At 79, NPC deputy Shen Jilan looks sturdier and healthier than someone decades younger.
It took her at least 12 hours to reach Beijing from her village in Shanxi province. The journey involved two bus transfers and a 10-hour night trip to Beijing by train. She did it on her own without any assistance.
"No fuss is necessary to add to the trouble of the government," said Shen. "Compared with my first trip to the congress, this was nothing."
By her first, Shen meant the journey in 1954 when she left home on a donkey, then traveled by truck and several trains before she reached Beijing four days later for the country's first NPC session.
The most senior "congresswoman" in China, Shen has been a deputy to the NPC ever since the first session; and is the only person who has been elected as a deputy for all 11 terms.
And she has witnessed how the congress has evolved over the past 54 years: The sessions are shorter, more state affairs are discussed and younger deputies are better educated.
As for herself, "nothing has changed," said Shen. "I'm still an ordinary farmer."
But it's clear she did change as she picked up courage and confidence, as Shen recalled her first experience at the NPC.
Shen was a pioneer who tried to break China's millennia-old convention by pushing for equal pay for equal work for women in the early 1950s. At that time she was a 25-year-old farmer from a small mountain village, and found it hard to tell the country's leaders what really concerned her.
"My heart was beating like a drum when I sat there; I dared not utter a word."
Yet in the following half century, Shen forcefully voiced her concerns about such matters as transportation in rural areas, consumer protection, judicial procedures and official corruption.
Now she is especially glad the government is focusing more on the interests of farmers.
"I'm proud to be a deputy representing farmers," she said. "It is really an honor to speak for such a huge group. It is my duty and responsibility to convey their wishes and demands.
"My strongest desire is to see every single farmer rich in our country."
（英语点津 Celene 编辑）
About the broadcaster:
Bernice Chan is a foreign expert at China Daily Website. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, Bernice has written for newspapers and magazines in Hong Kong and most recently worked as a broadcaster for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, producing current affairs shows and documentaries.