Ouyang Homecoming

This group blog tells the first person story of an extended Chinese American Family who reunited online and organized a trip to their ancestral roots in China.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Proud of My Dai Liang Heritage --By Sharon Fong

"Warmly welcome Overseas Chinese to the hometown Da Ling" were the words in both Chinese and English on the red banner strung above the street. What a pleasant surprise for our group of 22 Owyang cousins and families as we disembarked the bus! For the majority of us, this highly anticipated trip was a first visit to Dai Liang. For me it was my second "return" to my grandfather Owyang Gon Sing's village. In 1991 my mother Marion, my daughter Stephanie, and I visited my first cousin and his family in Dai Liang. Fifteen years have passed and I now entered "hometown" Dai Liang, anxious to see the changes that have occurred since my visit in 1991. This time I return, not with my mother and daughter, but with my extended Owyang family to visit our common ancestral village, to learn more of our roots, visit ancestral gravesites and possibly meet relatives still living in the village.

Ouyang Heng Hua and other Owyang officials greeted us, escorting us upstairs to the second floor of the Ouyang headquarters. The elder Owyang of our group, Norman Owyang (my third cousin) and his wife Jadine was asked to join Hua Sook at the main table. Introductions were made, we and other interested village residents clapping with enthusiasm. The familiar blue "Big Book", The Historical Facts and Genealogy Data of the Owyang Family for 4700 Years", became the focus as Hua Sook and Norman joinly held the book, Norman locating his branch of the Owyang tree. We were formally and warmly welcomed. We have returned to hometown Da Ling(pinyin spelling). I have come home to Dai Liang from America.

Dai Liang is about 8000 miles from the Sacramento Delta, where my grandfather and grandmother had spent the majority of their lives. Grandfather Owyang Gon Sing had left China close to 100 years ago to seek a better life in America for himself, his wife, and future generations. Here we were, in Dai Liang, about to stroll along the paths, between the homes, among the locals where my grandfather had called hometown. I reflected back to 1991 remembering the formal entrance to the village, an archway with large large inscription "Daling" flanked by the Chinese characters. The archway was no longer there as I later asked of the village elders. It was possibly dismantled with age and need for land to build new highways, new factories, new buildings.

While at the Ouyang headquarters I was approached by a family friend who had access to my first cousins' modern home, built on the site of my grandfather's original home. My first cousins who left China, one in 1976 and another in 1992, are the sons of my grandparents' first son who was left in China to care for grandparents. I was eager to show my first cousins Arnold and Cheryl the 3-story home which was built in 1989, a few years before the elder cousin and his family left for America. The house is now empty and cold, old photos still remaining on an upper floor, those of my grandparents, my uncle and his wife, another uncle who came to America with my grandmother, reflective of their spiritual presence. An ancestral altar still remains, we cousins pausing to burn incense and paying respects to those departed. We climbed the stairs to the rooftop. I noted how different the view was, remembering what I saw in 1991. More modern homes as my cousins' had been or were being built, the rice fields surrounding the village were invisible, the hogs covered with mud and roaming freely within the village were non-existent. More cars than bicycles traveled the surrounding roadways. The progress and prosperity of China have surrounded the village of Dai Liang.

Steps away we visited the ancestral home of Norman's great- grandfather, brother of our great grandfather Chang Tung. The homes are adjacent to each other. I recall, from a photo taken in 1987 by an uncle, that my great- grandfather's original home was similarly built in the early 1900's, a modest, one-story stone house, the entrance marked by tall, double doors, a separate kitchen and a front courtyard.

In the afternoon we continue to explore the village, people curiously peering out of their doors to see the "overseas Chinese". A game of Mah Jongg was in progress in one of the homes, the double doors open to the road. My curiosity and keen interest in MJ led me to investigate further. We discovered a close relative among the players. He was the grandson of Owyang Gon Hee, younger brother to our own grandfather Gon Sing. His grandfather had not immigrated to America as ours. Here was my grandfather's grandnephew, our second cousin, a relative still living in the village. I asked him to write his name on a piece of paper, later I was to locate his name in the Genealogy book. Naturally we asked that he join us in a photo to bring back to America, to our mutual family in America. We strolled deeper and discovered another cousin further down the road. He and his wife were outside their home as we approached. He too was the grandson of Gon Hee, possibly brother to the first. He was tall as my grandfather, bearing a distinct, facial remembrance to one of our cousins in America. Another group photo was taken. We were second cousins. I regret I did not ask more of his grandfather, to learn of the life of my grandfather's brother in Dai Liang. I regret that I did not speak the Zhongshan dialect more fluently.

What I shall remember most of my return to Dai Liang were the feelings of family, community, and pride shown by the elders and officials of Dai Liang. I remember the red banner with gold letterings, both in Chinese and English, warmly welcoming us to hometown Da Ling (Dai Liang). I remember the elderly grandmother searching anxiously for her grandson from America, reaching out with open, loving arms. I remember the lone gravesite of Faith So Leong, first Chinese woman dentist in America and wife of Com Him Owyang, her legacy left for future generations, undisturbed among newly-constructed buildings.I remember the pride of the Owyang elders and officials in showing us their village, the village from which our ancestors came. I remember the celebration for the 300+ Dai Liang seniors, the elaborate, delicious banquet in which volunteers spent enormous numbers of hours in preparing and cooking, the beautifully-precisioned, colorful dances of the Dai Liang women, the burning of firecrackers to ward off evil spirits at the finale. I was not born in Dai Liang. I am proud of my Dai Liang heritage.

by Sharon Wong Fong
daughter of Marion Owyang Wong
granddaughter of Owyang Gon Sing

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