All For a Son
The desire for a son and heir is common to all mankind. In our country, especially, to have as many male descendents as possible has always been regarded as the greatest blessing in life. The failure to produce a male heir was considered the most unfilial of all unfilial crimes. A man was justified to cast away his wife and take another if she failed to bear him a son. For the rich, the problem could be solved by taking a concubine or several concubines.
All traditional ideas die hard. The desire for ason is as strong as ever, and the problem has been aggravated by our onechild family planning policy. Hence the numerous tragedies and comedies we hear and read so often. There are fathers who drop down in a faint when they hear their wives have given birth to daughters. There are "guerrilla" couples who roam from place to place dodging family planning officials to give one birth after another until they finally have a son.
But more often we hear of tragedies of wives being ill treated by their husbands and by their parents-in-law because they failed to give birth to sons. Recently I saw a photograph in Yangcheng Evening showing a woman with a baby in her arms appealing to passers-by in the street. The caption says she is telling people of her plight of being thrown out into the street with her baby girl by her husband'sfamily, all because she has given birth to a daughter instead of a son. I remember some time ago reading about a man pushing his three-year-old daughter down a well.
Fortunately the girl was saved by someone who happaned to pass by. The man only got a year and a half imprisonment for attempted murder. To my mind , he was just as guilty as if the girl had really drowned.
By comparison, the story of Zhou Chenghu, an ordinary farmer of Changning County in Sichuan Province arouses more ridicule than indignation.
Zhou's parents had died when he was still young, and he was the only son to carry on the family line. He had married early when he was only twenty. The first child was a girl, so he tried again, and the second child born the following year was also a girl. Zhou was vexed but still not unduly worried, but when the third birth turned out to be a girl too, he could sit tight no more. He began to consult doctors, quacks, witches, and fortune-tellers.
One geomancer told him that his ancestral graves were wrongly located, so he dug up his mother's grave and had her remains reburied. But that didn't seem to help him as he had a fourth daughter. Now really desperate he disturbed the dead again and had his father reburied this time. But it seemed nothing could help, for the fifth was still a daughter. In the meantime he had incurred upon himself heavy fines for violating family planning laws.
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