Four pounds and two ounces, I was born on September 10, 1961, in Chengdu’s People’s Construction Hospital next to the Oil Company, Sichuan Province in southwest China. Both of my parents were geologists working for the Oil Company, but they worked in two different cities. My youngest uncle was a college student. He sent my mom to the hospital and took care of her until my father arrived. It was common then for a husband and wife to work in different cities. Fortunately, they had a one-month vacation each year together which makes me lucky enough to come into the world.
Chengdu was the only city in China which never changed its name for thousands of years. It is the capital of “Heavenly State” Sichuan (天府之国), home of giant pandas in its subalpine mountains. The provincial name Sichuan means “Four rivers and gorges.” Sichuan was also referred as Ba-Shu (巴蜀), a combining the name of two independent kingdoms of Ba and Shu. Ba included Chongqing and the land in eastern part of Sichuan along the Yangtze and some tributary streams, while Shu included today's Chengdu, its surrounding plain and adjacent territories in western part of Sichuan. In 1920, Joseph Beech visited there and said Chengdu was “eden.” Marco Polo described how Chengdu was nurtured by the upper Yangzi (Yangtze) River.
|Jiaozi ( 交子) is a form of banknote which appeared in Chengdu. Most regard it as the first paper money in history, a development of the Chinese Song Dynasty (960 - 1279 AD). To combat counterfeiting, Jiaozi were stamped with multiple Banknote seals.|
After I was born, my grandmother had a hen in Gongjing (贡井) that was still laying eggs. She wanted to kill the hen and so she could bring it with her to Chengdu for my mom to eat. Chicken soup was a must for women after giving birth. But my mom stopped her because the hen could give eggs instead.
I don’t remember the hardships of those times. My only memory of those days is the fact that I don’t like to eat potatoes. My mom told me that when I was born, because she didn’t have much milk for me, she only could give me mashed potatoes. Since my mom saved the potatoes for me, my father went without much food, and he became ill. He was weak and sick for weeks and had a puffy face. Since I didn’t like those potatoes, my father finally ate them and he became better. I was always proud to hear this when my mom told this part of the story because if I had liked potatoes my father might never have been cured. I was known as “picky, picky” since my parents tried so hard to let me eat whatever they could find, but I was good at spitting out everything except my mother’s milk. I was one of the lucky ones though since my mom’s girlfriend lost her baby girl and many children born at that time did not survive.
In the market, there were all sorts of fake food for sale. My father heard that people actually ate clay or cow droppings but he could not imagine that. One day, he saw these nice brown pancakes, the sight of which made his mouth water. He bought one and ate it. It was tough. Later on, his friend told him that it was cow droppings and then he threw up.
My mom went back to work right after and an old lady nearby her workplace took care of me. My mom told me how fast she ran when she took time off for breast-feeding since she didn’t know how to ride a bicycle. I used to cry so much for more of her milk, which she did not have.
|My mother and me in Chengdu (1961).|
2: Glamorous Sichuan part 2 Mysteries of the past
3: Glamorous Sichuan part 3 Colorful waters of Jiuzhai Valley
4: Glamorous Sichuan part 4 Ethnic harmony
5: Glamorous Sichuan Part 5 The Leshan Giant Buddha and Mount Emei
6: Glamorous Sichuan Part 6 Rise of the Phoenix
Food in Chengdu