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Liu Zhenyun (renowned Chinese writer. The following is the preface he wrote for Grandma Xiuying’s Blue Flax Sky.)
Grandma Xiuying is the penname of Qin Xiuying, who is also known by the screen name “Studious Grandma.” A native of Shanxi Province, she was born in 1947 and moved to the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. She only spent one and a half year in school. She adores every creature of Mother Nature.
Since 2011, Qin, together with her daughter-in-law, has been dedicated to taking notes on everything about her hometown - the crops she grew, the Yinshan Mountains, and the Yellow River - with both words and drawings. They completed nearly 200 such illustrated notes. In the process, Qin learned how to write and use a computer. She even registered her own Weibo (China’s Twitter-like microblogging service) account with the handle “Dwelling by the River.” Her illustrated notes have been published in several Chinese newspapers and magazines. In 2014, an exhibition of her work was held at Foshan Library in Guangdong Province.
Blue Flax Sky is a collection of her illustrated notes, which primarily depict common traits of countryside life like donkeys, chickens, wheat, flax, sugar beets, and melons. Combining vivid drawings and words, these notes reflect an old countrywoman’s respect for nature alongside the ecological and social transformations in China’s countryside over the past six decades.
Her daughter-in-law, Rui Dongli, is the author of Notes on Nature. “My mother-in-law always writes and draws slowly but carefully,” Rui remarks. “Due to her careful drawing and coloring, her work emits a unique ambience of peace and calm. One of her notes depicts white poplars in her hometown. She carefully drew every long tomentose of each poplar. Under her brush, these woolly inflorescences seem to have the warmth of a soft, beating heart.”