Monday, April 17, 2006

Our ancestor's house

On the first day in Hainan we visited the ancestral home in a village near the city of Qiong Hai (close to Baishi Ling - a mountain nearby). It was quite an experience! We were all already very tired after a long journey by plane and van, and it was overwhelming to come there.

As we drove up the dirt road we noticed that there was a car following us. Then we came upon a red banner strung up across the road, and recognised my father's name on it! Apparently it said something like "Welcome back". We got to the house and there were red banners around the door, and people waiting out the front. The car that followed was a journalist (also distant relative - like most people we met... several family tree branches apart)!

Papa was so very excited by it all. He immediately jumped out of the van and started telling us about the place, after greeting those people that he knew. We'd brought along a little voice recorder and tried to get him to talk into it, but he kept wildly waving his arms around so I'm not sure how good a recording it will be. My brothers and I quickly went around taking pictures of as many things as we could, whilst trying to chase down my father and asking him to "Slow down!".

The house was incredible. It was more of a complex than a house. It had an outside wall (which had holes in it, apparently for shooting out of), and multiple courtyards and buildings. The first part was for receiving visitors and such, then there was the second building which had a small altar to pay homage to the ancestors, and then the third inner building which is where the family lived. Papa showed us the room where he lived, and the original building where the first guy, Cheow Keng, lived.

The place was in pretty good nick - the cousin who was/is taking us around obviously went to some trouble to clean it up for our visit. The brickwork was nifty (I took a couple of photos for desktop backgrounds!) and the wooden carving details were incredible. There were a few pieces of original furniture there - a couple of beds, tables, wardrobes. They would look beautiful if they were to be restored. There were also some painted tiles here and there (near to the ceiling) which were still mostly visible. Every doorway had a little bit of wood about a foot high at the bottom, which one has to step over. I think this is meant to stop demons from coming inside (because they obviously can't step over things!).

And every step we took, every photo, every word was accompanied by the local villagers crowded around. They were all following us and watching the show. My dad was quite the celebrity! I guess village life is pretty boring, and we were the week's entertainment!

At one point the most massive butterfly flew by and almost into my head (I ducked). It was absolutely HUGE. I wasn't sure if it was a small bird or bat! Afterwards we were told that noone had ever seen one like that before, and it was actually my grandmother coming down to check on us. They say that I look a lot like her when she was young and that's why it came so close to my head.

After that, suddenly there was a huge BANG! Followed by more noise, and smoke. They had this huge roll of red firecrackers and lit it inside the middle courtyard. Wow - the noise was deafening. We tried to get a photo of it going off, but small rocks were being flung about and it was probably bad for our ears to be quite so close. I got a good picture of the immediate aftermath. Red paper was strewn about the ground and smoke filled the air.

After some photos out the front with the journalist, we walked a little way around the corner to the river (apparently a famous Bamboo Rafting river) and had a quick look. The houses were all still being lived in by the villagers, but none of them as big as our complex. I tried to take a picture of some of the cute little kids that were there but they ran and hid behind their mothers. Oh well!

Anyway, it was a worthwhile experience coming to see the place. We wished we could spend more time there but it was a little like a circus and we were being rushed around. One day I hope that I can come back and bring my kids (when they're a little older, of course) to show them their heritage and Chinese roots. Got to learn to speak the language first, though!!

1 comment:

priscilla said...

What a great day, I can just imagine papa being so excited. It's good to read your blog in conjunction with Chris' photos on his website. Enjoy being minor celebrities in Hainan! PS I'm waiting for a photo of one of you guys in Hawaiian PJs.