* Warning: Image-heavy post !
Nothing like a banquet in a factory to start things off.
Some frightened, fluffy ducklings along the way.
The first of many homes we’ll visit, this one equipped with its own table tennis room.
One relative also reared pigs in a now-disused house. My mom recalled that another relative (whoops, can’t remember, maybe one of her uncles) used to live there when she was a child.
Was told that grandma’s family owns a pastry shop. We still make Teochew pastries and breads today, but on a much smaller scale as the family has branched into the more profitable business of manufacturing stainless steel kitchen cookware some years ago.
Another home, another round of tea.
More often than not, rural life in China today look more like this. Typically in villages where tourism is not a key attraction, quaint old houses still exist, though in small numbers and usually not in a good state, amid modern boxy concrete low-rises, a sign of new wealth.
Late afternoon along the Han River on the relatives’ boat.
Our relatives have a modest vegetable plot, mostly grown for their own consumption.
Almost ready for harvest, I suppose.
… I successfully worked up a good stamina and finished my share of food.
Kway chap and braised duck with tangy chilli dip, oh such lipsmacking goodness ! So it’s proven that my love of spicy dips (and coriander) does come from my Teochew heritage.
The main entrance to mom’s childhood abode.
More traces of the Communist years.
The other homecoming, my mom standing in front of the cramped living quarters where she spent her childhood in. Three generations of women – my mom, grandmother and
great-grandmother great-great-grandmother – once stayed here while my grandfather toiled away in Southeast Asia as a shopkeeper’s assistant. He eventually saved enough money to send all three of them over to Kuala Lumpur, where he was at.
A migrant worker lives here today, the space converted into a no-nonsense bedroom and a makeshift kitchen.
A virtue that still stands important in Chinese families today, so many years after the revolution. We see traces from the past, a past that my family has escaped. I can’t help but wonder what would have happened instead if they hadn’t left ? What would have become of me ?
Also, looking at the elders in the family, I wonder about what they had gone through during those tough years… things we don’t see or talk about that stay quiet behind those smiling faces.
Familiar faces from the village.
More tea !
The ancestral hall in the village may have seen better days.
No wall in Chaozhou is complete without the digital wall clock. We saw it in most living rooms. Even the ancestral hall has one too.
View from the roof of a relative’s house.
Even our relatives, who are Chaozhou locals, got lost while trying to look for the ancestral hall on my dad’s side of the family.
After stopping a couple of times and asking around, we finally found it. The ancestral hall is obviously more well-maintained than the one in my mom’s village.
Unfortunately we don’t know anyone in this village.
So time was mostly spent at the ancestral hall burning paper offerings and viewing the generation poem of our clan. Yes, found ! It’s a good start… even though my sister and I don’t know which generation we belong to.
That signature stamp totally resembles a toy soldier cartoon character, doesn’t it ?
We now know we are descendants of a Northern Song scientist. It doesn’t add up though, I barely passed physics when I was in junior college.
With the old men who tend to the ancestral hall. They told us about other clan members from Thailand who made annual trips back.
Along the Han River again, mother river of the Teochews. My mom told me there was a saying about how all Teochews grew up drinking water from the Han River.
For those who may head this way, I’ll definitely recommend a walk along Chaozhou’s old city walls.
Yet again, the juxtaposition of the new and old.
From the wall, I caught sight of Lenin’s portrait, along with those of other Chinese communist leaders, on the walls of a school.
More views from the wall.
Boiled shrimps fresh from the Han River.
Our newfound big fat Teochew family !
No trip to China is complete without karaoke and here in Chaozhou, it’s serious business with makeshift machines and public singing !
Video: 556 photos shot on a Canon PowerShot G10
Music: 1991 by Crystal Castles
Guilty as charged, I haven’t been a good blogger of late as I’d been sorting through and uploading a selection of photos from a trip with my family to Chaozhou and Shantou earlier in May this year (yes, May !). So here goes, a very much overdue post featuring a fast-paced compilation of photos (actually the first of a short series, as it turns out).
Chaozhou, located in the easternmost part of Guangdong Province in China, is a city very close to my heart. It’s the hometown of my grandparents, on both sides of the family and I’m very glad to have made the trip with my family, especially with mom – it’s her first time back since she left on the slow boat to Malaysia with my grandmother and
great-grandmother great-great-grandmother 50-something years ago.
I am thankful that I now have more than just mom’s recollections to base my family’s past on. It’s been an important process getting to know my roots against the backdrop of a rapidly-developing prefecture-level city and meeting distant relatives for the first time. Photos to follow.
Wondering if anyone still buys chunlian for the Chinese New Year these days. We still see them in stores when the new year nears, so I suppose some people still do.