parents.
Q – Didn’t you say that you were the first to test into Fudan?
SXB – Yes.
Q – Do you think this had an influence on your reputation?
SXB – Yes, but actually I don’t think it was good. Previously, I had a lot of friends that
were close and then after they heard I got into Fudan, it was different. Though actually I
was the same person, they stopped looking at me in the same way. They already thought
we were different.
Q – Could you talk about this some more?
SXB – Well, an example would be that they don’t really talk casually with me anymore.
They did before, but not now. …
Q – Do you think you could be considered famous here?
SXB – No, no, just amongst a small circle of friends maybe. But I think the next
generation will be a lot better than me.
Q - What type of a concept do you think a friend is?
SXB – To me, I think a friends is, [pause] I think there are many different types of
friends. Some friend’s interests and hobbies are similar to yours, so you can talk about
some common issues, hobbies, listen to music together, and go out to watch movies and
stuff. You can go out and play together and that is a very happy friend.
Also, another type of friend is that where your characters aren’t a lot alike and
your hobbies aren’t the same, but you just have a type of tacit. That’s to say, they can
understand the things you do, and you can understand the things they do. They can
realize what you heart is feeling. I think that’s a friend with a very intimate understanding
of you and you can have heart-to-heart. You can talk about what’s troubling your heart
and mutually comfort one another.
I also think there are also a lot of friends where, for example, your impression of
me is very good and my impression of you is very good, but we don’t have anything else
in common, so we can’t become good friends, just average friends. But the feeling is still
very good. I also have a lot of friends, where you could say that we’re not often together.
Maybe in one year we’re just together once or twice, but you just feel that in your heart,
it’s old friendship. It doesn’t matter what you’re talking about, happiness or unhappiness;
you just like to share with them. Maybe not necessarily playing together and not
necessarily communicating a lot, just occasionally giving them a call or writing a letter,
that type of feeling is very warm, I have a lot of friends like that.
My close friends at Fudan now, eating with me and living with me. These types of
friends don’t understand my emotions. I also have a lot of friends, where we aren’t
together very often, just in class, but the feeling is still very good. I also have some
friends at home far away, but I have always regarded them as my best friends. So I feel
the concept of friendship is very complicated.
Q – What makes the best type of friend?
SXB – Different for different types [of friends], just helping each other and trying to
cheer each other up and consoling each other when unhappy. I don’t think it’s important
for friends to be together often or to give a lot of gifts. I think the most important thing is
to have that type of [pause] “I look after you and you look after me” [feeling], or at least
that “I can comfort you and you can comfort me” [feeling]. That’s the best way.
Q - Then do you think there is a difference between friends at school and here?
SXB – There should be. With my friends at school, we talk about class, teachers, and
school, but with my friends at home I can’t talk about school. Also, over there [at school]
it’s a life with bumping into them and visiting them when they’re sick, etc. But with
friends at home it’s two people far away with concern for each other, they hope I’ll return
home soon, etc. It’s not seeing each other everyday. We can’t live our lives together, but
we see each other during winter and summer breaks. It’s just like that.
Q - You talked on the mountain about the differences between you and your parents,
could you talk about this generation gap?
SXB – Generation gap? On this point I don’t really have a deep realization. That’s to say,
even though our ways of thinking aren’t the same, my parents don’t interfere with me. In
my home it’s very democratic. No matter what I do they tell me that I need to think it
over myself and they can only give suggestions. Because this generation gap doesn’t
cause conflict for me, I can’t understand it very deeply. I just feel that it is there. Towards
seeing affairs we [her and her parents] have different views, but towards my affairs, my
parents have always not interfered with me. So I feel at home I am incredibly free.
