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.
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Tracing Back to Our Ancestors in Fujian First Time
The weather was perfect and
after the morning fog disappeared, we could see the landscape clearly. I
was sitting by the window. JuTing
asked if he could switch seats with me so that he could look outside. I agreed. He
was like a little kid on a plane for the first time. We arrived at Xiamen at
noon and my brother called right after we got off the plane. He wanted us to be
extra careful and not to talk too much, because when I opened my mouth, people
would know right away that I was a newcomer. I told him we would be extra
careful. He did not trust the people whom I met through our Shangguan family
website. I told him that now that I had JuTing with me, I would be
We took a three-hour bus ride
westward to Dingzhou (now 长汀). We
met a Shangguan who worked in the local government office. He paged through our
Guan family history book on my USB drive and was sure that we were part of the
Shangguan there. I told him that I wanted to see Shangguan ChongYong (上官昌永); he said: "your wish would be his command." He
called Shangguan ChongYong (上官昌永) right away, asking him to come. Within 15 minutes
or so, a man walked in. I thought it was Shangguan ChongYong (上官昌永). He was not, but another Shangguan who would help
us settle down. After a few more minutes, Shangguan ChongYong (上官昌永) walked in. I told him that I had called
him three times when I was in the US, but all I got was a song that went “you and
me…” and the song stuck in my head. He said I must have had the wrong number. I
told him that was the number from the Shangguan website. He looked into our
family history book too and said we were from the same family of Shangguan. He
said he would look into our family history if I sent him a copy.
The Biggest Wine Pot in Tinzhou Wine Festival (100 Pot Feast 汀州百壶[福]祭)
two Shangguans took us to our Shangguan family shrine where we took a picture.
The shrine was under repair, which was evident from the bricks lying next
to it. After that, they took us out for dinner where I had the traditional
Hakka dish, tofu dumplings. Then, they took us to the Hakka hotel and helped us
settle in there. They asked about the Guans in Neijiang and Zigong and were
surprised that we had 2,000 in such a short time. We were impressed how
organized they were. The Guan’s farm was more independent, no one joined
Communist party, and they were not interested in any office. They lived off
their land. They were surprised that the Guans did not want to get elected; how
would you know the government’s new policies if you did not get into local
office. You have over 2,000 Guans, but none in the local government. We agreed
that the Guans needed to learn from them.
The next morning, they came to our hotel
again to say goodbye, since we were going to Shanghung (上杭), where my ancestors had been. Shanghung (上杭) was a bigger city than Dingzhou. From there,
we went to Yongding (永定) Tulou (土樓.) No
one there knew where our dragon gate (溪南里 龙门) was.
Shangguan Zhou (上官周1665-1750) stayed in this Shangguan Shrine in Tinzhou (汀州) when he was young, along with others finished the twelve scrolls
of grand masterpiece paintings “Emperor Kangxi Inspects the South” 《康熙南巡图》.
Each scroll was 1,552 inches long and 56 inches high.
A short school paper written by a
thirteen-year-old in 1957 described the place by the pen name Good Hand
Connects Clouds (巧手联云). This was the closest thing I could find about
the Dragon village (龙门乡寨上). It was divided into upper and lower parts
with Dragon gates and two streams running into the Yungding River. Between the
two streams, there was a small basin where the land was fertile. They lived in
flat houses with land and water, a small community hidden away. They used Zhei
(寨) again, just like my grandmother’s and salt
merchant’s Zhei (寨) in Sichuan. It was a natural defensive location
with minimum reinforcement needed. Only about ten families lived there with
about fourteen acres of land hidden away; you could only see about two acres if
you were not looking carefully. The rest of the land was hidden away.
I found the area where our ancestors’ tombs
were on the map; it looked like their tombs moved along the Tingjiang River
southward, starting from Green Lake (青草湖),
Shanghong (上杭) down south to Gaonan Zhuxia (高南竹),
Yongding’s landscape is composed of 80% hills and mountains, 10% water or
rivers, and 10% agriculture fields, which means there was never really room to
expand. Today’s Yongding inhabitants are 99% Hakka.
Shangguan (上官) Zhu Pu Storage Box in Shanghong (上杭)
JuTing and I took a train to Ganzhou (赣州),
where my cousins who working for SIMMON in Shenzhen (深圳) met
us with their Toyota Highlander. They were my oldest uncle’s daughter and the
youngest son. They picked up us from the train station and we stayed at a local
hotel overnight before driving to the Guan’s big fortress in Aizi (隘子). We
drove along the Qinghua River; the road was in perfect condition compared to the
Guan’s farm in Neijiang. The view was just picture-perfect everywhere. It took
us over two hours to reach the town. We picked up my contact, Guan Qi-ying (官奇英) a
retired pharmacist in Shixing (始兴). He
guided us to the Guan’s complex in Aizi. Again, it was amazing that most of the
businesses and buildings in the town had our surname Guan, some 8,000 of them.
