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Yong-Yuan's Gong Gong (Repost)
Yong Yuan's Gong Gong
Yong-Yuan Zheng is a third generation Tang Ren in Malaysia. His
grandparents emigrated to the then Malaya from Tang Shan at the
beginning of the 20th century. But both he and his father were born in
When Yong Yuan was only a young child, his grandpa used to say,
"We will go back to Tang Shan when we become rich".
Every time when his gandpa made that statement Yong-Yuan would
answer by asking him,
"What is Tang Shan Gong Gong?"
Grandpa would always tell Yong Yuan many fabulous stories about Tang Shan
and the family's ancestral village there. It sounded like a land in
paradise. There was a particular story which his grandpa told so often
that Yong Yuan would always remember it.
Grandpa would tell Yong-Yuan that the name of the ancestral village was
Kang Heng, a village inhabited by the Hakka people (Guest People). When he
was a young boy he wore a long pigtail as the Manchu government (Qing
Dynasty) had decreed that all Han Ren in the land must wear one or be
There was a hill behind the village and nearby flowed a river, a life
line that provided water for irrigating the villagers' rice fields and
One hot summer day, Yong Yuan's grandpa, then still very young, and a
group of boys from the same village went to the river for a swim. Later they
were playing a game of mud throwing which required each boy to dive down to
the river bed to get the mud.
In one instance while he was fetching the mud from the river bed his
pigtail somehow got stuck to a branch of a submerged tree. He struggled to
free himself but his pigtail remained hopelessly stuck. Fortunately, his
pigtail was long enough to allow his face to appear above the surface of
the water; otherwise he could have drown. He cried out for help for what
seemed like eternity and took in lots of water. Finally, some adults came
to his rescue.
They pulled and pulled to try to get him out of the water. The attempts
were futile because his pigtail would not budge from the branch. They had no
alternative but to cut his pigtail off with a pair of scissors. When he was
brought out of the water he cried and cried because without his pigtail he
could lose his head.
His parents and the village head took him to the village Yamen (police
station?) and explained to the Yayi (policemen?) how he lost his pigtail.
He was allowed to keep his head on condition that he grew a pigtail again.
Of course at that time Yong-Yuan was too young to understand most of his
grandpa's Tang Shan tales.
Yong-Yuan's grandma would only allow fruit imported from Tang Shan to be
placed on the family altar when prayers were offered to their ancestors. She
"Local fruit are only good for eating. They are not for offering to
the ancestors who must eat the fruit grown in their ancestral land".
When Yong-Yuan's father was born his grandpa was very happy because there
would be someone to take him back to his beloved Tang Shan when he grew old.
However, when Yong-Yuan was born he was not very happy because he knew new
roots were starting to grow in a foreign land. His chances of going back to
his Tang Shan became slimmer.
Every year on the 14th day of the 7th moon according to the Lunar
Calendar, members from Yong-Yuan's Hakka village would go to a big grave to
pray. At first Yong-Yuan thought it must be his great-grandpa's grave. But
the people were from different families in the village and were not the
relatives of Yong-Yuan. Yong-Yuan was a bit confused.
Later Yong-Yuan learned that nobody was buried in the big grave. Only the
clothing, water, soil, their ancestors bones and many other things brought
from Tang Shan by their Hakka emigrants were buried there. This big grave
was the substitution for the Hakka villages in Tang Shan. Once a year, the
young and old alike, would pay their respects at the big grave and
afterwards hold a grand feast.
Hanging on top of the family altar in Yong-Yuan's house was an old photo
of a little house. It showed his Hakka ancestors' house in Tang Shan.
Sometimes his grandpa would gaze at it for a long time. Yong Yuan thought it
was just a little shack and would ask,
" What's so great about an old photo of a little house?"
His grandpa would lose his temper and scream at Yong-Yuan who became even
more perplexed about his grandpa's ancestral land.
Without fail every month his grandpa would remit some money to the Hakka
village head in Tang Shan to upkeep his ancestors' little house. He always
compared the present house with his little house in Tang Shan. Sometimes he
sounded as if the ancestors house was a palace. Yong-Yuan would have
believed him if he had not seen the old photo in the house.
Sadly, during the Cultural Revolution the ancestors' house in Tang Shan
was destroyed by the Red Guards because they considered it foreign-owned.
His grandpa stopped remitting money to Tang Shan. His dream of going back to
Tang Shan to die was shattered. He was very old then. He was so upset that
he ordered the old photo to be taken down and burned. He lost his will to
live. His last link to his Hakka village in Tang Shan had been broken.
Roots grew firmly in the country where Yong-Yuan was born. Tang Shan was
just another foreign country as far as Yong-Yuan was concerned. His birth
place became his only home.
Shortly Yong-Yuan's grandpa passed away without seeing his Hakka village
and Tang Shan again. He was buried next to the big grave.
CHUNG Yoon-Ngan. email@example.com