Shun was the first child born to Zhen just five years before the introduction of the commune system to the villages of China. Shun grew up in the commune, studied at the commune school, and experienced the hunger of the 1958–60 famine. During the period of the Cultural Revolution (1967–76), Shun was fortunate to be selected by the cadres to attend college to be trained as a primary school teacher. This not only had a major impact on her family but also improved the standards at the village school. It was at this time she married Ze.