YANG LI LIAN: I dream quite a lot. While I was pregnant with my first son, I had a very impressive dream, about an old lady who was sitting on the ground with her legs tucked up. She told me she was a widow, her husband had died when she was only 20 years old. Then I suddenly woke up. I don’t know what that dream means.
    A short time ago, I had another dream about an old lady. She was very thin and her clothes were rather shabby. She was standing on the stairs in front of my house, just a few steps away from me, and asked me for money. I knew that she was my mother, so I brought her a lot of paper money. You know, the kind of paper money that people burn for their dead relatives. I also wrote her a long letter. I wrote: “My dear mother, I feel guilty for your death.” Because my mother died when I was a baby. “Please take the money and this letter as a compensation and buy some food and clothes for yourself in the underworld.” This dream also left a deep impression on me.
    My life has been different from that of most other people. My mother died when I was only a few months old. She died on September 2, 1949, the day of the great fire in Chongqing. It was set by the Kuomintang, they poured oil in the river and set it on fire. They were fighting against the Communists and wanted to destroy the whole city of Chongqing. But they lost and Chian Kai Shek fled to Taiwan. Half of the city was on fire. I was only seven months old at that time. My mother took me on her arm, and a teapot in the other hand. Later, other people told me that there was money in the teapot. Our family wasn’t poor but we lost our house in the fire so we had nowhere to go. My mother went down to the river, she went into the water to kill herself. Someone saw her drowning and jumped in to save her. He couldn’t save her, but he saved me. He held me in one hand and swam with the other one. I don’t know his name. My father was not at home at that time. Two or three days later, my aunt asked my father: Don’t you want to see how your family is doing? Then my father heard that I had been saved by someone and came to get me. But he was only 20 years old at that time, he didn’t know how to take care of me. There was a lady who lived next door to my aunt, her child had died only 7 days after it was born. My aunt asked her to take care of me, so she became my foster mother and brought me up.
    Life was pretty hard when I was a child. Both of my foster parents are labour workers and they have four children, including me. So I had to do house work from early on, cooking, washing, and apart from that I had to go to school. I did anything to survive, from picking vegetables and coal cinder to collecting peanut shells and knitting gloves. I did everything. I didn’t have much energy to study, but I did all right at school. After graduating from middle school, I went to a local business school. I have many hobbies and interests, such as dancing and singing. I’m an optimistic person, I always look at the good side of everything. No matter what happens, I always think about how I can solve it.
    My youngest son got aplastic anemia when he was ten years old. I was very anxious and stressed for a long time because of this, but my husband and I tried everything to find a solution. We read books and learnt how to take care of him, what medicine to give him. In the end he was cured. The doctors told me that there was only a one percent chance that this would happen, but we really did everything possible, we gave our hundred percent. I’m not disappointed with my life, although it hasn’t been easy.
    I used to work for a trade company. After I finished business school in 1969, first I had many different jobs. I worked in textile factories, supermarkets, restaurants, and other places. The people who know me, they know that I can work very hard, even though I may look small and fragile. I’m very confident about my abilities. If there’s something that can be done with five people, I’ll do it with three people. I’m good at selling, so I always make good profit for the companies that I work for. When I was 46, I became an accountant in the workers union office in a factory. The union had lots of activities for the workers, like karaoke competitions, Chinese chess, or dancing. The factory was a good place to work at, they did a lot of things for the workers.