The Salt Merchant's Granddaughter from China to America and the Search for My Hakka Roots. My unexpected, surprising discoveries of my own family's more than 100 years-old clan books (zhu pu) in old Chinese
(printed copy), covering 18 generations back to the Ming Dynasty (1454) in
Fujian and hidden stories and over 2000 long-lost relatives.
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
The Recovery of Family Genealogy Zhu Pu – Clan History Book
JuTing was able to bring us to the family who held
one set of our family’s history books, Zhu Pu ((族谱) . He also took us to meet the family who kept
three life-sized color paintings of our ancestors wearing Qing official uniforms, our
ancestor’s first two generations in Sichuan, Wen Gung (文光) his
son YuenHui (云辉) and
his wife Zhang (張氏). I
took pictures of the 3 color paintings, some torn although they have been repaired three times already. I was not sure what all of the symbols
meant, but I liked them and felt proud as well. I was so excited to see the
four old clan books, which recorded eighteen generations of the Guans since my
great-grandfather. The general rule for a Chinese clan book is to record nine
generations before you at the present, and to prepare space for nine generations
after the present. I thought about my oldest uncle; I had to call him to tell
him the good news. He was very surprised and excited as well.
Tenth generation: Wen Gung (文光 1662-1738), former name Xian Gung (献光), courtesy name 耀远, was a blacksmith from Fujian Yongding (永定县溪南里龙门乡寨上横溪). His wife, Wang (王), passed away in Fujian. When he was 62 years old in 1724, along with his younger brotherXian Ming (献明), he took his son Yuen Hui (云辉 who was 26 years old at the time). They sailed their own boat from Lake DongTing (洞庭湖) to the Yangzi River, passing through the Three Gorges (三峡), and settled down in Neijiang (内江), Sichuan. Xian Ming (献明), did not like to stay there and went back to Fujian, where we lost contact.
Eleventh generation: Yuen Hui (云辉公1699-1775) (courtesy name 彩祥) was born between 3-5 PM on June 11, 1699 in Yongding (永定县溪南里龙门乡寨上横溪). In 1724, he followed his father to Sichuan. He was promoted to Mandarin third rank Qing official (三品中议大夫/通议大夫) by the Guangxu Emperor (光绪) on February 12, 1880.
Hui’s (云辉公) wife Zhang (张) was born between 3-5 am on February 23, 1715 in Wu
Ping County (武平县), Dingzhou, Fujian. Her father Zhang Jiu Se
(张九思) took her and her brother along to Sichuan when she was
twelve. She married Yuen Hui (云辉公) at age seventeen. She was a good wife and died in the winter of 1807 at an oil house in Bei Town (椑镇) at age ninety-three. She was buried on right side of Chen Family Shrine (陈壩宗词). They had five sons: FuXing 福星(died young), Qing清, Rong溶, Xuen 洵, and Ning 濘. They also had five daughters. The second son 溶 was our branch’s grandfather. On February 28, 1830, her second burial was done in Mt Emei. She was awarded third rank’s wife
Sue Zen(淑人祖母) by the Guangxu Emperor (光绪) on February 12, 1880. Notice the dragon’s claws on
her clothes, only Emperor could have five claws, she had four. Korean Emperor
allowed four, but Japanese only allowed three claws. Although no more emperor, people in China (5), Korea (4) and Japan(3) still follow the rule.
The next question was how to get this old fraying
book out of the farm, since there was no copier or scanner, plus we did
not have enough money to copy or scan even if there was one. They were not
about to let us take their books away. Finally, we reached an agreement for
JuTing to go with us back to the city. My sister and I had opposing views about
which city we should bring the books to. She wanted to go home to Chengdu,
three hours away; I wanted to go back to my uncle’s house, one hour away. I
wanted to make sure the four books were the copies of the same ones my uncle had burned in the
Cultural Revolution and only he could tell. I had to let my sister go back to
Chengdu to my parents, since she would not want to go back to my uncle’s.
JuTing went along with me back to my uncle’s house again.
We had to already let our taxi go, since we could
not afford for him to just wait. We had already paid him 400 yuan. Now,
we had no other transportation except our two feet. It was already about 4 PM.
Now, JuTing was going to take us by the shortest walking route to reach
Bei Mu Zhen (椑木镇).
From Bei Mu Zhen (椑木镇), we
would take a bus back to Neijiang. Then, we planned to arrive in time to catch
the last bus at 6 PM to Chengdu for my sister and for the rest of us to
Zigong. We walked down slope to reach the river and took a ferry across.
reached the ferry, a man was sitting on the boat, enjoying his drink alone. My
American thinking came right out, drinking on the job? He was drinking hard
liquor, not wine or beer. I felt a little uneasy, since he would be the one to
take the three of us across. He greeted JuTing like an old friend and invited
him to join him for a drink first.
