My story didn’t derive from the eldest person in my family. Because my great-grandmother [is] very old, she [doesn’t] have a good memory and sometimes she [can’t] tell her story clearly. So I took the story I will tell from my grandfather (my mum’s father). My grandfather [is] also very old, but he [can] remember most of things which happened to him and his family.
In his youth, that’s before China’s liberation, all China was suffering from wars. The Japanese army was just driven out from China, but the civil war quickly took up all the nation again. The people lived a very hard life. Many people even didn’t have sufficient food to eat. Since the government was busy with the wars, they didn’t have enough time and energy to manage people’s behaviour. In order to make a living, many people had to choose to do [immoral things], such as [being] a thief. They made a living by stealing and robbing. In the town where my hometown [is], there [are] many villages. The population there was very small, and [there are] several mountains around my home. Most people were honest and kind; they worked hard and never did anything bad. But in [one] village lived a crowd of people. They didn’t work and just stole and robbed other’s stuff. Everyone in my hometown was scared of them.
One day, my grandfather [walked] back from his farm. The other members of his family was not at home. The weather was very hot, so he opened the window to keep cool. And by the time he had lunch, he sat with his back facing the window. For it’s very hot, he didn’t wear any clothes. He just ate and did not notice other things. All of a sudden, out of the window came a voice. Someone pointed [at] his back with a gun, and a person shouted at him, “Don’t move”. He immediately realized that he was suffering from a robbery, but he still remained calm and didn’t say any words. He just stood up, walked directly to the table, put down his bowl, and [walked straight] into his bedroom. He took his quilt (because the quilt was one of the most expensive things in his family) and ran quickly towards the back mountain. [The] thieves didn’t shoot him, they just wanted some money and expensive goods. After several hours, he returned [to] his home but found nothing valuable left.
My grandfather told me his story. He just wanted me to cherish today’s happy life and not to waste time.
This semester, I asked students to call the oldest person in their families and to ask that person to tell them a story that they had never heard before. They then translated and told the story in English. While we’re away traveling, I thought I’d let my students tell their stories. To preserve their privacy, I have not credited the authors, but I have gotten their permission to let you listen in. The stories vary—sometimes simple, sometimes Earth shattering, sometimes otherworldly. I have not edited their stories unless I needed to help the flow. My edits are in brackets. [ ] Check back for more. There will be a new one posted each Wednesday through Feb. 23.