'I'm quite happy, even though I have lived a hard and sad life'

97-year-old Beijinger with bound feet recalls early life, war and happiness

All images: Cameron Hack/Humans of China
This year, I am 97 years old. At five years old, my mum started to bind my feet. It was very painful and a long process. I only stopped binding my feet when China was liberated. At nighttime, I would wear the white cloth that my mother had sewn together, plus socks and shoes. My sister was lucky. She didn't have to bind her feet for long – she had started but later stopped. My mother and grandma's feet were also small.

The Japanese were here when I was young. I was sitting on my bed with my husband's mother and they entered the house. They had guns and we were very scared but they quickly left. They didn't steal anything but they injured and killed people. I saw some of our villagers killed by them. They had their hands tied up and they were shot.

Bound Feet 6

My husband died when he was young, about 50, after he became sick. When he was alive, I felt happy but I wasn't happy at the time we wed. I thought I was too young. I was 17 years old. I moved in with his family and they were very strict. At that age, I couldn't do much – I didn't know how to cook or clean, and I didn't really know how to make and repair clothes and shoes. Sometimes they wouldn't let me eat, and my husband's mother would make him hit me. It wasn't a good time for me. I never had the chance to study, as we were very poor. We never had jobs, we were both farmers and, at times, it was hard to find food to eat. If we had food, we'd let our kids eat first.

I am quite happy, even though I have lived a hard and sad life. All of my kids are no longer alive – I had four in total, three boys and a girl. Now I am looked after by the wife of one of my sons and she treats me very well. I feel very lucky but a bit useless, as I no longer do anything around the house. She cooks, cleans and washes clothes for me, and she spends some time growing food for us to eat. I am also very thankful to our government, as each month they can give me some money. I would like to reach 100 years old, as I can see and hear quite clearly, and I am still healthy.

Interview by Cameron Hack

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