It was quite overwhelming to be at the actual site
of this giant fortress, the biggest in Guangdong Province. Our Guan family owned it until the 1990s when they
just could not keep up with the demanding maintenance anymore. They
donated it to the government, and the son of Ye Jian-ying (叶剑英) who was also Hakka finally gave a name to our
Guan complex called Hakka’s Family Courtyard “满堂客家大围,” although locals still called it the Guan’s
family fortress with over twenty Guans still living inside. The Chinese
government had spent millions of yuan repairing the place and listed it as a
national historical treasure for protection.
Qi-ying introduced us to the elder Guan who kept the Guan’s family history
books. We gave him a box of American Ginseng to share and the children American
candy. We tried to connect our ancestors with theirs. Their book started from
Qian Er-long (means second son 千二郎) in 1442-1448 and ours started from Wan Liu-long
(means sixth son万六郎), which was one generation higher than theirs.
One generation was missing, we did not know from which Wan ?-long (万?郎) they were from, our Qian Yi-Long (means first son 千一郎) branch was from Wan Liu-long as
father. Still, we were the closest match and likely shared the same
grandfather. We did not have time to get into our family history in detail. I
agreed, however, to give him a copy so he could help connect our history to
theirs. We likely shared the same ancestors and they also tried to connect
their history to Fujian’s, since we all came from the same place, Dingzhou Shanghong (上杭), and moved southward. They went much further south to Guangdong; we
went down a little bit, then far west to Sichuan along the Yangzi River. Their
book said that a son, Wen Ming (文明), went to Sichuan as an official. Some of his
descendants came back. Is that the same Wen
Ming (文明) (former name
Xian Ming (献明)) that went to Sichuan and back? We were
looking for that lost son as well.
dinner were paid for by a Guan who owned the hotel where we stayed. We ate at
Hua’s family restaurant. I guessed after all those years, at least one Guan was
getting along and doing business with the Hua family now. They served us dog
soup (they raised dogs just for meat) and wild rabbit. This dog soup completely
spoiled my memory in Kunming right after college whenI thought it was so delicious. Now I could
not even stand the smell of this and I was not sure why. Maybe I had been
influenced too much by the dog culture in America. JuTing, a vegan, had some special
dofu, so I shared his dofu instead. My two cousins enjoyed the meat, since they
actually trusted the food here in the remote mountains compared to the big
city of Shenzhen, where they had no clue where the food came from.
evening, we visited the local artist Guan SuQi’s (官树启) home. He played Erhu and Guzhen (古筝) classics for us and served us tea. In the
town, he was a medical doctor and had his own clinic. He was also the director
of the local music group. He gave me a copy of his folk music DVD with local
scenery as background. I was hoping that I could put them on the Internet to
share with others. They were mostly folk songs by Mrs. Du who married into the
Guan SuQi’s (官树启) plays Erhu
First Class Erhu player Chen Xionghua's (陈雄华) writing to Guan SuQi
Mrs. Du's folk songs CD
Intructuction of QinHua Folk Musical Group
My cousins dropped us off at the Shaoguan(昭关)
train station, where we took the high-speed bullet train to Wuhan. It was the
first time for both of us to take the bullet train; the ride was really smooth
and fast, reaching 350 km/hr. We arrived in Wuhan 3.5 hrs later, and boarded a
regular train from Wuhan to Chengdu at 6 PM on a sleeping car. What a
difference! It was slow and bumpy. When I woke in the middle of the night, I
noticed the train was sitting at a stop. I looked out of the window. The stop
was Wudangshan Taoist Mountain (武当山), located in northwest Hubei Province. I have always wished
that I could climb it. I just happened to wake up at this stop and open my curtains to look out. It just happened that the sign was right out of my window. Maybe some one is trying to tell me to come back or learn Tai Chi.
Wudangshan (Mt Wudang)
has seventy-two peaks with steep valleys and beautiful scenery. Tianzhu Peak
(Heaven Column) is 1,612 meters above sea level. In the Tang Dynasty (618–907),
the Five Dragon Temple was constructed for worshipers. Taijiquan, Xingyiquan and
Baguazhang have been considered Wudang style national martial arts. I wished
that I could have stopped for a visit.
We came back around 1 PM, took a taxi home,
and called my parents to come down to the gate to bring us back to their
building. Unlike the old retired man we used to have as a gatekeeper, there
were young uniformed security guards with a patrol car standing by 24/7.
There had now been many thousands of days now without any crime, disorder, or
incident, a lot different from when I was growing up.
See more : Guan’s big fortress in Aizi (隘子).