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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 209

Because this is a work of nonfiction, we might more accurately refer to these individuals as people rather than characters. Obviously, we have the woman who narrates this text: Lao T'ai-t'ai herself. Her parents are, at least initially, of significant importance. Lao T'ai-t'ai maintains a deep respect for them, even her very strict and traditional father, throughout her entire life, and her ideas about parenthood seem very much informed by their behaviors. She seems to have inherited her mother's deep and abiding love for her children as well as her father's temper.

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There are also Lao T'ai-t'ai's children: three girls and a boy. Her daughter Mantze is the child about whom we learn the most, followed by Lao T'ai-t'ai's son. Mantze's daughter, Su-Teh, also becomes Lao T'ai-t'ai's favorite grandchild. Lao T'ai-t'ai's husband, a Ning, who is an "opium sot" spends decades, it seems, as an absolute addict without regard for his family at all, but he eventually cleans up his act and becomes somewhat more acceptable as a husband and human being.

There are many other very minor personages in the form of people for whom Lao T'ai-t'ai works or neighbors in the various neighborhoods in which she lives, but none of them serve major roles in the narrative.

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