Sunday, April 20, 2014

Family History Part 4 - Chinese History and the Family Tree

The last blog post or Family History Part 3 before this post can be viewed here, which will contain reference to Part 1 to read how it all began. This may be useful to read as this post, at this time of writing, has just started and will take time to be filled with more content of discoveries and stories. This post has the objective of connecting our family history to important events, persons and culture learnt from studying China's history.

The journey to trace one's family tree especially for one with Chinese ancestry can be quite a daunting task. The video clip below is a good example of what you can face :


For a version in Cantonese click here.

However if you're one filled with a hindsight of spiritual guidance and adventure with a foresight of the best is yet to be, you will surely keep on persisting. What used to be rather a boring task of data-mining work becomes a journey of learning not only of finding out who your ancestors are but you also soon begin to immerse yourself into the world they lived in. Knowledge of the geo-politics and culture of their time begin to seep into your inquiring mind to even cause a transformation in you from what the spiritualist author Gary Zukav calls a 'five-sensory human' to become a 'multi-sensory human'.

Seeking our family tree inevitably leads to a discovery of the history or origin of our people or a race and culture that existed long before we were born. I was born in the country of Malaysia as a 2nd generation born Chinese very much influenced by Western culture and the English language as my father was one who climbed up from poverty to become a self made man due to the opportunities of a British education in a local school and later tertiary education in the UK. That local school, Penang Free School, was the first English-medium school in South East Asia and is the oldest recorded school in the country. I on the other hand was transferred from a local 'Pasar Road' primary school to a Catholic school at St. John's primary and continued later to the secondary or middle school of St. John's Institution run by the La Salle brothers as recorded here.

Though a Chinese, being raised in the English-medium in a country that later changed the national education system to Malay-medium(change explained here. ) with restrictions for it's citizens to visit China due to the threat of communism in the post 2nd world war era, I grew up with no contacts in China and very little knowledge about my family Chinese ancestry until I was in my twenties. I had no appreciation nor understanding of what being a Hakka meant as though I knew my father was of Hakka descent, he couldn't speak the dialect and I only learnt Hokkien as both my parents spoke it as they were born in the island of Penang where the inhabitants were made of primarily Hokkien speaking people. Being born in Kuala Lumpur I also learnt the Cantonese dialect as that was what most Chinese people spoke to each other in unlike the southern state of Johore who like Singaporeans speak mainly Mandarin to each other if they don't use English. But my knowledge or ties to China was still limited.

I thought I would narrow the gap by sending our first two girls, being the 3rd generation born Chinese in Malaysia of our family tree, early to Chinese schools for their elementary education where they would learn Mandarin. Ironically, our oldest daughter Fei in her early teens remarked one day that she felt she was not a Chinese but an American! I figured out that speaking English at home with my inherited western culture from the British in Malaysia together with her mom's from Singapore and our close friendships to American expat Church members in KL may have caused this! I read later in her blog writings that it was only during the 3 years working in Beijing, after her studies in the US, that she achieved self-actualization that she was indeed a Chinese and accepted her Chinese name as Fei instead of Faye! She had also visited Hainan island in China helping to trace her family history on her mom's side.

Marrying a wife from Singapore who was fluent in English as well as Mandarin and was also a member of our Church interested in family history work provided a real boost for discovering my own Chinese ancestry as well as hers.

Photo taken in April 1990 in our Taiwan trip recorded here.

The story of how she already got involved with helping me find my roots early during our courtship days to continue till after we bore 6 children in our marriage is comprehensively covered here. Her own account of miracles she experienced in doing family history work for her own ancestors in a journey of journeys covering Hawaii, Salt Lake City and Seattle can be read here.

