Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Blue-Eyed Chinese, My Mother's Guan

I looked through my whole family history book (Zhu Pu). Although there were some rare Chinese names from marrying into the Guan family, unlike my American husband's family history which includes height, hair color, and eye color, there were no descriptions about anyone’s appearance or where they came from on the wife's side in 18 generations, in four volumes.  As if they were not important, the only important thing was when and where and what time they were born and died to the minute (no mentioned how or why died), and what they did to help the family, neighbors, and country. A woman married into the Guan family had only a surname; sometimes family background was included if she was from a famous noble family. When daughters married outside of the family, it did include the husband’s full name, titles, or family background.
They are my grandfather’s Xuan (选) generation as old as my mother. They are from younger wives since they used to have as many as six wives on this farm. My grandfather died in the 1960s.

I am not sure where the blue "eye-ring" (central iris heterochromia) gene came from and when; my grandfather’s generation did have very strong Eurasian facial characteristics. My mother's generation has two and none in our generation.  There were no colored pictures from previous generations and our family’s history book did not record anyone’s appearance, only how successful the person was. My grandfather’s older brother’s son did have blue eyes.
One of the wishes our ancestors left in the generation poem was bringing martial arts to perfection (武功丕显). Our family book mentioned that the Guans were good at marital arts and scholastics. Guan Zhao Liang’s (朝良) daughter married martial arts Master Wang Zhen (王针), who was a Wu Ju Ren (武举人), the highest level after competition. Wang Zhen was one of the last of the Wu Ju ren (武举人). The Wu Ju Ren was started by Emperor Wu Zetian (655–683 the only female Emperor in Chinese history) in the Tang Dynasty, and ended by Empress CiXi (1835-1908) in the Qing Dynasty after two Opium Wars were lost to the West. Over 1000s of years old tradition started with a woman and ended with a woman. There are many martial arts movies based on the Wu Ju Ren (武举人) which I have always found fascinating. I never dreamed to have one in my own family. I have to say that I love watching the art form of martial arts performance more than any other sport. It is simply beautiful.
Wu Ju Ren Competition 武举人選拔圖
One Guan married a girl from the Lu (绿) family. Lu (绿) was a rare Chinese name which means “green.” Some said the Lu was once a royal member of the Qing dynasty, but somehow got kicked out. Others said the name was following the color of green literally. There is not much information on the name “Green.”
Another Guan married a girl with the surname Shi (施). Xi Shi (西施 506 B.C.- ?) was one of the Four Beauties of ancient China. She lived during the end of the Spring and Autumn Period in the capital of the ancient State of Yue. Legend has it that she was leaning over a balcony to look at the fish in the pond; the fish were so dazzled by her beauty that they forgot how to swim and sank to the bottom. She did, however, have big feet, so she always wore a long dress to cover them. The state of Wu took over the state of Yue, and Yue became a tributary to Wu. In this way, the state of Yue offered Xi Shi as a gift to the king of Wu as revenge. The king of Wu then forgot all about his state affairs and killed his best advisor. He built Guanwa Palace in an imperial park on the slope of Lingyan Hill, about fifteen kilometers west of Suzhou. The Yue launched a strike against Wu and the Wu lost everything. He regretted killing his best adviser Wu Zixu so much that he committed suicide.
The surname Shi () could also be from the surname Fong ().  Fong was in trouble with the law, running away from the Emperor’s killings or perhaps the Emperor had used this surname for something else. Fong () did not want to lose its surname, so they would try to hide it. They changed their name to Shi (施), because the strokes of Shi mean “the person is Fong 方人也.” When one’s life was in danger, one could change one’s surname and usually leave a clue for one’s descendants.
My great-great grandmother Zhang married into the Guan family back in 1700. The two families kept intermarrying for generations. These were listed as generation marriages (世姻). I saw many generation marriages in our Zhu Pu. For example, a Guan married Youngsen Zhang Len (内江庠生世姻晚张龠) from the same Zhang family seven generations later. The Zhen (曾) family was another family that my ancestors had intermarried with for generations (世姻曾慶昌). The rule was that it was allowed as long as the couple did not share the same surname. The Zhu Pu was very important to keep blood relatives away. Of course, all marriages were carefully arranged on the basis of past, present, and future alliances. Love was something you grew into after marriage, except when the couple happened to be in love already, since the families likely knew each other for generations.
