Zhang Xiu Qiong, aka Susan,
from Lijiang in Yunnan Province, China. 25 years old. Susan is her English
name, suggested to her by an American friend. Zhang Xiu Qiong is her
Chinese name. As with all Chinese names, her family name, Zhang, precedes
her given name, Xiu Qiong, meaning Good Inside/Flower.
We met Susan at a the Sun Room Cafe in Lijiang, Yunnan Province. This
cozy little eatery became our favorite in Lijiang with tasty food, plenty
of English books, maps, travel photos and a wide menu of Chinese and
Western Food, all translated into English -- all catered to us and the
hundreds of other backpackers who meander through Lijiang's old cobble-stoned
streets each day.
Susan is a Naxi, Lijiang's ethnic majority. The Naxi are descended from
Tibetan nomads and lived until recently in matriarchal families. Her
mother used to do "everything in and out of the household,"
typical for Naxi families, while her father stayed home and helped with
the housework and children. But in actuality, Susan said that Mummy
did most of that too though!
The matriarchal concept was difficult for me to grasp, being the near
opposite to my own culture. However, like America's patriarchal society,
it too is quickly fading as men and woman's roles become equal. According
to Susan, "Naxi culture is fading and families are becoming just
like the Han Chinese," and this worries her very much.
are you from?
I was born in Lijiang and have lived here all of my life. I lived in
Kunming during university, but I like Lijiang better so I came back.
is your occupation? Why?
I am a middle school history teacher. I teach Chinese history. Today
I taught about the Qing Dynasty.
My smallest class is 55 students and my largest has 87. I have 400 students
all together so I work very hard. I don't mind doing, but it leaves
me little free time.
Do you live with the other teachers in government-paid housing?
No. I pay 20 yuan (2.50 USD) for a room at the school. This is a private
room for me -- I could live there but I choose to live with my parents.
Many teachers do live at the school.
3. Do you
enjoy it, or would you rather do something else?
No, I don't like it. Teaching is not a greatly respected position here
and does not pay well. Children take nine subjects and must pass tests
to enter high school -- Chinese, English, math and politics are the
most important. History is not taken as seriously. Some students like
I wanted to study English or computers but my scores were not good enough.
So I had no choice but to study history. After university, I studied
to be a teacher because my parents wanted me to. History I don't really
like but I am beginning to enjoy it now.
you traveled much or been outside your country?
No, but I want to travel everywhere. I want to visit India because I
am interested in Buddhism and would like to see where it started. I
would also like to visit Tibet someday for the same reason. I have heard
there is a lot of old and new together in India.
me about your family? Are you married?
I'm not married. I have one sister who is 33. I still live at home and
my parents are retired. My father used to help with the housework but
now he plays mahjong all day, so my mother does all of the housework.
I grew up in a traditional Naxi family.
is your favorite food and why?
All kinds of Chinese food?
Yes, I like
all kinds of Chinese food. Sichuan food is spicy and Shanghai food is
sweet. There are many kinds.
Do you like
and pancakes. You can get those everywhere here.
7. Why are
you here, in the Sun Room Cafe in Lijiang?
The owner is my friend and I come here to read the books, study
and meet people.
8. Do you
have access to the Internet?
Yes. I don't have a computer at home but it's easy to go to an Internet
did you learn your English? Why did you learn it?
Everyone has to study English in school, and sometimes people study
other languages. Like in northwest China, some study Japanese. I have
been studying English for 11 years.
do you do for fun?
I like to go dancing. There are many discos in the new city. Also reading.
I like nonfiction. I have for two or three months been reading the Bible.
The New Testament. It's in English and Chinese, but the translation
is not so good.