After her passing to what we call the Spirit world in our church, like of other religions, I believe a connection continued between us in the spiritual sense. It started with me continuing to mind talk to her when I'm exercising around the running tracks near our home in Singapore with early concerns for the younger boys continuing their life and education on the island state without their mother. Maybe it's the same way I relate to God or my Heavenly Father also. I know he already knows my heart and mind so I often just mentally converse casually to him like as if he was close by, believing in his omniscience and omnipresence. I tend to do that with my wife too who knows me closely as well and has shown me unconditional love during her lifetime with me. With her presence now in the spirit world, I believe she even knows more about me now than I know of myself so I do talk to her in consultation of different subjects at times and I believe I do receive a response from her or an inspiration at times. The difference I believe compared to deity is that she may not have an omnipresence ability and we may only connect on special occasions only or when there is a matter of great importance to relate to.  In a blog post of April 2014 on the disappearance MH370, a quick read of it reminds me that it was a year ago when this post was initiated and the intention was to cover my reading of the few books I had acquired that relates to my family history.

The same post also covered my Body Mind Spirit multi-sensory approach in communication, writing or solving mysteries or problems of life. In the one year that ensued, I must say I have been busy with this triple base approach in how my time was spent, continuing my focus attention to write and unravel the knot in my mind that I felt I had to undo. It concerned the history and politics of my own country of Malaysia that seem related to the MH370 incident, the history and politics of China as the country of my ancestry also linked to the MH370 incident as the plane was heading to Beijing with many mainland Chinese passengers. A year later after a long time of reading, pondering and doing things of life that I need to do, as I was about to begin to unravel the knot, the founding Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr Lee Kuan Yew who is also of the same Hakka ancestry of our family, passes away which caused me to meditate on his life and write about the history and politics of Singapore. This is a country where about 1.7 million Malaysians primarily of Chinese descent followed him to live and built an economy on an island that Malaysia ousted from the Federation in 1965 just two years after they first joined it due to political differences. My wife being a Singaporean and having her copy of his book with me, I wrote a letter in the form of a blog post to her on her birthday on April 4 believing she would have a chance to meet this great man in the spirit world!

It is a big task I'm attempting and the presentation flow starts with information from my personal family history research. From there it leads to historical and political information of the countries involved in my family history derived from my extensive reading of relevant books and writings especially with regards to the History of China, Malaysia and Singapore with good references to internet researched videos or studies by authentic sources or qualified individuals. It is hoped that readers may get the"Ah ha" Eureka effect after reading my completed posts and especially after I have loosened the 'Gordian Knot' of my mind or what others commonly call the writer's block!

On the part of this blog post for Family History covering Chinese History as well, this is how the knot was loosened. While I had already visited Medan Sumatra to find the book of my Great Grand father Tjoeng Yong Hian which provided detailed information about him and his life, it had little that revealed more fully about the state of China during his lifetime. I had felt inadequate to know or feel of the politics, freedom and harmony of China at that time. In a trip a year later to Melbourne Australia, I had a reunion with the college girls that I studied with before leaving for Australia. As recorded in this post of the trip, Peter Chen the husband of one of the girls informed me of the writer Han Suyin who wrote many books about the history of the Chinese Hakka people. I went home searching for her books at the local bookstores both in Singapore and Malaysia but couldn't find any. The main reason was that these were pretty old books that were no longer republished for sale.  I went online to find that these books are available sold as 2nd hand books in the US and ordered a number of them to be delivered to the home of our family friend Anthony Seow in Utah so that he could bring them to me in one of his frequent trips to Kuala Lumpur. In April 2015, he did make a trip to Kuala Lumpur and passed the books to me!


Post development pic :

I later met Tony in Orem Utah when I was visiting in Aug 2015!

History of China

A brief history of China is well covered by this brief video below :

The source of this video with a good chronological list of the dynasties can be found here.

Little did I expect that from my personal search of my family history, I would very quickly catch up with China's recent history from the last Qing Dynasty. This came from not only from my reading of the books I had obtained but also from my increased number of trips to mainland China with the following discoveries made when I followed my Hakka ancestry trail as shared in my personal travelogue journal.