I think the generation gap is a difference in thought. My mother and that
generation they didn’t endorse enjoyment. That’s to say they feel [pause] that their
generation, the people then were very arduous, in their lives the word enjoyment didn’t
exist. That’s to say, [their view is] that life is a type of hardship and that life should be
very arduous. Enjoyment, it’s like in their lives that was a very distant thing. Always
feeling that in whatever hardships you can’t retreat one step, particularly if you have
children, you should take your money and spend it on them and you simply quit any life
But I think we of this generation, actually a lot of the time, already aren’t like
that: only suffering to do things, not understanding enjoyment. Actually, I think we of
this generation are very capable of understanding enjoyment, that’s what I think.
Occasionally, personally, after studying very hard for a long time and then relaxing, I
play around and stuff.
I think my father doesn’t have this type of a conception. It’s just like my mother
said, previously, their parents’ status in their mental view was the very most important.
Their family, my mother said, whatever they did they would first think of their parents,
then of their families, then of themselves.
But now what we do I think most often is think of ourselves. For example, my
mother previously wouldn’t think my grandparents didn’t understand her. She would just
think that whatever they said was what she should do and she should respect her parents
and not let her parents get angry. But if you switch it with this generation, if I did
something and my parents didn’t like it, I would just think that my parents didn’t
understand me. That’s not to say that I don’t respect them. It’s thinking about it from
another perspective. So, I think this is a very large definite difference.
Like my mother before, if she had something good to eat she would save it for my
grandparents, unwilling to give it to herself. But like we of this generation, a lot of the
time, like me, I think that, for example, that for a lot of things I don’t think that I would
necessarily immediately think of my parents. Although, a lot of the time I often think of
them, but it’s not every affair that I think of them. But at my mother’s time for every
affair, they had to think of their family.
Q – Could you describe this generation’s thought?
SXB – This generation’s thought, [pause] I think my personal thought, [pause] it’s not
this generation’s thought, but it can have a representative form, I can only speak of
myself personally, I simple can’t represent this generation’s thought. I think my thought
bends towards traditional. Because my family is like that, my family is very traditional.
Also, from when I was small I only received an impression from this small village. Also,
I think I received my parent’s influence the most, so my thought isn’t of the very liberal
type. It’s not that type of very avant-guard [thought]. It’s the type that’s a little
traditional. A lot of times when my parents are next to me I have this realization. But
looking at myself, I don’t know if I can say it right.
I think this generation compared to their generation, the biggest difference is the
freedom aspect, conception of freedom, the consciousness of freedom is pretty strong, it’s
not like their generation. Then also independent ability, ability to take initiative is also
probably stronger. They, before, were used to, [pause] well it’s not to say they weren’t
used to, but actually society, it was that their parents decided everything. Whatever affair
it was, the parents decided, but us of this generation, basically we personally make our
own decisions. The opinions of our parents are just a consideration. I think the biggest
thing is just that point.
Q – What influence do you feel a person’s environment has on them?
SXB – I think that a person’s environment has a very large impression on them. I think a
person’s view of the world has a lot to do with their environment. I think you can say that
I’m a product of my environment, because I think I don’t have a very particular
I think that after I had grown up, my family environment had established my
character. Like when I went off to school, I think that type of environment only had a
little effect on me. Life, for example, I think that like Shanghai, for that type of
environment to alter my character is probably not really possible. That’s to say, that I
think that my character was decided from my family environment and I think that’s the
difference between the family environment and other environments. There is a saying
that says that the outside environment is a condition, but the inside environment is the
But I think that the inside environment is also the outside environment with the
family. I think my family has forever influenced my character and the family in this case
has a set function. I think the outside environment can change a person a little, but it can’t
shake the base of the person, just change some life style habits or some views on things.
But it’s unable to change a person’s whole character. That’s what I think.
Q – How about your personal environment?
SXB – I think because my parents are very traditional and my family has always been
average, not very bad off but average. I think I’ve received my parent’s influence and I’m
pretty traditional. Not that type of very avant-garde [person,] like a lot of my classmates
because their families have always had a lot of money and their parents have always
given them material fulfillment. So they were just very fulfilled and so they are just used
to material fulfillment. Their emotion towards their parents is probably flagging slightly.
