Friday, December 11, 2009

Tai Shan - Chin Village Good-Bye

After a full day of festivities, including reunions, meeting relatives, lion dances, firecrackers, and what seemed like non-stop eating, we made our final good-byes, after yet another meal with our relatives and the village.

This is the ceremonial last dinner which was shared with some of our close relatives in the village. There were around 75 people, spread throughout three homes, sharing this last meal with us. The food was similar since it was catered by the same restaurant who did the big meal for a thousand earlier in the day.

My parents with my sister Bev on the bridge leading into the Chin Village.
This particular village is larger and perhaps more prosperous than many of it's neighboring villages.
The construction of the new building was paid for by relatives overseas, many in the San Francisco Bay Area, like my parents.

Farming is still the main thrust of these small villages in Tai Shan. However, it's hard to imagine that these small villages will still be around in 20 or 30 years. There are less than 150 people still living here, many of them elderly. Some workers are hired-in from neighboring villages to help with the crops. Many of the younger people in the village opt to move into the city of Tai Shan, or other cities further afield for better paying jobs, and a way for a better life in general.

The building with the red door is was my father's old school in the village. It's now vacant and boarded up.

At the end of the day, just before leaving the village, my father takes a last stroll with my sister Dina. It was a very emotional and nostalgic day for my father. It almost seemed as though he didn't want to leave.

My father was born in this village 84 years ago. He went to U.S. as a child and returned here to get a wife when he was around 20. After my parents were married, my mother came to live in this village. When she became pregnant at the age of 15, they moved to the U.S.
Since immigrating to the U.S. over 60 years ago, they've only made one visit back. I accompanied them on that particular trip in the summer 1986. That too was an emotional trip. The village itself has not changed much from 1986 although there are less people living there.
This will be my father's last trip back to the village where he was born.

Today there are an estimated 1.3 million people living overseas that can trace their ancestry back to Tai Shan, far outnumbering those who live there now.
As late as 1988, seventy percent of Chinese Americans could trace their roots to Tai Shan.

Alan and I are happy and honored to have made this trip to Tai Shan with my family. Although a return visit is not out of the question, the circumstances surrounding this particular trip will probably never be repeated.

1 comment:

George Seaton said...

The value of family, roots, tradition. Wish that mine were as dedicated to such precious soulful commodities as yours. My family gathers for a wake, flying in from all points, leaving in a day or two. It is rare that such gatherings occur amongst my kin unless there is a death. Better we should honor the living, huh.

A great read, Alan. Thank you.