Here is a nice short video that gives us a good scenario of what was the political environment of China during the the time after the Qing Dynasty ended :


From the video I learnt about the Wuchang uprising.  Reading more information about it from this searched wikipedia link, I learnt that the initiation of railways in China was the cause of it that lead to the Xinhai revolution that was a revolution that overthrew China's last imperial dynasty (the Qing dynasty)


Again the railway topic had a connection to my great grandfather as shared in this part of my travelogue journal mentioned above. As a writer and a researcher, I have used the term  'multi-sensory human' mentioned at the start of this post to describe myself. I used it when I wrote about my breakthrough in the world of social media with my writings as found in this post. I tend to have my radar always alert to detect wave connections that provide meanings or inspirations that others may not detect and therefore may miss out on anything these new meanings or inspirations can provide. Take for instance, after writing this paragraph, I was inspired to open my storage cabinet to take the photo below :

This is my collection of German trains and tracks that I have kept as my precious Big Boy toys that probably made me choose my author name in blogger that never changed since I started over a decade ago as "Dad the KL City Kid"! You can read more about how this title suits me in my Superman post here.

Ah Memories from the Good Ole days videoed on the eve of the New Millennium!



Meanwhile, as my written history of China lags behind, our family history has advanced greatly in this next post.

The 'next post' mentioned above is what I considered to contain 'spiritual' information as compared to what is normally 'temporal' information that is more commonly written in the world. As a metaphor explained in this article, the spiritual information in the Book of Mormon were referred to as information written on 'the small plates' or 'these plates' while the temporal information were written on 'the large plates' or 'the other plates.' I now like to refer to my 'other plates' here on the history of a Hakka leader named Ye Jianying shared in my journal post here.

In my journal post link shared above, I wrote a paragraph that expresses my feelings after learning about Ye Jianying to share my thoughts below :

"I was surprised that this man from my China home province was always present in all the major events of China's negotiation with the US leaders, yet his name was quite unknown to the world, or at least to me. Other leaders like Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping, are far better known and as the above photos portray, whether it was the visit of President Nixon or his National Security Advisor and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to China to start peace talks with the United States.  Reading the wiki link given above of Ye Jianying, it is due to internal politics of the communist party where "His policies deemed too soft, Ye and his local cadres were soon replaced by Lin Biao's, and a much harsher policy was implemented, with Ye's political career effectively over."

How did China become modernized?

My trips into China in 2015 had satisfied my inquiries about my family history which began in the early 80s. After my latest ground travel tours into various parts of Southern China, my interest turned to an inquiry as to how did China became modernized? From the period of feudal warlords to Emperors and dynasties ruling the country, to end up becoming a communist country which later transformed itself to become a world economic power second only to the United States today, my mind turned to being interested in the political history of this nation with thousands of years of well preserved history of the past.

I thought a good start would be from what I learnt, going through 4 halls of history of Ye Jianying in the Hakka country of Meixian in the Guandong Province of China. I would do a quick research of the life of Ye Jianying and his contemporaries. Next was to find out what was the climate of the country at that time in terms of the country's politics and economy, the feelings of the people and the atmosphere of the countries outside China that had an interest in China?

Ye Jianying (28 April 1897 – 22 October 1986) born into a wealthy Christian Hakka merchant family in Mei County, Guangdong China

Zhou Enlai (5 March 1898 – 8 January 1976) born in Huai'an, Jiangsu, Qing China into family of scholar-officials

Mao Zedong or Mao Tse-tung (December 26, 1893 – September 9, 1976) Born the son of a wealthy farmer in Shaoshan, Hunan

Nie Rongzhen (December 29, 1899 – May 14, 1992)   born in Jiangjin County in Sichuan as son of a wealthy family

Ye Ting  (September 10, 1896 – April 8, 1946), born in Huiyang, Guangdong

Zhu De (1 December 1886 – 6 July 1976) Born poor in 1886 in Sichuan, Zhu was adopted by a wealthy uncle at age nine.