I just feel that in their lives material things are probably a big part, because they’ve
always been able to attain material fulfillment, but for me it’s not the same. Since I was
small my parents were not able to give me material fulfillment. That’s to say they
couldn’t fulfill a lot of my [material] desires, but what they gave me was a type of
closeness, something of the heart, of emotional fulfillment, and in this way in my life
material things are a very, very small part.
That’s to say if I had to choose between coming home or staying in Shanghai,
maybe I would choose Shanghai and be able to make a lot of money. But the conditions
in my home town might not be as good as over there, but that’s not to say that I would
definitely stay in Shanghai. I wouldn’t put material [things] as the standard, because of
my family’s influence. Because since I was young I didn’t have a lot of material things,
so I don’t have a very large conception towards materialism.
I think the most important thing for people is the feeling between people. It’s a
way of realizing my ideals, not a way of realizing materialism. I think that aspect is the
largest impression [of my environment.] Then I think as far as influencing my character, I
think my father has had the largest influence upon me. My father’s character is the type
that is lax and likes to make friends, and doesn’t like to worry about things no matter if
they are small or large. He just doesn’t like to worry, very casual, that type of character.
I probably have that. That aspect has probably had a big influence on my
character. For a lot of things I just don’t worry, a pretty ambivalent person. I don’t worry
about a lot. My mom often says I don’t do things seriously, just like my father. He
actually is serious. He just doesn’t want to be too serious. I think I’m also a lot like that. I
think a lot of the time I’m also not very focused. So, my mother thinks that in that aspect
my father has had a large influence on me. Also, my mother is a type of perfectionist.
When she does something, she definitely has to do it the best, if not she wants to do it
again. I’m sometimes not like that. If I’ve already tried my best and did it poorly, then
I’ve already forgotten it. So this is the influence [of my family] on my character.
Q – What are your views on your mother’s perfectionism?
SXB – Actually, personally, I’m personally a little bit like that, but it’s not very strong. I
think in my view these perfectionists have a very good side: whatever they do they have
to do it the best. I think that’s their best aspect. I really have confidence in that type of
person. Although, I personally can’t do it and that’s that.
Moreover, probably no matter what perfectionists do they are going to be more
taxed by doing it than an average person, because their requirements are a lot higher. So
doing things becomes a lot harder. If your requirements are lower, then maybe things can
be done very easily. But if your requirements are high you have to put forth a lot of
energy, to get things done.
To me, I think there isn’t really much of a need to be such a perfectionist. Some
things don’t need to be done the best. I trust that I’ll put forth effort in the face [of
problems] and if I don’t really have the energy to do it again, then I won’t do it over.
Actually, I also have a friend who is a perfectionist. I think perfectionists, those types of
people, are very tired, really very tired.
Q – Do you think your mother is tired?
SXB – I think my mother is very tired. I think I can let things go by and not do them
again, but my mother can't do that. She takes very small things and views them as very
large. She puts a lot of pressure in her heart. So, I feel my mother is really very tired.
Q - Do you think you can understand your mother’s life?
SXB – Yes, I think I really understand my mother ,though I don’t have that type of
character. I also have a lot of those feelings. So you can say, [pause] my first reaction
isn’t that way, but if I think again I may come to perfectionism. So a lot of times I really
understand my mother’s thoughts. Previously, sometimes, I tried to change my mother
and get her to quit some habits, but at their [her parents] age, a lot of things are already
permanently rooted with no way to change them. So, I can only comfort her, because I
know a lot of things are in her heart pressuring her to do them over. In her life, she really
does a lot of things over. I can only comfort her and try to get her not to do things over. If
I try and change my mother’s character, that’s not possible.
Q – How did you meet your boyfriend?
