Published online by Cambridge University Press: 14 April 2022
The practice of leaving infants and children to the care of their grandmothers has a long history. Separation could be the result of parental death or inadequacy, or an outcome of war or political turbulence. Separation could be related to a father being away to work in another part of China or abroad. The Communist Party’s victory in 1949 precipitated a mass flight from the Mainland to Taiwan; soldiers had to abandon their families. In the Mao Era millions of young people had to leave home. Some were assigned to jobs; some were sent to the borderlands or to labour camps. Their children were left with their grandmothers.
As modern educational opportunities grew, young men, some already married, left home to study in universities or abroad. In the Reform Era hundredsof thosuands have gone abroad to study, many leaving small children behind them. From the 1980s on millions of young peasants have left home to work in factories and in construction. As before, the grandmother accepted without question the obligation to care for her grandchildren, perhaps for years on end.
Orphans were adopted within the family. Impersonal adoption was almost unknown until the One Child policy came in to force (1980s). After that numbers of baby girls were given up for adoption, many in the West.
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