|A family photo taken during Corban Festival in 2018 [Photo Supplied by Ma Lianhua]|
Ma Lianhua's multiethnic family lives in Tacheng, a city in Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture, in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. An entire wall in their house is covered with family photos, in various sizes, showing the changes both the family and society, as a whole, have undergone since the early 1980s.
One of the colored photos was taken in China Central Television (CCTV)'s studio, in 2008, and it shows family members from the Han, Kazakh, Hui, Uygur, Russian, Daur and Tatar ethnic groups. They are wearing their traditional costumes, and they are smiling.
The family is a shining example of how people from different ethnic groups can live a happy and harmonious life in Xinjiang. Each member of Ma's family is both a contributor to and a beneficiary of China's development.
Family of 12 Siblings
Ma, 59, is the fifth oldest of 12 siblings. Ma Zhiqiang, her father, and Bai Xiuzhen, her mother, were born in the 1930s. In September 1949, the Chinese People's Liberation Army peacefully liberated Xinjiang. After this event, the people of Xinjiang, with the rest of China, worked to bring about a socialist revolution, and to construct a socialist society. Ma Zhiqiang worked as an interpreter, at a local school, to support the family. He was proficient in Chinese, Russian and Kazakh.
During the early years of the People's Republic of China, many necessities were in short supply. To support such a large family, Ma Zhiqiang, Bai Xiuzhen and their children planted corn, potatoes, carrots and cabbages in their courtyard. Each autumn, Ma Lianhua and her older sisters would sell boiled corn at the market to supplement the family's income.
During those difficult years, Ma Lianhua and her family retained their zest for life. As an enthusiast of the arts, her father liked singing, dancing and painting. Ma Lianhua is proud of her father. "My father was famous in Tacheng for his tap dancing," she has said.
Ma Lianhua and her siblings are now married, and they are leading better lives compared with their childhoods. Many of the siblings have moved into new houses, and bought cars. Their marriages introduced various ethnic groups into the family. The husband of Ma Jinhua, the eldest sister, is of the Russian ethnic group. The wife of Ma Jinyong, the second-youngest brother, is ethnic Han. The wife of Ma Jinfeng, the fourth-youngest brother, is of ethnic Uygur. Ma Lianhua's parents, who taught their children to be open-minded, are directly responsible for the acceptance of the various ethnic groups — and especially for the love and respect shared by each member — within the growing and multiethnic family.
"According to my parents, we must respect and understand each other. Only then can we live harmonious and happy lives," says Ma Lianhua. The family, she adds, celebrates every important traditional festival together.
In the large, multiethnic family, everyone gets along; the younger members show respect to their elders, who in return show affection to the young.
The story of the happy and harmonious family of seven ethnic groups is well-known in Tacheng.
Four Happy Generations
In the spring of 2008, Ma Lianhua's father fell seriously ill. During the day, Ma Lianhua went to work; at night, she visited her father in the hospital, and she washed his clothes. Ma Lianhua and her siblings were commended by their neighbors for taking such good care of their father.
After her father's death, Ma Lianhua's mother's health went from bad to worse. However, every time Bai saw her children and grandchildren, she was filled with joy. She loved her harmonious and happy family, and she was grateful for their love and care.
In 2010, with the assistance of the Health Department of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, and also the Tacheng Health Bureau, Bai was admitted to the First Affiliated Hospital of Xinjiang Medical University, where she underwent a comprehensive physical examination.
The moving stories of this multiethnic family are widely known, and Ma Lianhua has received several honors in recognition of the love she has shown for her parents and siblings.
Her TV cabinet is filled with various certificates and trophies, including the third national moral model nomination award, and the second moral model of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
Chinese Nation One Family Striving for One Dream
Xinjiang has embraced unprecedented opportunities in recent decades, thanks to the preferential policies issued by the Party and the State. The residents' lives are getting better, including in Ma's family.
Today, most young members of the extended family are university graduates, and they have stable jobs as teachers, police officers and dancers.
Now, there are more than 60 members in Ma's family; some are in Tacheng, while others are in Urumqi or Karamay, and others live as far away as Yinchuan or Qingdao.
Although they don't see each other very often, they stay in contact through WeChat almost every day. Rapid advancements in technology have made staying in touch much easier.
"Our nation is getting better every day, and so is my family. We appreciate our Party, and our motherland. By following the Party, we will live happier lives," Ma Lianhua says.
|Ma Lianhua and her husband prepare lunch. [Photo Supplied by Wu Qiong]|
(Women of China English Monthly July 2021 issue)
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