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«Juanwen Yuan Thesis committee Thesis supervisor Prof. dr. A. Niehof Professor of Sociology of Consumers and Households Wageningen University Thesis ...»

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FGDs with both men and women in the 1970s cohort (FGDs 1A, 1B, 1C, 1D) show that these were arranged marriages. The couples got married through an introduction by relatives and neighbours. They had few opportunities to meet each other. Because it was difficult to get transportation and communication was limited to the nearby villages, the wife usually came from a nearby village in the same municipality. The couples formed their independent household after they had their first child, but they hardly got anything from their parents. When they got married, it was still the collective era. At that stage, most parents could not feed their family well because most households still borrowed staple food from the collective and had to return this the next year. Usually, the dowry was less than 100 yuan. The custom was to use ceremonial candy at the wedding, but there was no candy shop in the municipality. It was the task of the man’s relatives to come ask for the marriage. In the FGDs, people stated that “it is definitely impossible for the woman’s relatives to ask for marriage”. Buyi women had the tradition to practice zuojia (Chapter 4). They went back to their parents’ house (niangjia) after the wedding ceremony and only came to live with their husband after they had become pregnant. The wife was supposed to help her parents-in-law in the busy season with their agricultural production, upon her husband’s request. They usually stayed with their parents for two or three years. The longest example in this research is seven years. There were several husbands (shangmenlvxu) who came to stay with their wife’s parents, because these parental households only had

149Farming households and the Household Responsibility System

daughters (even though the mothers delivered several children). Because the medical treatment was not very good at that time, more children died. Mothers-inlaw were very unhappy when daughters-in-law delivered two daughters. In this situation, the mother-in-law pushed the young couple to establish their own household, even if the husband was the youngest or only son, which showed her unhappiness. The young couple would then start a separate household, but usually stayed in the same building because they did not have the money to build a new house. The parents had no money to build a new house for them, either.

FGDs with both men and women in the 1980s cohort (FGDs 2A, 2B, 2C, 2D) show that most of their marriages were arranged. Only a few marriages that took place at the end of the 1980s were not arranged. They often got a higher dowry of several hundred yuan. The wife also bought cloth and made the clothes for the wedding herself. They usually established their own household after the birth of the first baby. Few built their own houses, but most stayed in the same building as their parents.

FGDs with women in the 1990s cohort (FGD 3A and FGD 3C) show that some of their marriages were arranged, but most were not. They had more chances to meet each other. Even though they met each other upon their own initiative, they still had to get permission for courtship from the prospective husband’s family is still necessary. As the participants related: “The traditional marriage procedure gives the wife a higher position in the household, because she was courted by the husband’s parents and relatives”. Both families discussed the engagement and wedding ceremony. The participants have the idea that a courtship involving the parents resulted in both a higher position and a higher dowry for the wife. The couple got several thousand yuan as dowry to get married. The common dowry includes a motorcycle and a TV. The husband’s parents arranged furniture. They usually established their own household after the birth of the first baby. The parents usually built new houses for their married sons (depending on the number of children). At the start of their marriage, the newlyweds got nicer and more rooms, but they would still eat together with the parents until the first baby was born.

FGDs with women from the 2000s cohort (FGD 4A and FGD 4C) indicate that most of them know their spouses from meeting in the market, at the festival, or in the working place. Marriages are no longer arranged. But after the decision to get married had been made, the husband’s parents and relatives still needed to discuss the engagement and the arrangement of the wedding ceremony with the wife’s parents (suomei). Some even got married after the wife became pregnant or already had a first baby. The dowry cost is increasing, especially in the last three years. It is usually above 15,000 yuan. Both newlyweds already have their own savings, which they can use to buy furniture and other goods they like. Some households even bought a fridge, a washing machine, a colour TV, a motorcycle, and a DVD-player. The number of wives coming from a place faraway is increasing; some even originate from other provinces, like Guangxi and Anhui. It is more common for young women to marry and live in other provinces because their husband is from another province. Marriage patterns are still patrilocal and the wife is required to live in her husband’s hometown. The first thing young couples think about is building a nice house, for which they use their migration

150 Chapter 8

income. The rooms parents-in-laws gave to them do not meet their requirements.





Some have even built their own house before marriage. More and more of them do not care too much about a household division, because they will still migrate and leave their children with their parents, even if they have their own households.

They said in the FGD 4A: “Once you build your own house, you automatically establish your own household”. The result is that, for the young couples, household boundaries are not clear, because the support they receive from the parents(-inlaw) is increasing.

8.2 Household composition and residence As discussed in Chapter 7, the average household size for all cohorts is about 4.5.

For the 1970s and 1980s cohorts, the household size was bigger when they were in household life stage 1 and 2 (Chapter 5), because they have more children and these children were still at home during those two stages. These two cohorts usually have more than three children, whilst the younger two cohorts have less than three children. In Guizhou province, the Chinese family planning policy was implemented in the early 1980s and rural people can have two children. This rule, however, was not strictly applied to the villagers in this research. In general, the rule was applied less strictly to ethnic groups. For this reason, in this study, some younger households have more than two children, even if it is uncommon.