He said “eat wine” (吃酒),
which was so familiar to me. “The Dream of the Red Mansion (红楼梦),” a well known Chinese Classic. It was about paying back the debts from previous life. The Chinese view heaven and earth very differently from the West. Earthly lives are recycled and tend to be balanced. Only few could actually get into heaven and hell. Life in heaven is forever, no human desires so some might even want to come down to the earth to live a short human life. People in hell had to work very hard to correct their wrongs. The basic idea was that any debts left over in this life would have to be paid back in the next, or by your love ones. I have always loved watching the story in plays and movies. The story setting was very much like my family; the grandmother and the language were very familiar to me. My grandmother was the one who held our family together and my mother’s grandmother was the one who held the previous generation together. Our language at home was very similar to the movie too. For example, we use “eat wine,” not “drink wine;” “eat cigarette,” not “smoke cigarette.” When I am sad, I love listening the song of Pao Yu (宝玉) crying in front of Dai Yu’s (黛玉) shrine; I would cry with him. It was as if I wanted to bury all my problems and start over again.
Wine here means hard liquor, not really wine.
People do not really drink wine or beer in this area. He would take us across
after a few drinks. I was a little concerned about his drinking and driving the
boat, since who knew how long he had been drinking here. Nevertheless, I needed
to keep my mouth shut and let JuTing deal with him, since this was his territory
after all. JuTing
asked, almost ordered him, to take us right away, since we were in hurry. The
boatman was not very happy, but got up right away. I asked him how much I owed
him, since he was going to take just three of us across; he said 5 yuan, which
was less than a dollar. JuTing overheard and said to me, “No, do not pay him.”
The man did not say a word. I looked at him and gave him five yuan anyway and
put my finger on my mouth, “shhh.” He smiled. In fifteen minutes or so we were
on the other side of the river. Now, walking up the hill was more of a
challenge, since the railway was on the upper slope.
the railway reminded me of my childhood, growing up with cousins in Zigong. We
had to walk on the railway to visit my oldest uncle’s workplace, the shortest
way. My oldest uncle had walked one hour each way to and from his work until he
retired. We used to be daring; we competed to see who could walk on the iron
rail without falling off. We would feel the track shaking and see the train
coming before we left the tracks. Sometimes, we would put our ear on the tracks
to hear far-away trains. Now, walking on the tracks made me nervous. I have
become more fearful as I age, not less. I was not a young girl anymore, not to
mention my little sister, who was walking behind us. She had never experienced
all of this. She had always been with my mother growing up in the city. Then,
we had to walk through a tunnel. I was getting really nervous that a coming
train in the tunnel could actually swipe us away. Juting said there should not
be any trains coming. Even if there was, an indented area along the walls appeared every now and
then, so if a train did come, we just would have to make it there.
From Bei Mu Zhen (椑木镇), we took a bus back to the Neijiang bus
station. Then, we took a taxi to my aunt JuLiang’s place to pick up our stuff.
She was so excited that she could not believe that my sister and I had found our
family history books, shrines, and 2,000 Guan relatives. She was extremely
shocked and happy. She said, “It took you coming all the way from America to
find all those. What an achievement!” I was trying to tell her it must be our
ancestors’ wish to let us find them. All along the way, we were just lucky
enough to find the right people. She wanted to have us stay for dinner and
spend the night. We had to say goodbye though, since we wanted to catch the
last bus out.
Getting on the bus, I suddenly felt hungry and
tired. We had not eaten since morning and now it was dinnertime. I felt
sorry for dragging JuTing along with me. He said he was used to this kind of
life, as long as I was okay. My oldest uncle took us out for dinner, but found
out that JuTing was vegetarian. We had to head to a different restaurant.
JuTing had stopped drinking and eating meat a few years ago years after his wife
died from cancer.
After dinner, we took our family history books to
the nearest printing shop (open 24/7). To scan the four books and print three
sets overnight cost about 1000 yuan. We could pick them up the next
morning. It was their first time scanning such an old book, so they did not
know the book started with the last page first. They scanned the first page
first like today’s book. I kept reminding them to keep the books in a safe
place and warned them not to lose them overnight. They promised me that they
would keep the books safe.
I could not go to sleep right away after I had let
the books go. I wanted the original copy; maybe I could buy a copy of
the clan books from them. The books would be gone soon anyway if not kept away
from the humidity as they were in now. I wanted to keep them in constant
temperature and humidity. Also, I needed to do something about that tombstone,
to make the words show up on my photos. I did not have time to wait there,
since I still had trips to Fujian and Guangdong to make. Maybe we could just
get some paint ourselves to fill those words, so I could take a picture.
The next morning, my sister called telling me
that she was finished accompanying me on my trips to the East Coast. I
would have to go by myself. I should have known she would say this, since she
did not even want to go on trips in Zigong. Still, I was a little scared to go
all by myself, so I told JuTing about my situation. I asked if he was
interested in going with me if I would cover all his expenses. He agreed.
We were back at the tomb site in the afternoon;
JuTing found two more Guans to help us paint the words on the tombstone. By 4
PM, however, it was getting dark and we could not finish. Therefore, we
decided to stay overnight in one of the Guan’s houses. I stayed in JuDe’s
house, where a copy of the original family books was held.
