Liu Guizhen, 54, is only five-feet tall, weighing 40 kg. Despite her little height, she has huge responsibilities in her village.
In her family, she is a daughter, a wife, and a mother. In her village, she is a doctor, a teacher, the chief of the Villagers' Committee and the secretary of local branch of Communist Party of China (CPC). Despite having so many responsibilities, she said that she feels happy to be useful to her fellow villagers.
No doctor was willing to come to work in Liu's village of Duanjiawan, a small and remote village off the beaten track in north China's Shanxi Province.
Limited by facilities in the past, villagers would just "tough it out" when they fell sick. If they felt that they couldn't endure anymore, they would go to the pharmacy to get some medicine. Going to a distant hospital to see a doctor was a last resort. Villagers hoped that one day they would have their own doctor in the village.
In 1978, when Liu was preparing for the national college entrance exam, the county organized a village doctor training class. Liu was a good student in school and was planning to go to college. But she was selected to take part in the training as the only high school graduate in her village.
She accepted and began to learn basic medical knowledge. She has kept on learning and studying while practicing medicine. She even taught herself acupuncture and moxibustion therapies.
Liu does not charge any service and treatment fee to her fellow villagers, who are mostly dealing with financial difficulties. Her medicine is sold at the purchasing prices. She was not paid until recently, when she started receiving a monthly allowance of 400 yuan ($58.8) from the government. Before, her family's income depended entirely on growing crops.
In 2016 when the doctor in the neighboring village became too old to work, Liu took over his job. The village is 3.5 km away from her home and has more than 100 households in need of care.
Liu Guizhen (Left)
In 1988, the village's only teacher left, leaving behind 15 children with no school to attend. Their parents were so worried that they went to Liu and asked her to take over the classes until the new teacher came. Liu thus became the village teacher.
After almost two decades, the new teacher never came.
In 2006, due to a reduction in the number of students, the village primary school was merged with another school in a neighboring village. Many students have transferred from the villages to cities, but some are still reluctant to go.
Is it worthy to work so hard in the mountains for all one's life? This question has been asked to Liu countless times.
"I feel it is worth it," Liu said. "I just do what I want to do, and I strive to do well what is required of me to do."
Head of village
In 1996, Liu was elected as the secretary of the CPC local branch and in 2003 as the village head. She soon found another problem.
In the past decades, many villagers left the mountains to work in big cities, and most of those left behind in the village couldn't read or write.
To help her fellow villagers to raise their income, Liu made use of her medicinal knowledge to help villagers grow medical herbs. Later, she led villagers to grow Chinese pine saplings. Her efforts have helped many people out of poverty.
As a daughter, wife and mother, Liu sometimes feels she could probably do more for her own family. But in her fellow villagers' eyes, she is their sister and responsible leader. So far, she has been a village doctor for 39 years, a village teacher for 29 years, the CPC local branch secretary for 19 years and the village head for 14 years.
What has helped her make her decision to stay in the mountainous village for so many years? Liu said that it is her fellow villagers' expectations and trust. She said that she felt happy to be useful to her fellow villagers.