My oldest uncle went to the private Yucai (育才小学) grammar school founded by salt merchants. In 1941, he went to the Neijiang boarding school (沱江中学, now 内江二中). My grandmother’s older brother, Xia Yue Jiang (夏月江), was in charge of the school. The school almost closed because of the Japanese bombing. His uncle moved the whole school away from the city to silkworm farm courtyards that he had rented from the Liu family (Tin Liao 官廷僚公, my great grandfather’s wife’s side 东兴镇七拱子刘家三重大院). The three courtyards had hundreds of rooms, and later became a place for grain storage after 1949. It no longer exists today. His grades were so good that the high school waived all its fees and he graduated with highest honors. He was accepted by the Department of Chemistry at Sichuan Technology.School. He did not go, however, because his uncle backed out from supporting him.
The salt industry was falling apart slowly after Japan’s surrender. Eventually the Yan family could not even pay my uncle for the last few months; he received about 1000 lb of salt as payment. In 1958, he went back to studying chemistry, which was his wish, and joined the management of the largest chemical company in Zigong.
My oldest uncle refused to marry even though a lot of matchmakers came to see my grandparents. He wanted to send his three sisters and his younger brother to college before he started his family. When he turned 30 years old, my mother and her sister had graduated from college already; my grandma felt really badly and went to a matchmaker for help. The matchmaker brought a girl name Zhou who was 28 years old. My grandma said, “she came with a few changes of clothes wrapped in her scarf, and sat at the front gate of the courtyard all by herself. When I married into the Guan (官) family, I was 15, youngest of ten children and the only girl in my family. My Xia (夏) family came along with loads and loads of goods marching into Guan’s house. She was not only poor but old too (she was almost 30 years old). I took her in because I felt sorry for her. My grandma always felt she was in debt to my oldest uncle. She was sorry that her son had to marry a poor, old girl. No matter how much the girl did, she would never match her son. Her most loving and handsome son could have done so much better if her husband was not sick in bed. To my grandmother’s disapproval, Zhu’s lifelong devotion to Guan contributed the last true Guan descendant in my family, the only great grandson with the surname Guan. Wu Zetain (her family was Zhou) must have sent Zhou over to Guan for rescue when Guan was really in need. Zhou was such a wonderful mother; she could make anything out of nothing and took such good care of her family, my grandparents, and her nephews and nieces in the summer. I still remembered her meals, which we used to fight over. Zhou's older sister and her husband Hou (贺) had died, as well as their only daughter. Hou (霍 and 贺) sound the same, but are spelled differently. I was surprised that their daughter married a husband with the surname Guan. And the Hou’s son from a previous marriage also married a Guan. The two Guans did not know each other and we were not related as far as they knew. All my life in China, I traveled to many places. I had never encountered another Guan who was not our family’s relative. Hou married them all, yet did not have a child to carry Hou’s name. Hou’s daughter gave her Guan husband a son, then died from heart failure. The Guan married to Hou’s son had a daughter. Hou’s son was helping to take care of my Uncle Guan and his wife. I found out that Shangguan Jie and Hou Go were actually buried together even though one killed the other in Moling (茂陵 霍光, 上官桀墓). They must have worked out their differences after lying there together for thousands of years.