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Xie Zhijun, a resident of Songgou village, Kangxian, Gansu province

I was born in Guangyuan, Sichuan province, and came to Kangxian in 1980, at age 21, to work as a carpenter.

My family was very poor then. My father died when I was a baby, so my mother raised me and my four brothers. At the time, the scarcity of farmland meant many residents of mountain villages in Guangyuan cut down trees to provide farmland so they could grow more crops.

I arrived in Songgou village on foot. I walked through the mountains for a whole day, covering more than 100 kilometers, and arrived at night.

I worked in the village for about three years and married a local woman. I followed the local tradition and lived with my wife"s parents.

When I was in Guangyuan, I had never heard of the tradition that a man lives with his wife"s family, but after I had been in Songgou for three years, I grew accustomed to it, especially after seeing many other men settle down.

My mother did not oppose my decision to marry in Songgou. In fact, she actively supported me, understanding that I could have more farmland and a better life than in my hometown.

I undertook different types of work, including farming, growing vegetables and repairing roads, while my wife spent most of her time looking after our two children.

I look after my wife"s parents as if they are my own parents, and they are very kind. I return to my hometown to see my mother, who is more than 80 years old, about once a year.

We used to live high in the mountains with my wife"s parents, but in 2005, the local government encouraged us to move down to a new house near a new road.

Now, I also grow tea and can make about 6,000 yuan ($890) a year, which is much better than before.

My son is 32. He married in nearby Yangba township in 2009 and followed the local tradition. He now works in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, and my daughter-in-law looks after their son, who attends a primary school in the town.

My daughter"s husband is a migrant worker in Yichang, Hubei province. He and my daughter have bought a house in the city.

In the past, at least one child would stay in the village so they could care for their aging parents. I don"t mind that my children aren"t here - I"m happy that they are much better off than I was when I was young.

Xie Zhijun spoke with Wang Xiaodong.