–  –  –

The results from FGDs 1A, 1B,1C,1D and FGDs 2A,2B,2C, 2D show that couples from the 1970s and 1980s cohorts had to stay in the same building as their parents, even after they formed their own household. This was mainly due to spatial constraints. The younger cohorts also share meals (and buildings) with their parents, even after officially forming their own households, because they have migrated and have left their children with the parents. They come back for shorter visits. Households of the 2000s cohort do not have an interest in separating their household from that of their parents, because they are working elsewhere (Table 8.1). Some households in the 1990s and 2000s cohorts still share meals with their parents, even though they have formed their own household. They do not want to separate from their parents completely because the parents can take care of their

151Farming households and the Household Responsibility System

land and children. In the past, the daughter-in-law used to take care of agricultural activities because this was too strenuous for the parents. Currently, things are changing. Nowadays, the mother-in-law takes care of agricultural activities, while the daughter-in-law takes care of the children if both are at home. The daughter-inlaw is more powerful than she used to be in the past and has a stronger influence on the household division. Table 8.1 shows that household division is common for all cohorts. It increased from the 1980s cohort (78% of 41 households) to the 1990s cohort (80.5% of 41 households). But it seems that, for the 2000s cohort, the wish to divide the household has decreased (65.5% of 29 households) compared to the earlier cohorts. Table 8.1 also shows that an increasing number of households have built new houses. From the households in the sample, 58.7 percent built their houses after the year 2000. Between 1980 and 1989, only 7.5 percent of the sampled households built a house. The increase is linear over the years. During the collective era, not only the number of newly built houses was much lower, the quality of houses was poor as well. There were no concrete or brick houses and houses usually had only one storey. Besides that, several brothers used to share one building after they got married.

The above findings show that, since the HRS, households are undergoing many changes in terms of marriage, formation, composition, and residence.

Meanwhile, the household’s livelihood is changing, too. The following section will discuss livelihood changes, including land use.

8.3 Household livelihood portfolios, land use and cropping patterns Data from the all the FGDs show that after the HRS, household livelihood portfolios have become more diversified, especially for younger cohorts. Longterm migration and local circular work are the main income-generating activities for the younger marriage cohorts. Circular work is also common for the 1980s cohort. Land use and cropping patterns are changing in general. In the collective era, the collective decided about land use and crop cultivation. Most crops were local varieties. The farming household could only decide about what to grow in their own home garden. After the HRS, farming households realised a more diversified land use. Some rent land and others rent out land. More cash crops and fruit trees have been introduced, while local crop varieties are decreasing. Some have even gone extinct. In the collective period, men and women’s division of labour in agricultural production was clearer than it is now. In the early years of the HRS, people raised pigs and chickens in order to get money for their household’s daily costs. Some people sold chickens to buy a year’s supply of edible oil. As can be seen from Table 8.2, nowadays, it is no longer necessary to sell stock;

the farming households now mainly raise chickens for their own consumption. In addition, they raise pigs for both consumption and marketing.

8.3.1 Household livelihood portfolio changes After the HRS, household livelihood has been changing. This section mainly discusses livelihood portfolio changes for the households in the research area, compared to the situation in the collective era. The data in Table 8.1 mainly come

–  –  –

collective era (Table 8.1). One key informant from cohort 1 in Dongkou village said:

“everybody wanted to earn work points by performing farm activities in exchange for more food”. All tasks were arranged by the collective, except the activities in home gardens. Raising animals was not common because the food production was not even sufficient to meet human needs. Growing cash crops and fruit trees was less common. The government did not promote these; it only promoted rice production (the staple food) to solve the food security problems. There were more local crops, such as wheat, sesame, and oat. The collective arranged an opportunity to migrate for a few skilled men. Tasks like house construction and mining were allocated to these skilled men, in exchange for more work points than farming would have brought them. They had to bring their own tools, however, and the work was often dangerous because worksites were not well facilitated and safety conditions were poor.

After the implementation of the HRS, the households from the 1970s cohort put all their efforts in their farmland. Some land was also more productive because it was newly reclaimed and thus more fertile. As FGDs participants in cohorts 1 and 2 said: “It was really highly productive; even though we did not use a lot of organic manure at that time, the land was very rich in nutrition”. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, they began to grow high-yielding crops and food security problems were solved. In the first decade of the HRS, agricultural productivity vastly increased.

Farmers began to raise animals, although not in high quantities. Still, raising animals was a main income-generating activity at that time, next to cultivating crops. People sold animals and grain when they needed to pay their children’s education fee or urgently needed cash. They also tried to make wine and tofu to earn money. In the 1990s, men engaged in circular work and only a few migrated.

If they migrated, they usually did so within the same province. Nowadays, their grown-up children have migrated, but they themselves are not strong enough to find a job. To add to their earnings, people from this cohort collect wild vegetables and sell them to businessmen. A few of the households from this cohort run small shops in the village. Since the road was constructed or repaired, it has become easier for businessmen to reach the villages to buy agricultural products, but a lot of improvement is still required.

Most households from the 1980s cohort put a lot of effort into agriculture when their children were young because they just formed their households in the early HRS period. Raising animals and cultivating crops were their main incomegenerating activities. They sold animals and grain when they needed money for their children’s education fee or some other urgent use. In the 1990s, households from this cohort began to plant other cash crops, such as watermelon and fruit trees. In addition, men started to do local circular work, which has increased over the recent 20 years. Some men and a few women have migrated, but migration, especially long-term migration is not very popular among this cohort. A few households also began transportation businesses to earn money.

In the 1990s cohort, migration really started after a household’s formation.



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