Homecoming #2: Chaozhou

* Warning: Image-heavy post !

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Nothing like a banquet in a factory to start things off.

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Some frightened, fluffy ducklings along the way.

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My granduncle has a shrine in his bedroom, documenting all of his post-retirement travels, I kid you not.

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The first of many homes we’ll visit, this one equipped with its own table tennis room.

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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.

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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.

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Another home, another round of tea.

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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.

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Late afternoon along the Han River on the relatives’ boat.

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Our relatives have a modest vegetable plot, mostly grown for their own consumption.

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Almost ready for harvest, I suppose.

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More feasting…

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… I successfully worked up a good stamina and finished my share of food.

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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.

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The main entrance to mom’s childhood abode.

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More traces of the Communist years.

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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.

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A migrant worker lives here today, the space converted into a no-nonsense bedroom and a makeshift kitchen.

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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 ?

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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.

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Familiar faces from the village.

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More tea !

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The ancestral hall in the village may have seen better days.

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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.

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View from the roof of a relative’s house.

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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.

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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.

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Unfortunately we don’t know anyone in this village.

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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.

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That signature stamp totally resembles a toy soldier cartoon character, doesn’t it ?

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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.

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With the old men who tend to the ancestral hall. They told us about other clan members from Thailand who made annual trips back.

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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.

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For those who may head this way, I’ll definitely recommend a walk along Chaozhou’s old city walls.

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Yet again, the juxtaposition of the new and old.

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From the wall, I caught sight of Lenin’s portrait, along with those of other Chinese communist leaders, on the walls of a school.

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“生男生女都一样,女儿也是传后人”

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More views from the wall.

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Boiled shrimps fresh from the Han River.

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Our newfound big fat Teochew family !

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No trip to China is complete without karaoke and here in Chaozhou, it’s serious business with makeshift machines and public singing !

4 Thoughts on “Homecoming #2: Chaozhou

  1. 蓝色小碎花是你妹妹?红色短袖是妈妈?背带裤眼镜伯是?

  2. Yup. He’s the father-in-law of our relatives.

  3. luzette on December 1, 2010 at 3:31 PM said:

    i really like the photo of the fan and the entire naked electrical circuit. and, the electrical clock on the old wall… very rustic chic.

  4. luzette – Ah, I love the fan-shaped circuit/switch board in that picture. Why don’t we have that (and those black knobby switches) anymore ?

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