On the topic of growing up.
Please note that this is a rough translation. The questions were rerecorded in English so the listener is able to follow along easier with the interview recording.
Interview with my grandfather, Pan Weishan.
What was your childhood like?
We were one big family and I had a lot of good times in my childhood.
When you were a child, what kind of things did you do for fun?
When I was young, my favorite thing to do was this: first thing was flying a kite in the winter. I made the kite by myself, and it was very big. Inside was a ‘gong,’ and it made a lot of noise like “ahhh!” I liked to do this a lot. The second thing was catching fish on rainy days. There was a river in front of our house, and we went there during rainy days to catch fish. Every time I caught a few Jin of fish. This activity was very exciting for me.
What were your household and family like?
When I was young, I did not see my father very often. Ever since I was very little, my father did business in Japan. I did not see him very often until the Japanese War was over. It was mainly my mother who took care of us. I have two older brothers and a younger sister. It was this kind of situation.
Of your entire family, what relative did you like the most?
My favorite person is my oldest brother, since I was little he taught and helped us. He was a teacher and graduated from a university. He helped me with many things and took good care of me. This was the person I liked most. Another person is my uncle Pan Tianshou, a famous Chinese watercolor painter. When I was studying in Hangzhou, I lived in his house. He often told me to work hard. Because he a self-taught painter and a world-famous painter, he taught us how important it is to work hard at that time. That was greatly inspiring to me.
What were your childhood dreams?
When I was young, my dream was to be an engineer. When I was going to graduate a middle school, my class was one of three to be recommended for admission to a teachers’ college to be an elementary teacher. That was not what I wanted to do. So I went to Ningbo with my two classmates to take the Ningbo No.1 Middle School entrance examination. . We all were admitted to go Hangzhou Engineering College, but because we did not get permission from our middle school, our school did not allow us to go. Luckily, we got the permission to go Hangzhou to study after our classmates left school. Going to Hangzhou Engineering College made my dream came true.
Interview with my grandmother, Li Wenzheng.
Where were you born?
I was born in Shandong in China.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Chengdu and Chongqing, Sichuan.
How was your childhood? Do you have a favorite memory from when you were young?
Because my family was rich, my childhood was a happy one. Although my father often came back home very late, he always bought candy for me.
My father loved me very much. I remember he used the small wheels of an airplane to make a small wagon for me. The neighborhood boys would push me down the street and it was very fun.
What did you do for fun when you were younger?
There used to be a small river in front of my house in Chengdu. The neighborhood children and I liked to go there to catch small fish and we dug holes to find small crabs.
What was your household like?
My father opened a car transportation company. There were 11 trucks in his company. He often went and back and forth between Chengdu and Chongqing. I have a father, a mother, an older brother, one younger sister, and two younger brothers in my family. We had big houses in Chengdu and Chongqing. Our Chongqing house was bigger than the one in Chengdu; we could park many cars inside the yard. The house would have been nearby where the Chongqing TV Station is today. With the addition of my immediate family, my sixth and seventh uncles and various relatives lived in the Chongqing house. Many people lived there. With the housekeepers, cooks, and drivers, over forty people lived there. In Chongqing, my father’s business was thriving.
What were your parents like?
The father was an active person. He liked to sing Chinese Opera. When he was singing, I liked to sing along. He was not a very strict person; he was a nice person. He treated us all very kindly. I remembered one time I broke a lot of the bowls. They had just washed them all and I was not careful and broke them. He did not criticize me. If he was like other parents, I would have certainly been punished, but he just said to be more careful. My mother is also a kind and nice person.
What were your siblings like?
I have 5 siblings. My older brother is very rigorous. Me, my younger brothers, and my sister are relatively quiet. Big brother is mischievous, but he is very smart. He watched the factory workers mold car parts and he tried to do it himself. He made a mold of a spoon and used melted aluminum to make spoons from his mold. He was very smart. He often liked to tease our little brother.
What were you like as a child?
When I was little, I was a bit of mischievous child. I liked to sing, dance and those kinds of things. I also liked to tease other kids. I remember that in my yard, the neighborhood children and I would tell ghost stories at night. I would tell a ghost story very enthusiastically and excitingly. I began with a soft voice and described the ghost as very scary. Gradually, I raised my voice to make them feel like a ghost was coming toward us. Then I got louder and louder, and I finally shouted, “wow!” and everyone was so frightened.
What is your favorite memory from when you were younger?
My most memorable memories from when I was younger were in elementary school. Because I sang very well, my teacher asked me to perform on Weekend Evening Show every weekend. I used to like singing so often, but since I performed every time, I became bored with it and began to dislike it. There was one time my tears were falling down while I was singing. Because they made me do it so many times, I did not want to do it anymore. Another time, my school was going to choose students for the Health Children program. My elementary school in Chongqing was called the Refinement Primary School. I was selected as a one of the Healthy Children in Chongqing. The children selected were going to attend the party of the church. After the party, the people in the church gave us a lot of pictures. I have another memory. Every morning, the family cook went to go shopping for groceries. We had a family dog named Arlin. The dog held a basket in her mouth and followed us when we went out. The dog was so smart; we called her Arlin. When we were younger, we liked to follow the cook around and the dog went to and from the market with us. We would go to shopping at Shang Qing Shi and then we would come back. These are deeply impressed memories from my childhood.
What were your childhood dreams?
I did not have any specific childhood dreams. When I was little, I really loved drawing and music. My music teacher was a part of a group that was composed of music teachers in Chengdu. Because I had a talent for singing she let me be the one of their members.
What was it like growing up in China as a woman?
In China, men and women grew up in different ways. Before liberation, the man was the head of a family. Parents wanted their boys to go to school to make more money. Marriage was decided by the parents. After the liberation of China, this changed. Men and women had equal rights. More women started going to school and gained an education. It was not like how it was before liberation when society ignored a woman’s education. There was freedom in work and freedom in marriage, a freedom to choose who you wanted to marry. “Women hold up half the sky.” (Mao Zedong) Women are able to contribute to society. There are many San Ba Hong Qi Shou (the name rewarded to women who contribute greatly to society). It is not like how it was before liberation when society did not care whether women gained an education or not. They only stay home. Their parents were not willing to pay money for their education. After the liberation, women gained freedom and their status in the social ladder changed enormously. Because of this, now there are many female heroes for Chinese society.
What were your parent’s expectations of you? What expectation did you have for yourself?
In that time, my parents had great expectations for us. They expected us to have a good education. When I grew up, my parents wanted a good future for me. In my time, we could not decide our future ourselves, but society did. After graduation of college, your school, according to society, decided your occupation. Where they decided for you to go was where you went.
At this point, what kind of person did you see yourself as?
I was a rather optimistic person, and I liked to help people. I was an open-minded person, not someone with outdated ideals.