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September 23, 2023

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Ceaseless rain destroys crops, the desperate widow has to remarry

IN the middle of last century, the sad tale of a young widow and her little son was adapted into a half dozen local dramas staged around the Yangtze River Delta area of east China, including Shanghai.

The story is entitled Tianyaoluoyu Niangyaojia, or literally “if it continues to rain, the mother must remarry.”

According to the story, a young widow and her son lived in a small village in Zhejiang Province during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). To make ends meet, the widow labored in a small plot of barren land leased from a local landlord.

One year, heavy rain continued for se­veral months, destroying all the widow’s crops. Come harvest time, she failed to reap a single grain from the field and had no money to pay the rent. The landlord seized the plot from her, leaving her no means to make a living and raise her son.

To ensure her son would survive, she followed a fellow villager’s advice and decided to marry a rich merchant from a neighboring province. But her decision was disparaged by her in-laws, who also prevented her from taking her son with her.

Before leaving, the widow left some money received from the merchant to a trusted neighbor and asked him to help support her son.

In the end, her son grew up and refused to forgive his mother for remarrying, so she committed suicide.

Today, the title of the drama has been turned into a popular idiom to mean that in certain circumstances, one must bow to the inevitable because no one can change destiny.

In the saying, only the word luoyu (落雨), an eastern China area dialect which means “raining,” has been changed to the more commonly used Mandarin word xiayu (下雨).


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