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Gift of Love Behind a rural Chinese family’s rise from deep poverty is a mother’s lifelong sacrifice. By Justin Jin

THE SOULFUL JOURNEY OF AN UNKNOWN HERO, MOTHER WU, FROM THE CASCADING MOUNTAINS OF GUIZHOU TO A BUSY CHINESE METROPOLIS, to earn an education for her children.

Shin-deep in wet cement, a frail 56-year-old Mother Wu bends down to pave a new courtyard with large brute machines pounding the ground around her.

Mother Wu’s worker attire does not reveal, however, the achievement of a woman who single-handedly raises her four children determined they would be educated, even though she had never been to school. Their slow and steady rise from abject rural poverty to material comfort means Mother Wu’s life’s work is almost complete.

Layer by layer, lace by lace, Mother Wu draped her daughter in the garment she began while Xia was pregnant, before she knew the baby would be a girl, let alone what kind of girl she would grow up to be.

Mother Wu crowned Xia with the golden headgear. Everything fit. Mother Wu’s stoic face melted, the deep lines of hardship recast with the dignity of sacrifice. According to the Dong people, the dress should be presented to the child during an auspicious event in her early adult life, usually a wedding. But for Xia and her mother, today is the day: Xia won a university place.

When Mother Wu heard about her daughter's university acceptance, she rushed back from her work at the big city to celebrate with her -- and the entire the village.
Before Mother Wu takes a long-distance bus back to the factory in Guangdong, she gave Xia an envelope filled with cash, equivalent to six months of her salary. Xia turns to thank her with a kiss.
Xia, Mother Wu's daughter, arrives at university to study food science and transforms into a city woman.
Dimen during rice harvest. Shielded from rapid Chinese development by a cascade of steep mountains, the lush village of Dimen has kept centuries-old Dong minority traditions alive. But as highways and tunnels encroach, the future of the village is at a crossroads
The Dong song is listed as a UNESCO heritage. Women wearing hand-woven embroidery perform in the spring rain.
Friends and family gather at dawn to pull up a house that has been stacked by the master engineers.
Children bathe in the river that curves through Dimen, crisscrossed by wooden Flower Bridges. In Dong language, Dimen means, “a place with endless spring water.”
An 80-year-old woman weaves her own funeral cloth so her children will not be burdened with buying one when she dies.

International writer and photographer Justin Jin first met Mother Wu in 2012 while shooting a story in Dimen. He developed a friendship with the family and have visited them over the years.

Credits:

Justin Jin