Illuminating Each Child’s Future

 December 20, 2023
Illuminating Each Child’s Future
Zhao Shubin's mother with her grandchildren. The photo was taken in 1988, in front of Zhao's family's automobile-repair shop. The green car was the first automobile repaired in the shop.

Zhao Shubin has worked as a film and TV director with CCTV (China Central Television) and Beijing Radio & Television Station (BRTV). Some of his documentaries are housed in the Capital Library of China (in Beijing).

Illuminating Each Child’s Future
Zhao Shubin's family poses for a photo in 2000, on the site of their former residence. The dilapidated house was pulled down not long ago, as part of Wuhai's resettlement project.

During the 1960s, our family moved from Baoding (a city in North China's Hebei Province) to Wuhai (a city in North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region). Within a short time, my father began working as a miner. My mother was as busy as a bee; in addition to working in a coking plant, she took care of eight children. Influenced by our parents, we (my siblings and I) and our children have grown to be independent individuals, who are enthusiastic about life, and who are always eager to learn. 

Buying 'Luxury Item'

During the 1970s, taking a family photo (during an important holiday) was "luxury entertainment" for an average Chinese family. However, Zhao Shukai (my second-oldest brother) and Zhao Shusen (my third-oldest brother) had already taken many photos with our family's "Seagull" (a Chinese brand) camera. 

At that time, most Chinese had their pictures taken in photo studios. Therefore, our camera was a rarity. Zhao Shukai and Zhao Shusen took delight in snapping photos for our neighbors. During the following several decades, my brothers have used the camera to take numerous pictures (for our family), which have faithfully recorded the developments of and changes in our family. 

You might wonder how our parents, who tightened their belts and supported their eight children, managed to buy such a "luxury item" during the 1970s. My father volunteered to work underground (in the coal mine) — a dangerous, dirty and tiring job — so he could earn more money. To save money, my mother made our clothes. Despite the hardships, our parents tried their best to satisfy our spiritual needs. 

Returning Lambs to Neighbor

Although they had little formal education, our parents exerted a gradual, imperceptible influence on us in everything they said and did. One day (when we were little children), one of our neighbors offered two lambs (as presents) to Zhao Shukai and Zhao Guiling (my third-oldest sister), when they played in the neighbor's house. However, as Mom insisted we must not accept undeserved presents (from others), my brother and sister had to return the lambs to the neighbor. 

To help us increase our knowledge and cultivate our reading habits, our parents subscribed to People's Daily. Reading the newspaper became our family's routine, every day after dinner. We took turns reading the articles (chosen by Dad in the newspaper), and then we exchanged views on the related issues. We also enjoyed listening to stories told by Dad. 

Developing Our Careers

My family has had a decades-long affinity with automobiles. During the 1980s, few Chinese could repair automobiles. In 1988, Zhao Shulin, my fourth-eldest brother went to Shijiazhuang (a city in Hebei Province), to attend a training course, so he could learn the skills needed to repair automobiles. Soon after, he and Luo Hongde, my eldest brother-in-law, established an automobile repair shop (in Wuhai). 

The following year, our family bought a van. Within a short time, we began providing taxi services. When I turned 18 (in 1987), I became the youngest taxi driver in Wuhai. 

During the 1970s and 1980s, when "iron rice bowls," or lifelong jobs with benefits, were prevalent in China, our parents led us in starting our own businesses. During that period, we tried our luck in various businesses, including growing mushrooms, raising fish and chickens, and establishing a plant dedicated to making and selling soda drinks. 

Given his diligence and wisdom, Zhao Shutong, my eldest brother, quickly honed his driving skills, after he was employed, in 1967, as a worker with a factory (in Wuhai). Within a short time, he became a truck driver for the factory. In 1979, he was employed as a manager by a laborservice company. 

Zhao Gui'e, my eldest sister, began working at a local cement plant in 1970. Given her outstanding achievements, she has received many titles, including being named a March 8th Red-Banner Holder and a Model Worker in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

Influenced by our parents, both of whom has a pioneering spirit, all of my brothers have started their own enterprises. During the past several decades, my brothers have all strived to realize their potential (as businessmen), and to achieve success in their careers. 

Our parents began studying at universities for the elderly (in Wuhai) several years ago, as they were turning 80. Many of their calligraphies and paintings have earned them prizes during provincial and municipal art contests. Our parents have proved, with their actions, the importance of lifelong learning. Now, all of their grandchildren (more than 10) have been admitted to universities (in various regions of the country). That is our parents' greatest source of pride. 

I was moved to tears when Mom told me (one afternoon several years ago) that she often prayed for her children and grandchildren to have good luck. Despite the passage of time, and the changes in our lives, we have always treasured our parents' virtues, which have become our big family's valuable "assets."


Photos Supplied by Interviewee

(Women of China English Monthly July 2023 issue)


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