Deng Ziaopeng (22 August 1904 – 19 February 1997) Born into a peasant background in Guang'an, Sichuan province

Sun Yat-sen (12 November 1866 – 12 March 1925) Born in the village of Cuiheng, Xiangshan County (now Zhongshan City), Guangdong Province.

Chiang Kai-shek (October 31, 1887 – April 5, 1975) born in Xikou, a town in Fenghua, Zhejiang to prosperous family of salt merchants

From the list of leaders named above, not including Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek, who represented the part of China's brief history of becoming The Republic of China or led by the Kuomintang(KMT) party, they form the early leaders of the Communist Party of China. The KMT was the ruling party in mainland China from 1928 until its retreat to Taiwan in 1949 after being defeated by the Communist Party of China (CPC) during the Chinese Civil War. We can find the names of the leaders from the above list in this wikipedia link that describes the role they played in the generations of Chinese Leadership of mainland China since 1949 under the CPC.

To answer the question above of "How did China become Modernized?" my personal readings of books and research basically covered the time frame below. (Source : Stevan Harrell, University of Washington)


1644-1911: The Qing Dynasty. Rulers were Manchus:

1840-42: The Opium War. British force China to "open" on unequal terms.
1850-64: Taiping Rebellion. Christian-inspired uprising against the Qing
1898: Failed reforms
1900: fdBoxer rebellion against foreign influence
1905: Examination system "suspended"
1911: Republican Revolution (Xinhai Revolution)
The period of modernizing reforms
1840-1911: The late Qing Dynasty

1862: Expansion of the treaty port system
1868: Meiji Restoration in Japan
1870s: The high point of "statecraft"
1895: Japan defeats China, takes Taiwan
1898: Emperor's reforms fail, conservatives take over
1900: Boxer rebellion brings foreign retribution
1911-1949 The Republic of China
1912-1916: Presidency of Yuan Shikai
1916-27: Warlord Era
1919: The May Fourth demonstration
1921: Communist Party founded
1927-37: Guomindang unifies part of China; capital at Nanjing
1927: Communists defeated, retreat to the countryside
1931: Japanese take Manchuria
1935-36: The Long March
1937: Japanese invade North China, WWII begins here, not in Poland
1945: US atom bombs bring Japanese surrender
1945-49 Guomindang-Communist Civil War
1949: Guomindang defeated, retreats to Taiwan
The period of high socialism
1949: People's Republic founded
1947-52: Land reform
1954-56: Agriculture collectivized
1956: Industry socialized
1957: Anti-Rightist campaign
1958: Great Leap Forward and People's Communes
1959-61: Famine
1962: Retreat from communal to collective production
1966-69: Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution
1966-76: The "Cultural Revolution Decade"
1969-78: Youth to the countryside
1972: Nixon visits Beijing
1976: Mao Zedong dies
1978: Official reform policy announced
The period of Reform
1979-82: Dismantling of collective agricultural production
1979: Beginning of the Birth Planning Program
1984: New constitution allows some freedom of religious practice
1985: Urban private enterprise allowed
Late 1980s: collapse of restrictions on migration to cities
1989: Student movement, culminating in Tian'anmen massacre
1993: China's Olympic bid fails
1994: Recentralization of finances
1990s: Rise of urban consumer society
1990s: Nationalism replaces revolution as national goal
1997-2003: Regime headed by General Secretary Jiang Zemin
1998: Major floods bring turn toward environmental protection
2001: China's Olympic bid succeeds
2002-2012: Regime headed by General Secretary Hu Jintao
2008: Tibetan uprisings, earthquake, Olympics. What a year!
2009: Uyghur uprisings
2012- Regime headed by General Secretary Xi Jinping

To be updated and continued....




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