Established among the southeast mountains of Guizhou Province 700 years ago is Zhan Li Village. Residents abide by a strict set of rules that have been passed down from generation to generation.
Almost 98 percent of the village’s families have one boy and one girl.
It is very rare for a family to have two children of the same gender. The secret is a herb known in the village as the “conversion flower.” According to villagers, after a woman gives birth to her first child, using conversion flower will ensure that the second child is a different gender. Only one person in the entire village knows what this herb looks like—the medicine master, who is always a woman. There is a hint about this magical herb though—it is a climbing plant, but its roots are quite different to other climbing plants.
In order to keep the conversion flower a secret, villagers are prohibited from marrying outsiders.
There are also very strict rules for those who want a divorce. Anyone wanting a divorce has to pay a fine of 300 pounds of grain, 100 pounds of meat, and 7 gallons of white wine. Divorced people are no longer allowed to live in the village.
Young men and women are free to fall in love, but most of the girls don’t marry until after the age of 23. They believe that marrying and having children later delays old age and death. After the wedding, the bride will generally continue living with her parents. The young couple will work toward their future together in the fields, but she won’t move in with her husband until she is around 27 or 28.
The village has many other rules that help to ensure its success. For example, after the parents pass away, their assets are divided equitably between the son and the daughter. The daughter will inherit the cotton fields and the son will inherit the grain fields; any forest and vegetable fields are divided equally between the two. The house and livestock go to the son, and the daughter will inherit any jewelry, gold, silver, and fabrics. The villagers, unlike many other Chinese people, do not have the concept of favoring boys over girls.
These strict rules have ensured that the village has maintained an almost zero population growth. In 1952, there were 168 households with a total population of 729 people. In the year 2000, there were 154 households with a total population of 739 people.
Research by Monica and Kathy