While waiting for the morning fog to clear, so
I could take pictures after the painting was finished, JuTing and JuDe
took me around the farm to see more elders in my grandfather’s generation. I
found that most of their generation had blue-ringed eyes (central iris heterochromia),
while only two in the Ju generation had it and none in our generation. Most had light brown eyes. I was
not sure from where that blood had come. JuDe said his father was gone most of
his life as a businessman; he did not settle down until he was almost fifty
years old and had nine kids afterward on this farm. They did not know what he was
doing out there. It had something to do with boat transportation. Back in
their generation, most men were always away on business and earned money to
bring back home. I wished that someone could tell me what kind of business they
were doing. Did it have anything to do with our salt? No one knew; whatever
they were doing out there, it had stopped and they came back and never went out
again. They had enough money to have six wives and multiplied into 2,000
persons today; it had to be the salt.
It was noon
when we finally finished the tombstone. Coming down the mountains, I noticed
abundant lemons on the trees. They looked ripe and ready to pick. They told me
that they were still waiting for buyers. If no one came or the price was too
low, they would not pick them. I was shocked, they would not pick them? Let
them rot in the field because it was not worth it? There were a few tons of them
rotting in the field. “Why don’t you go out to sell them?,” I asked them. They
said lemons were not easy to sell. “Why are you growing them then?” They said
that it was from the top down; the government asked them. I was shocked, since
everywhere else farms had become more market-oriented. They said that last year
a buyer came with a truck to carry out lemons. On the way out, the head of
the village stopped the truck and asked for 600 yuan to use the road. They
started arguing about the money; this year, the buyer did not come again. “No
kidding, what were you guys doing?,” I exclaimed. “How could you let this
happen? They were your customers; you do not ask for money to use your road.
Now, you have tons of lemons in the field and nobody is interested. And you are
sitting here, waiting for whoever to come by again.”
talking about lemons while coming down the hill; they picked a half dozen lemons
for me to take home. It was noon. They insisted that I stay for lunch with
them. I agreed, but did not expect them to cook for three tables surrounded by
people. The elders were really glad that I was ready to help them update the
family history books. They said it was long overdue. I told them it would be
all up to them; they had to gather all the information. It would simply be a
matter of typing the information into a computer and printing. The hard part
was to get all the information from the 2,000 Guans there. JuDe promised me he
would collect it. I also asked him to ask all the elders, while they were still
around, which tomb was which, since the tombstones were gone or the words had
faded away. The best way to preserve the site was to make it into a pubic
cemetery where the government or a businessman wanted to invest. Then, they
could sell plots and work in cemeteries. That way, they would have money to
rebuild the road, have jobs, and keep our ancestors tombs away from developers.
needed to stop at his place to get a few changes of clothes for traveling with
me to the East Coast. He lived on the 7th floor of his building, mostly by himself. It was a very neat 3-bedroom condo. In his bedroom, I noticed he had a picture of Buddha and a Christian Angel above the headboard of his full bed side by side; across was his wife’s poster-size picture with a black border. He told me the Buddha was his teacher and the Angel was protecting his life; he needed both. He had three daughters, two married and the youngest one sometimes stayed with him here. After a few minutes, JuTing finished packing and we went back downstairs. His son-in-law was already waiting for us with his motorcycle to bring us to the bus stop for Neijiang. We did not go to see our aunt this time, but we went to the long distance station directly to catch the bus to Chengdu.
It was a
three-hour ride on the bus. I asked him about life on the farm after 1949; he
said the most difficult time was land reform. All the land and properties now
belonged to the government. All people were re-classified to landlord, rich
peasant, middle-class peasant, and poor peasant. The less you had, the better.
The ones who had nothing turned around to rule the ones who had. Big payback
time! I saw how bad the landlords’ fates were in the movies when I was little;
it was so far away that I never thought this would actually happen here in my
Guans were classified as landlords, including members of his own family. They
suffered the most; even in our own Guan family, fighting between the different
groups was very ugly. The ones who had suffered most were the Guan women. I
did not understand why the women suffered most. He said the poor villagers
would humiliate the Guan women by taking off their clothes and putting them out
in public for display. His mother had a psychological breakdown. She just said,
“The communists sure have a lot of meetings.” She was in trouble the very next
day. It was a mad time. Everyone was trying to get even with each other and no
one was paying attention to who was doing what. I told him that my family
suffered the most from the Cultural Revolution, but that did not affect them
that much, which made sense, since land was the most important thing to
about my family. I told him what I knew about my father, a farm boy from the
north. He was in my mother’s class in Northwest University. I just learned
that my father approached my mother saying he could introduce her to join the
Communist Party. JuTing interrupted me saying, “your mother said yes, right?”
I said I was surprised she said yes, I probably would have said no. JuTing said,
“Ying, your mother is smart; if you can’t fight it, join it. You do not know
how difficult it would have been to join the Communist Party; none of our Guan
family were party members; no one would introduce us.” I was surprised again,
no one out of 2,000? He said, “no one; that was why we were going nowhere.”