SXB – We were classmates in high school and we were good friends. At that time he
called me “paper sister” and I called him “paper brother,” because at that time we didn’t
talk a lot, we would just often sit together or watch a movie or something. But he could
tell when my mood was bad. He wouldn’t necessarily come console me, but would write
a note asking me a few things and I wouldn’t necessarily tell him what was wrong, but I
would tell him how I was feeling. I came to find I had a lot of tacit with him and when I
was upset in just a few phrases he could really comfort me. Then I would often know
when he was feeling bad and console him. We weren’t together a lot and in high school
we were just friends, but then when we got to university our relationship became like
Q - How did it become like that?
SXB – I think if people are good friends, it is very easy to become closer and to form this
type of relationship. In high school it’s simply not really possible to have boyfriends and
girlfriends, because the pressure is so heavy. Parents also oppose these types of
relationships at this time.
Q – Why haven’t you told your mother?
SXB – Because she still can’t accept me having a boyfriend. My mother still thinks I am
young, just turned 18. Although she knows him, she doesn’t have the greatest impression
of him. So, I don’t dare to tell my mother. Also, my mother would like me to know him
longer before I decide. She doesn’t think I should enter that type of relationship so
Sometimes my mother’s thoughts and my thoughts are not the same. Sometimes I
think that if people can be together then that’s ok. But my mother thinks that if people are
together then they need to have a future that can be discussed, a future that can be hoped
for and afterwards have an opportunity and later have a possibility to continue the
relationship, very practical. But my thoughts, [pause] I can say that I simply haven’t
thought about our future. I mean I know that it’s possible in the future that we will have
to break up and I can accept that, but my mother thinks that if we could break up in the
future, then we shouldn’t be having a relationship now, so I just don’t tell my mother.
SXB - My mother is like me, she likes refined men.
Q – Your boyfriend isn’t like that?
SXB – No. Skinny, but definitely not refined.
SXB – We don’t have a lot of contact. We call every day, see each other once every
couple of weeks, and occasionally write.
SXB – He may have changed a little, but also it could just be two people over a long
time. I think his character is very complicated. [pause] I can’t predict his reaction very
much any more. Our time together hasn’t been that long, not even a year, so we haven’t
faced any big deals together yet.
Q – What type of a conception do you think home should be?
SXB – I think home should be a person’s most warm feeling, because a person can’t
spend their whole life at home. They have to go out and actually when you are out there
and you run into things, for example, out in Shanghai and run into things, then you are
able to think of home. That [conception of] home should be able to give you a warm
feeling, then that is a home.
I think that home is the biggest conception in China. The whole of China is just
like one home. Also, I think that members of families mutually take care of each other
and mutually look after each other. Also, family member’s love is a selfless love. They
don’t have any requirements of you or want anything in return. They just selflessly love
you, particularly, parent’s love for their son’s and daughters. They could give you their
everything, and not expect you to return even a little. I think, this is a parent’s selfless
aspect. This is also where parents differ from other people. It’s just like a boyfriend. I
think that type of love [boyfriend love] and friends that type of love and family love are
all not the same. The most selfless love is family love.
Actually I had a friend, her family was a little – what should I say? I don’t think it
was like a family. She said as soon as she got to the door she was afraid and didn’t want
to go in. Her parents were really despotic with her and didn’t give her any warmth, just
suppressed her. She simply didn’t have any choices that she made. Her parents chose
everything for her. So, their relationship was very, very bad. Then later she found a
boyfriend and her parent’s didn’t agree and so she went to his house and her parent’s
wouldn’t let her come home.
She was a senior in high school and for four months she didn’t come home, and
for four months her parents didn’t pay any of her living expenses. At that time her
boyfriend provided for her. Then before the University test, she came home, but her
parents treated her like a guest, very formal. She feels that she is a very unhappy person.
She feels that in this town she has a home, but no family to return to. I think this type of
thing is very difficult.
I think this type of a family is a suffering family. The parents don’t understand the
child and the child doesn’t understand the parents. Mutual misunderstanding, because
there is no opportunity [for mutual communication.] Actually I think a lot of the
misunderstandings [in the family] could be resolved through mutual communication, but
they don’t give each other the opportunity. It gets worse and worse, and then this turns
into a very revolting situation. The parents feel like the child is getting farther and farther
away and the child feels that the parents aren’t like parents and that their home isn’t like a
home. The parents are also very hurt and then it’s very easy for the child, that’s to say
that it is very easy for them to be cut short, to have no hope, to have no opportunity.