In my family history books (Zhu Pu), there are a total of twenty-two Tai Xiue Shen (太学生). Most of our Guan daughters married officials’ sons who held one of the following titles in Chinese: ivy student (国学生) in Ge Zi Jian (国子监) in Qing Dynasty, ivy student (太学生) in Tai Xuie (太学) in Ming Dynasty, 贡生, local level student (庠生), Jian Shen (监生), Juren (举人) and JinSi ( 进士) passed the test and were candidates for officials. Old China study required passing an official test to become officials. Officials meant “power, wealth, and high class.”
Reading through our family history book (Zhu Pu), I found that two Guans in my mother’s generation Ju (举) married Hans (韩), an even trade. My father, a Han, married my mother, Guan Ju Fen (官举芬), and my mother’s cousin Guan Ju Yong (官举庠) married a Han (韩). We do not have contact with the other family and do not know where this cousin is. Nevertheless, I searched for Hans in Sichuan and found this Han Ja Da Yuan (韩家大院) in Ya'an (雅安). I wished that I had known this when I was there for college. This Han was also from Sha’anxi (陝西), but rich and powerful. They had six salt wells in Zigong; they also traded timber, tea, and silk. The family had Wu Ju Ren (武举人) and Wen Zong Yuan (状元).
The Han’s family courtyards were built in 1824 with the design of a seven-squared courtyard. The building style was called Seven Stars Embrace the Moon (七星拱月). This Han shared the number seven just like the Guan’s fortress. Just like Zigong’s salt museum, which was also built by Shaanxi salt merchants, this building was constructed entirely of wooden interlocking structures. The building’s code was for Qing officials of the third rank. They actually engraved Emperor Kangxi’s edicts (聖諭十六條) on the wooden wall for the family to follow. The same edicts were printed at the beginning of our family history books (Zhu Pu).
The Hans were the richest family in town (上里) and they brought the Shaanxi lifestyle to their town as well. You could find northern-style food and northern traditions everywhere on the street. Just like our family, this Han family went down because their descendants became addicted to Opium. They used up all their money and took whatever was worth money in the house to sell.
One of Guan Chao Xi’s daughters (朝熙女) of the Ting Generation (廷), married Yan KeXi (颜克希), who was a civil official of Ya’an (威邑雅安司选员), who shared the same generation name (克) as the Giant Salt Merchant Yan XinYu (颜心畬/克塾). According to the Yan family’s generation name Ting, Hua, Zhong, Li, Ke, Shao, Xian, Xian, Xuie “廷华仲昌礼克绍先贤学” (海丰颜铁军提供) from the Yan family, our Guan daughter and Yan Ke Xi were both of the seventh generation in Sichuan.
I was able to reach one of the descendants in the Yan family who was organizing their Zhu Pu. I asked him about Yan KeXi, who was in our Zhu Pu married to our Guan daughter. He said Yan Xian Young’s (颜宪阳) daughter in the next generation (绍) married our Guan Bei Fu (官伯孚), Guan Bei Fu was simply his courtesy name. His real name was Guan Xuian Tei (官选特), my grandfather's generation; his father was Guan Ting Kuen (廷锟) and his mother was from the big salt merchant Li family (李举人新柱女). They had eight kids together; the youngest son was born blind. The two family’s children used to play together. Guan Bei Fu was in charge of the Neijing Young Tong Bank (永通钱庄) from the Young Tong Salt Well (永通井) (owned by my grandfather’s oldest brother TaiBa before 1949) and used to issue Yongtong Salt Notes (盐票). I was able to talk to his son Guan Ching-Sen (官庆生), who graduated from Sichuan University. He later became a math teacher in Shu Guang High School (蜀光中学) until he retired. He knew my youngest aunt Guan Ju Hua, who was working at the Department of Education in Zigong. I told him that my grandmother was the tenth child; they called her Mann-nong, since Mann means number 10. He said that his family also used the same word for the number ten. They called their mother and grandmother the same way we did. We had quite a lot in common.
  A descendant of Yan told me that smoking opium was common in his family, just like today’s cigarettes. Gambling was very popular as well. His grandfather Yan Xing Yu (颜心畬) told him that losing an amount of money worth three new cars today overnight was common for them. His grandfather always won and my poor grandfather always lost. Now, I knew why my family went down.
Marriages of the Guan family were from the same background or were sisters or daughters of civil officials, such as 知县,郎中. Guans were connected with people from the East Coast, Fujian and Guangdong through marriages for generations. One of Chao Xi’s sons, Guan Ting Yu (朝熙子廷諭), married the daughter of the famous Ju-Ren Zhen Qing Chong (内江名举人曾庆昌). Zhen’s family was likely from Fujian or Guangdong, as my ancestors were. Ting (廷) was the Guan family’s seventh generations in Sichuan. Guan Ting Hao (廷誥) married the granddaughter of Chengdu’s education minister Den Tao-lin (邓兆麟,成都县教谕, 治今成都青羊区).

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