Hsiao-hsiao by Shen Ts’ung-wen
Hsiao-hsiao by Shen Ts’ung-wen
Hsiao-hsiao is a literary piece by Shen Ts’ung-wen who is renowned for his classical Chinese writing styles. Itfocuses on the traditional Chinese concept of marriage. It highlights the traditional rituals that were effected during unions between two individuals. Moreover, the work analyzes some of the queer observations that were made on these traditional setups. For instance, the author indicates that some marital setups involved young boys getting married to relatively older women within the rural settings. This pragmatic aspect of child marriage can be contrasted to the contemporary setups where marriages re based on liberal rights and appreciation of the privileges and interests of the minors. In the Hsiao-Hsiao setup, however, child marriages were relatively common and acceptable to the elderly.Hsiao-hsiaoaffirms that child marriages blurred hopes of many but could be overcome through resilience and continued hope.
The author indicates that some of the girls who were subjected to child marriages did not approve of their predicaments. They could hardly come to terms with the fact that they were being separated from their parents, especially mothers, and that they will be other people’s parents in the near future. Many resorted to sobbing as though appealing for mercy, only to encounter unforgiving and barbaric social environments that did not acknowledge the rights of the minors. In addition, the story indicates that the children were compelled to wear new types of attire made in green to conform to the traditional concepts on marriage. Contrary to the modern setups that are anchored on the belief of the weddings as platforms for joy and happiness, the traditional Chinese marriages depicted in Hsiao-hsiao were characterized by somber mood, especially for the brides who were beginning journeys through new worlds of uncertainties.
Besides young girls marrying elderly men, young boys were also not left behind in the queer forms of wedding that were predominant in the Chinese society. The author reflects on young boys being compelled to marry old women for the benefit of their families. Some of the gains that the families of the young grooms accessed through the queer marriages included free labor force and protection of ancestral lineages. This came to pass when the boy-husband came of age to fertilize their older wives to sire sons. On the other hand, the proponents of the marriages between the young boys and much older girls believed that the boy-husbands would access better maternal care.
Shen Ts’ung-wen also indicates that the older girls who were chained to the traditional marriages never stopped dreaming. Through Hsiao-hsiao, the author reflects on an older girl who understands that her world has definitely come to a stop and that she may not be able to realize some of her fundamental dreams in life. However, she still harbors dreams and hopes through her son. She also understands that she has to wait for him to come of age to sire for him a son. She was also forced to wait for long before learning of her later to be co-wed who was much younger than her.
At the time of marriage, Hsiao-hsiao was eleven. It is perplexing that she was married off to a two-year old who barely understood what they wanted in life. While the husband is often expected to be the head of the house and should thus be more cognitively developed and mature compared to the bride, the custom presented by the author reflect on a society that belittles women and equates them to toddlers. It could be interpreted to mean that Hsiao-hsiao had no control over the two-year old. Instead, she was expected to do everything demanded of her by the minor. The author indicates that one of her major duties was to ensure that “Sony played under the willow tree” and that he got a kiss on his little face whenever necessary (p.227). When she eventually bares a son for his boy-husband, she hope that her cut dreams would come true through him and that he will not be chained to the degenerative cultural dynamics.
Hsiao-hsiao’s first son is born out of an illicit relationship with Motley. The author indicates that he is also subjected to the traditional cultural dynamics. He is married at twelve to a 16-year old girl who was more mature than him. The aim was to ensure that the free labor was continuously supplied to the family of the little boy. Therefore, Hsiao is close to losing hope but still believes that her infant son may be able to break the cultural chain. She sings to her in low tones, hoping that he will be free to marry the co-eds (p.236). She admires their ways of life and believes that their civilization should be embraced by her community.
Based on the story, the co-eds can be viewed as symbols for hope and freedom. The enslaved older girl sees them as civilized persons who present an opportunity to break from the retrogressive culture. Hsiao-hsiao shares that Motley was able to successfully escape from the village with the co-eds and thus sees their presence in the community as a prime time to escape (p.234). Even though she is not able to accomplish her mission of accessing freedom, she still believes that marrying the co-eds is a prime opportunity for her infant to break away from the barbaric culture. The author concludes by hinting at a dying custom that is slowly being swept away with the civilization of the 20th century.
In conclusion, the work shows that many children were oppressed and denied the fundamental aspect of freedom in making marital choices. The work also indicates that many of the girls struggled to cope with the new duties and were literary chained to dynamic cycles that deprived them of happiness. Hsiao-hsiao, however, shows that hope and perseverance is instrumental in overcoming such cultural and social challenges. The work confirms that the one should be ready to seize opportunities when they present if they are to overcome oppressive cultural values. It also shows that patience and sustained hope should be at the epicenter of one’s quest to unchain themselves and future generations from the cultural norms.