Liv­ing the nat­u­ral way

She brings up her chil­dren ‘asMother Earth in­tended’, and her firm con­vic­tion has turned her into a fer­vent ad­vo­cate and the founder of Bei­jing’s first gath­er­ing of or­ganic, sus­tain­able producers. She in­sists she is still a mother above all else, and she

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

Zhang Yinghui’s 13-yearold elder son Marco has an un­usual com­plaint. He wants to know why he has not got­ten sick like the other chil­dren.

“Every­body else gets ill and takes time off school,” he told his mother a fewyears back.

It’s true. Marco has never been in­side a hos­pi­tal, never taken any an­tibi­otics or any over-the-counter Western med­i­ca­tion, and he and his brother re­cently skied twice as long and twice as far as their moth­er­when­they took a hol­i­day in the Alps this win­ter.

Zhang, 49, is a ruby-com­plex­ioned stay-at-home mother and free­lancer. Most of all, she is a cham­pion of nat­u­ral liv­ing, and she at­tributes her chil­dren’s good health to a sim­ple doc­trine — liv­ing sim­ple, and liv­ing “the way Mother Earth in­tends us to live”.

Nat­u­ral Liv­ing, Zhang’s book, doc­u­ments her par­ent­ing life­style from food choices to med­i­cal ad­vice and was pub­lished in De­cem­ber by Ts­inghua Univer­sity Press.

She in­sists that it is not meant to be a life­style en­cy­clo­pe­dia, but her read­ers be­lieve it is.

At a re­cent sem­i­nar where she shared her ex­pe­ri­ences with 15 moth­ers anx­ious to learn more, Zhang was bom­barded with ques­tions rang­ing from how best to mop the floor to where to buy or­ganic rice in Bei­jing. Zhang had all the an­swers. Soap­berry, bak­ing soda and white vine­gar are good for clean­ing. Co­conut oil blocks the sun well enough but may draw the at­ten­tion of in­quis­i­tive bees.

She also has re­cently tried prod­ucts at Bei­jing and Shang­hai’s coun­try fairs and can help rec­om­mend the safe prod­ucts and good food.

“En­vi­ron­men­tal and food safety prob­lems are ter­ri­fy­ing and we want our chil­dren to live a healthy life,” says Wang, a mother at the sem­i­nar. “What Zhang has done is very im­pres­sive.”

“Nat­u­ral liv­ing is a life­style that has its essence in the lit­tlest things you do,” Zhang says.

“It all started when my son was born,” Zhang says of her life­style, which is du­ti­fully recorded and up­dated on a blog­namedChil­dren of Na­ture, Zhang Yinghui.

“I was of­fered a spoon­ful of pro­cessed baby food. It was mashed car­rot, but it did not taste like car­rots.”

Brought up in China’s north­east­ern Bei­dahuang, a fer­tile re­gion where the black earth pro­duces an abun­dance of pro­duce, Zhang knows what nat­u­ral food should taste like. She also knows ad­di­tives and preser­va­tives are not nec­es­sary.

Zhang left her home­town for fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion in the 1980s and trav­eled across the ocean with her Ital­ian hus­band. She now di­vides her time be­tweenBri­tain and Italy.

She de­cided to take charge of what goes into her in­fant’s mouth and be­gan to shop and search for nat­u­ral in­gre­di­ents not only for the din­ing ta­ble, but also for her whole house­hold.

When Marco was 1 month old, doc­tors pressed her to agree to gen­eral anes­the­sia to treat his fu­run­cle. Zhang de­cided against it, trust­ing more on the body’s power to heal it­self.

Fed only on a diet of nat­u­ral sea­sonal foods sup­ple­mented with plenty of ac­tiv­i­ties out­door, nei­ther of her chil­dren needs to visit doc­tors. Since 2009, Zhang’s fam­ily has also done away with herbal and tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine.

“I’m lucky to have my kids as such,” Zhang says. To guar­an­tee them a healthy childhood, Zhang has given up her ca­reer as an econ­o­mist to be a full-time mother.

“Shar­ing a healthy, happy childhood with them is the most im­por­tant thing,” she says.

“Chil­dren live in the so­ci­ety we adults cre­ate and shape, and we should change it for the bet­ter for them.”

In Bei­jing in 2010, a taste of over-sea­soned sea­weed marked “all-nat­u­ral” gave her the mo­ti­va­tion to start the city’s first Coun­try Fair. To her, it was only nat­u­ral to have a mar­ket that sold truly or­ganic, lo­cal, safe good food.

“It wasn’t hard at all. I didn’t go out of my way to make it hap­pen. For me, it was a gath­er­ing of my fam­ily’s sup­pli­ers, a small cir­cle of trust­wor­thy providers.”

The mar­ket has grown and de­vel­oped even af­ter Zhang left for Bri­tain, and it is cur­rently one of the city’s most pop­u­lar or­ganic plat­forms, sell­ing nat­u­ral prod­ucts that range from veg­etable, fruits, honey to cos­met­ics and bed­ding.

Zhang also ini­ti­ated the or­ganic school lunch at the Daystar Academy in Bei­jing, where her son had at­tended be­fore he left for Bri­tain.

“I have to keep an eye on ev­ery­thing and make sure that it is a nat­u­ral meal for stu­dents that isn’t im­pos­si­ble for schools to make,” she says.

The only thing that stops her from do­ing more is be­ing away from her sons, but even so, she man­aged to steal some time away.

Last year, Zhang was in dif­fer­ent parts of China to re­search the qual­ity of or­ganic farms and work­shops. “I want to make a doc­u­men­tary film that will pose the ques­tion to view­ers: How should we live our lives?”

For her per­son­ally, the choice is sim­ple. A “sim­ple, nat­u­ral life” with­out a mi­crowave oven, tele­vi­sion or a car is good. Con­tact the writer at­com.cn.

sunye@chi­nadaily.

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