It wasn't much to look at, a jungle of Chinese words, binded in flimsey scratch paper. From what my dad told me, it wasn't intend to be the main heirloom, merely a supplement to the much better produced, leather-bound Book of the Hong Clan. He just want something to fill the few decade gap since the last edition, focusing on the whereabouts of the dispersed members of the HuLian Village. Apparently, it was made cheap enough that he sent every extant member a copy once done.
For some reason last year, I suddenly felt the urge to dig for it again. Maybe I got older and just want to know about where I came from; maybe I feel nostagia for the village life of my childhood; maybe I miss my grandma terribly.
This image was perhaps the last time most of the village gathered for a Hong family photograph (and maybe the first). I was the kid looking down in the middle. Where has everyone been since then?
This book doesn't have answers for that. It is 16 years old now, completed around the time I moved state-side. Sixteen years are a long time. People die, get married, have kids. Still, leafing through this shabby thing brings some feelings I don't have words for. Old faces flood back to memory, whenever I come across a name I still recognize. Old stories once told, now ink on paper.
A narration on the mythical origin of the 洪 Hong name. My dad told me the story before: the Hongs trace our origin to the water god 共工. For his work in holding back destructive floods, the emperor granted him a new sir name 洪 Hong, adding three water drops to his family name. (note to self: translate this page in full someday).
Traces the founding of my village. No clue what year was this, it's based on the traditional dynastic calendar.
In the 湖蓮, middle names are pre-determined by the generation, set by the village founders centuries ago. My generation's would be 舜 Sun. That explains why most of my cousins are SunJian, SunChao, SunRi. For whatever reason, my dad decided to name my brother and me in lieu of the traditions, picking instead 希, Xi, aka "hope." I heard he was fighting with grandma back then.
My Chinese comprehension never improved beyond fifth grade level (and probably deterioted since then). From the few words I can read, bulk of the book cataloged names, marriage, where they're now, and sons and daughters. There is only one obvious reason why digging through this book today. Where am I?
...and there it is, under the Fourth Household, page 29, second line from the bottom:
HuangZhao, traveled West Germany, Wife YuXing, son XiFan.
I don't have a line myself yet. By tradition, you don't get one until marriage or death.
Somehow, this book doesn't feel so shabby anymore. It's a treasure, an irreplaceable family heirloom, something that connects me to the mythos; and since we shared it, me to you.
Hope you find it interesting as well. Perhaps someone else will dig around and find a real treasure like this. If not, perhaps it's time to make it for your descendants, as my dad has done for me.