“Child Bridge” System My topic will be the “child bridge” system and the traditional rural life in China toward to the story “Xiao Xiao” by Sheng Congwen. The story is mainly about a young girl, Xiao Xiao who enters into the child bridge system with no choice and facing the struggle between the modern and traditional Chinese culture. Child bridge system was an unfair system that use to against women and was very common in rural China. It was an arranged marriage which daughter in the poor family would sell to a rich family for economic support.
The daughter would marry with a male member of the rich family who was younger than themselves as the wife and a labor. There is no love between the couple. In rural China, women’s life was very simple. They just want to have a husband and a good care. Women’s duty of getting married is to give birth of the family. The activities of the new wife was cleaning, laundry, washing clothes, cooking and take care of her little husband. In the story of “Xiao Xiao”, Sheng Congwen gives an image of how people in rural China looks like.
For women, they have no power at all and are dependent on men a lot. For example, when Xiao Xiao found out that she had feeling toward to Motley Mutt, she is fear and she asked her husband to stay closer her which she would feel more comfortable. From this point, we may know how men are important to women. Even a little boy, women would also feel safe beside him. Also women in rural China contain the characteristics of innocence, naivete, hard-working, kind, traditional and uneducated. Xiao Xiao is a good representation of the women with those characteristics.
Even Xiao Xiao’s life filled with tragedy but she still keeps her part of innocent and kind. In the other hand, men in rural China sees rough, vulgar and lack of education. We may see that from the way Motley Mutt has speech with Xiao Xiao and the way he seduces Xiao Xiao. People in rural China are disconnecting from outside of the world. Sheng Congwen use co-eds to compare with the women in rural China. The role of the co-eds is to force women in the rural village to against their own will to accept the new life such as the co-eds.
In the story, Sheng Congwen mentioned the co-eds as new women and they are the symbol of freedom. Co-eds can go to school and they can do whatever they like to do such choose their own marriage partner. They can sleep with any men who are not their husband and would not get any trouble. In the other hand, women in rural China have no freedom. Their destiny had already been foredooming. They never have opportunity to experience the life style as the co-eds, because they were born in the traditional village. Then they must follow the rule of the rural village. Co-eds are only a dream for them.
But Sheng Congwen does believe women in rural village have ability to be co-eds and they very want to be a co-ed. That’s why he mentioned the struggle between Xiao Xiao and co-eds. In the story, Xiao Xiao has her ability to be a co-ed. For example, she is very interest on the story of co-eds. Sometimes she will dream herself become a co-ed. When Xiao Xiao was pregnant, she decides to leave the house and she chooses to follow the road of the co-eds. Sheng Congwen’s form of writing is clearly and straight-forward. He describes a lot of the feeling, thought and emotion toward to the character of Xiao Xiao.
He describes Xiao Xiao’s emotion very well which women in rural village would facing. In the beginning, Xiao Xiao seems happy and has no vexation, because she had husband and family which women in rural village would have. When Xiao Xiao catches on the meaning of Motley Mutt’s words and songs, she is shy and is unsure how to react, because she doesn’t have any knowledge about sex. When Xiao Xiao has sex with Motley Mutt and getting pregnant, she is not regret to having sex with Motley Mutt, but fear her belly will get bigger and bigger, so people would know it and she will get trouble.
Sheng Congwen is illustrating all types of problems and situations that women will face in Chinese society such as fornication and punishment. In traditional Chinese society, women would get punishment if they had sex with other man who was not their husband. Even thought the women’s husband was a little kid, they have to keep their purity in order to give their husband when he is growing up. The punishments are either drowned by their families or sold off. Xiao Xiao is the most luck one whose adultery was discovered and still alive without any punishment. She can gives birth and raise her son.
She can still married to the boy that she is betrothed to and have a happy family. In traditional Chinese society, people were following the Confucianism. Chinese women had to obey the “three obediences and four virtues” according to Confucianism. The three obediences were obey her father before marriage, obey her husband after marriage and obey her son after the husband’s death. The four virtues were propriety in speech, morality, modest manner and diligent work. If women breaking down either one of those laws, she will get punishment, because she shamed the family.
The punishments of drowned by families or sold off were using by those people who follow the Confucian principles and often use to punish the adulteress. Even there are many Confucian principles show up in the story of “Xiao Xiao. ” But we may see that Sheng Congwen is somewhat against the Confucian principles. According to the story “Xiao Xiao,” Sheng Congwen writes,” By rights, she should have been drowned, but only heads of families who have read their Confucius would do such a stupid things to save the family’s honor. In the other word, Sheng Congwen doesn’t agree with Confucian way of dealing with adulteresses. He thinks the Confucian Principles is cruel and dehumanization. It was often using by those families considers their name as more important; they will be shameless if their daughter gets the punishment. If the parent loves their daughter, they should not do it to their daughter. That’s why Sheng Congwen didn’t give any punishment to Xiao Xiao after her adultery was discovered, because Sheng Congwen wants the readers to give people chances if they done something wrong and should not take out people’s life in the cruel way.
One of the theme that is present in the story “Xiao Xiao” is the domination of males over females. In traditional China, men were in charge of everything. Women had no power to make any decision and they need to obey their husband’s decision. Women can only marry once in their whole life. Even if her husband died, she needs to be a widow and cannot remarry. But men were different; they can have many wives as they like. People would like to have son more than daughter, because they thought daughter will be married one day and not be their daughter anymore.
But son was different, because son would stay with the family, so they could depend on their son. According to Xiao Xiao, her husband’s family let her to stay after the pregnancy is discovered, because she had a boy. But if Xiao Xiao had a girl, they would have killed her for her adultery. Another theme is present in the story which people in rural village against the city people. Those two different classes are never connecting together. People in rural village think city people are stranger to them. They don’t accept the way city people act and their modern view.
For example, Xiao Xiao’s grandfather always joking and making judgment against the “co-eds”. Even when the co-eds passed thought their village, people in rural village still have not influence by them and keep their traditional. The reason Sheng Congwen wrote this story which he tried to cure the social problem. I think Sheng Congwen want to tell those women who have the same situation with Xiao Xiao that they can have chance to be a new women. He also wants people to change their traditional view by not pass from generation to generation.