Their [the child’s] character becomes the type that is very easy affected by outside things,
that type of character. So, I think that type of home is a very bad type of home and I hope
that their parents and children can give a chance for mutual discussion.
Q – How do you think this occurs?
SXB – I don’t know, it’s just my friend, but I have a lot of sympathy for her.
Q – You mentioned that you feel romantic love and family love are different, could you
talk more about that?
SXB – I think parent’s love for children is a type that doesn’t expect return. That it is
self-less, they give it to you and for you to accept it is all they want. But I think romantic
love is different. That love needs me to put forth and also needs you to put forth. You
can’t say that just one person puts forth. That type of love, I think doesn’t hold water.
That’s my view.
Q – So what’s your conception of family?
SXB – Sometimes, I think that when I come home, my family is just my mother and
father, it’s not the environment.
Q – Could you talk about the physical changes in your home area?
SXB – I think that after they took away the pond that it didn’t feel like home. Also my
dad had a change, as slowly more and more movie machines and TVs came and less and
less people came to watch movies. When my father started he had a very good work unit,
but then later it wasn’t so good.
Q – What type of views do you have towards TV?
SXB – TV is good I think, but it also has some bad aspects like when we don’t study, but
that’s our problem. But it [TV] can let you see things outside of your life experience. But
some violence in movies is also very bad.
Q – What do you think the difference is between TV and reality?
SXB – Originally, TV is reflecting reality, but I think it reflects it differently. I think it’s
more of an artistic reality.
Q – Do you think TV can influence life?
SXB – Yes, it can, it can let you see some things you haven’t seen before, etc.
Q - After you graduate would you like to come back here to Yunnan?
SXB – Yes, I would really like to come back to Yunnan. Of course, I would like to come
back, but I also might stay in Shanghai. I’ll see after I graduate, maybe I’ll stay in
Shanghai for a period and then come back. But I’ll definitely return it’s just a matter of
Q – What was your life like at seventeen?
SXB – I wasn’t eighteen yet. I did whatever I thought I should do. Then when I was
eighteen, I still remember my mother called me on my birthday and said. “Eighteen years
old and still just like a child.” I think that statement caused a change in my life. I stopped
thinking I could do whatever I wanted and started having to think about others, before I
had been very headstrong.
Seventeen, [pause] I had just finished testing. Actually I think life at seventeen
was high school life, but high school was good. I made some of my best friends and you
could also say I was building emotion with my boyfriend.
SXB – I think if F could have gotten into my high school, maybe both of us would be at
SXB - The minority school doesn’t have much of a difference in quality. A lot of places
have them. Maybe it’s because the Han’s civilized traits develop at a different rate. That’s
to say the Han’s develop slightly faster. Thus, it’s better to have a specialized school.
Perhaps their teachers would have a harder time if it weren’t like that. So, they can have a
special school shaped towards their thought. I’m just guessing at why we have it, I don’t
Q – Do you think Hans made the decision or the minorities?
SXB - I think probably that it was commonly decided, I don’t think one side could just
Q – Why do you like carton pigs?
SXB – I just think they are really cute and the pig is my sign. It’s just like liking a color; I
just like it a lot.
Q – Some people here have nice Mitsubishis, why do they have them?
SXB – Usually, it’s officials that have nice cars, not common people. People with a lot of
money, [pause] maybe because they have to travel.
Q – Do you think there is a difference between officials and common people?
SXB – Yes, they are officials. They represent the people’s interests, and make the
Q – How about the Mao style suits?
SXB – Young people don’t wear them.
Q – What do you think of our project?
SXB – It has a lot of significance. Listening to you guys explain it, I think it’s good and I
trust that you can do it.