In September 2013, I accompanied Mom to visit her ancestral home (老家) in Pingdu, China, about two hours north of Qingdao.
The literal translation of 老家 is one's "old home", but the phrase has much deeper implications (learn more). This is the home of my Chinese ancestors and the place where Mom was born.
Mom hasn't returned to Shandong Province since 1948 when her family fled to Taiwan during the Chinese Civil War - her family being Wygoon (my grandfather), Wypoh (my grandmother), herself, and Uncle James. (Mom's other four siblings were born later in Taiwan.)
They left on a cargo ship from Shanghai with other employees at what is now Ford 六和. When the Communist takeover of Shandong Province became imminent - as seen in these 1948 war maps from this Wikipedia page - the company quietly notified its employees that they were leaving for Taiwan. They could either go with them and bring their families, or stay back and fend for themselves.
Not every employee got the memo, and those that did were sworn to secrecy. So Wypoh never got to tell her mom that she was leaving, a burden she carried for a very long time. It would be another 34 years - after China ended its self-imposed isolation following Nixon's 1972 visit - that they would finally be reunited.
As one might imagine, it was an emotional trip for Mom.
What I didn't anticipate was the impact that it would have on me.
Growing up, I had heard bits and pieces of what happened and always wanted to know more. Plus I love the beach and would go to Fulong a lot when I used to work in Taipei. I often wondered what it would be like to live in Qingdao, a coastal city between Beijing and Shanghai where a number of friends reside.
Mom and I both kept journals during the trip, and I've posted some of my entries here to share with family and friends.
We first went to Taiwan to see relatives there and to visit Wypoh's grave together. She passed away around this time last year, and it was during the initial planning of this trip back East that we decided to also visit the ancestral home.
Both of us have been to China a number of times, but this was our first time going together, and our first visit to Shandong Province.
It was, to say the least, a life-changing experience...
Starting Point: Taiwan Visit
The Journey to Qingdao
Great Grandfather's Grave
Visit to Our Ancestral Home (老家)
Moments of Regret
How We Found Our Relatives
Back to Taipei for 24 Hours