Like many adults in rural China, Li Xiuying has tried migrating for work. She toiled at a sock-making factory in Yunnan province, but was too anxious to stay for long.

"I wasn't used to it. I missed my mother every day," says Ms Li, who is in her mid-40s.

After two years worrying whether her mother was well fed and cared for, she returned home to her village of elaborate wooden houses perched on a steep forest slope, where neighbours cook over wood fires, tend walnut trees and raise black pigs.

The outside world has not been kind to Ms

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