Noah - Two Mountains and Chinese Origins!
|Chinese Angel in Da Yuen Yuan (大云院) in Shanxi (山西) built in 935 AD (Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period)|
|Matteo Ricci's grave (利玛窦墓) in the backyard of the Beijing Administrative College (北京行政学院, formerly the Beijing Communist Party School), off Chegongzhuang Dajie.|
|Our Lady of the Rosary (圣母玫瑰堂) in Shanxi was built in 1914|
|The upper part was what was left from the original Church where my oldest uncle used to go in the 1920s. We could only see a tip of the stone structure and upper walls from far away |
We thought he had buried my grandmother’s ashes next to my grandfather’s remains back in 1978 when she died. We all received a share of the money (1.5 times of my mother's monthly pay) from selling her belongings in the treasure chest. She once opened the big chest by her bed to show me extraordinary embroidery on silk she did when she was young before she married. She could not embroider anymore because of her failing sight since I asked her to teach me how. She also showed me all of her gold, silver, and jade jewelry and some fine China. She wanted to carry the chest full in her coffin when she died. I did not care that much for her jewelry because they all looked old and boring. I did admire so much the embroideries on silk. They looked so beautiful and delicate. I asked who could teach me to do that. She said none of her daughters learned because they all went to school. When she was a girl, only boys went to school; she stayed home and learned the art of embroidery.
My grandmother told me a long time ago that she didn’t want to be cremated. My grandfather had his coffin made when he was very sick. I was never able to go to the porch because I was afraid of the coffin there. My grandfather wanted to save his coffin for my grandmother which was the only thing he had. He said my grandmother was afraid of fire; he did not have anything else to give her. My grandmother kept a lot of jewels, china, and silk in one of her chests hoping to carry them with her in the coffin. In her later years, especially after she moved in with us in the big city, she realized that it was impossible to be buried. There just weren’t any plots available. She told me that she was scared but since my grandfather was cremated, she would follow him, hoping that he could guide her.
We did not know that my oldest uncle kept her ashes at his home until he could buy her a proper burial plot in the 1990s. I went to his home in 1986 before I left China to say goodbye. I did not know my grandmother’s ashes were right there at his home. I assumed that we could not find them anymore, since the hill was replaced with high-rise buildings including a church. He just said that they could not find my grandfather’s burial place anymore, since my grandfather was buried without any mark, under a tree on the hill in 1968. After 1949, there were really no burial places for sale. City people really did not have a formal burial place available to buy. Some scattered their ashes, some took them back to their farm, and some kept them at home. I was grateful for my oldest uncle’s great foresight, to keep our grandmother’s ashes so that we could come to visit her. We went to visit a new Catholic church in the area on a steep hill with hundreds of stone steps leading upward. My grandfather’s ashes were also on the slope somewhere. My eighty-three year old uncle climbed all the way up with us, as if he was sorry to lose my grandfather’s ashes. I felt the hill was a good resting place for my grandfather, since the church was nearby. Still, no one could explain why the only Catholic Church in the area just happened to be built there and not anywhere else.
only new Catholic church in Zigong was built where |
my grandfather’s ashes were buried in the 1960s
|Journey to the West painting in Summer Palace 颐和园|
After I told her about my search for my family roots two years ago, she was really depressed for awhile. She told me that she was a Manchu and her Manchu family name was changed to the Chinese surname “Wang” like all other Manchus in Beijing. She did not know her real family name or anything beyond Beijing. Their parents were relatives of a Manchurian Emperor, the rulers of the last Chinese dynasty. She and her eight brothers and sisters were living in a home next to the Summer Palace. As old as she remembered in her childhood, she was running for her life with the rest of her family. They ran from north to south, she went to Japan, Taiwan, and eventually came to America. Unlike my mother, she experienced hunger and fear when she was young.
My oldest uncle then took me to the old house at Young Tong Salt Well (永通井) where I used to stay with my grandparents for my first 5 years, an old Chinese courtyard house where there was a huge entry door with two very high wooden doors that were closed at night. There was also a high wooden panel across the doorstep to prevent leaves or dust from blowing in. I had to climb over the wooden panel since my legs were too short. A few steps down from the gate, on the left side, there was a peach tree that my youngest uncle planted when he was young. The peach blossoms were so high that I could not reach them. There was a little creek running down the hill on the left, to right in front of our house, to a pond not far from our house. There was a Buddhist temple on the hillside, my grandma never took me inside. I used to be afraid of the huge Buddhist statue and it was very dark inside. Next to the temple, there was a tailor shop where my grandma used to take me to get my dress done. The tailor was a skinny old man with old glasses almost falling down from his face; he looked at me not through the glasses, but over his glasses. He was always telling me how pretty I looked in all the dresses he made for me. The road to downtown was on the right. On the other side of the road were fields and fields of crops.
The old place Young Tong Salt Well (永通井) was nothing like my memories; we met a seventy-five-year-old woman named Zhou who claimed to be the wife of a restaurant owner close to the house. Her husband had died many years ago; my grandfather’s oldest brother Tai-Ba used to own the entire land and properties there, including her husband’s restaurant. They used to pay rent to him. Tai-Ba had to donate everything to the government after 1949. Tai-Ba died in his home in Young Tong Salt Well (永通井) in 1960. She pointed out the house where I used to live, where the temple was, and where the pond used to be. They were all gone except the old roofs, since they covered dense smaller houses and sheds. The old courtyard was gone. The pond was filled; small houses were now built on top of it. Now the highway went through this area; it looked like the current buildings would soon be torn down very soon for high-rise buildings, like elsewhere in China.