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 06, 2006

We had a wonderful welcome in Dai Liang --By Grant Din

Hello cousins and others-

It was a fantastic and exhausting day in the village. It was everything I expected, and much more!

We had a wonderful welcome in Dai Liang (Da Ling in Mandarin) village from village officials (the mayor is an Owyang) and got to walk through the village. The group of about 22 of us Overseas Owyangs and our families along with some local residents walked through the village and stopped at three families' homes in the Owyang cul-de-sac, including my step-grandmother' s (more on that later). We walked on through the village and stopped at Jeremiah and many of his cousins' grandmother Faith's gravesite – the cousins and their parents paid their respects there. After a very nice lunch in town (the village is surrounded by a much more developed area but fortunately the village remains full of tiny streets and old and new homes), some of our group went back to the hotel and others explored on their own, visiting relatives and the "ghost houses" that overseas Chinese left behind.

Norman Owyang spoke on our behalf in Cantonese at an evening event honoring the seniors of the village - there were performances by local groups plus a wonderful ballroom dance by our own Jeremiah and his wife Shirley! We all went to the front to wish the seniors well.

My personal highlight was meeting my step-grandma and her family. My maternal grandmother died in 1934; my grandfather remarried around 1946 but was never able to bring his second wife and their daughter to the US before he died in 1963. My step-grandmother is slightly hard of hearing, and she came to the welcoming event and thinking Jeremiah was her grandson, very loudly told him she was his grandmother! Of course, that wasn't true, but eventually with Sharon Fong's help she found the right person - me. Sharon had given a list of the ancestors of those who were to visit to John Owyang of Sacramento, who faxed it to the village, so my step-grandmother must have seen the list.

Shirley helped me immeasurably - translating and helping me show my step-grandmother and aunt (her daughter) whose son I was, using the pages I'd copied from the Big Book of Owyangs. Later I got to visit their house and catch up a lot. In the evening I also got to meet my aunt's two kids -my first cousins! It was a very emotional afternoon and evening for us.

After lunch, one of our terrific volunteer translators accompanied me to their home where I got to hear their sad story of how my grandfather was never able to reunite with them after he returned to the U.S. in 1949. My step-grandmother and my aunt had seen my Aunt Mary in 1985, and my late Uncle Bill in 1991 and they were wondering if my aunt was still alive, since they hadn’t heard from her for a while. I was happy to tell them that Aunt Mary is still alive, although not feeling too well so that’s why she hasn’t been able to call them. The family said that they are doing better now than before, getting peanut oil and many kilos of rice from the government, and that my step-grandmother eats three bowls of rice every meal. She seems very strong for 84 years old.

My aunt was very happy to see photos of my kids and later at the village dinner was very motherly – giving me more of the fungus that was served to keep me more healthy and offering a coat since it had cooled down (I was still quite warm in the 70 degree evening)! Her daughter and son rushed back from work after their mother called them on her cell phone to tell them their Meigwok cousin was visiting. When I left, the family said to come back next year! I probably won’t be able to for a while, but am hoping some of my first cousins can visit the family in the village and experience the warmth, love and sense of family that I did.

Michael Ho and I asked some officials about the Dai Liang-Mah Jee link and they showed us on a page Michael had copied from the Big Book (if you haven't seen it, it's a genealogy of the Owyangs from Dai Liang since the first Owyang came to the village, I believe, and many of us in this group figured out how we're related from Michael’s ability to interpret the charts).

The Big Book shows in the fifth generation (I think it was the fifth) of Owyangs in Dai Liang, around the 1200s A.D., there were five brothers. One of them went off to found Mah Jee, they said, and I'm guessing the subsequent descendants in Mah Jee come from that brother. So if I'm figuring it right, Mah Jee Owyangs like Steve O. and Don Mar would be about the 20th generation of Mah Jee Owyangs. Most of us on the trip are 24th-26th generation Dai Liang Owyangs, so we'd be connected about 20 generations ago, making us 19th cousins, possibly some generations removed! If others have corrections on this, please add them!

So today we have a visit to Sun Yat-Sen (Sun Zhongshan)'s birthplace and museum and other travels. It's been a wonderful tour (I took the first day off to see my dad's side's ancestral village and that was also terrific) and I really recommend a visit for others who are thinking of searching for their roots. Another great benefit of the trip for me has been connecting with my fifth and seventh cousins, in various degrees of removal (generations), some of whom I knew before the Owyangs started to search for each other, but most whom I had never met. The bonds of extended family have been wonderful and everyone has been very welcoming.

Folks have wondered about extended cousins and what “removed” means. People who have the same grandparents, of course, are first cousins, and those with the same great-grandparents are second cousins. I’m seventh cousins with Edwin Owyang, I believe, the grandfather of Jeremiah and his first cousins. So Edwin and I have the same great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents! The next generation, Jeremiah’s dad Doug and his five brothers, are seventh cousins, once removed, of mine (and my first cousins, of course). The following generation, their kids like Jeremiah, Jessica, and all of their first cousins are my seventh cousins, twice removed. My kids are eighth cousins of Doug and his brothers, and they are eighth cousins, once removed, of Jeremiah, Jessica and their first cousins! Got that? There will be a quiz later!

Grant Din
grandson of Owyang Koon Cheung/Hoon Owyang and Gee Chew Lin, former
residents of Courtland, San Diego and Oakland, CA


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