Gordon Chin’s Roots Plus Trip

November 26, 2018

norman fong

This is the second of a series of stories from my Roots Plus trip to Guangdong, China. Here is my interview with Gordon Chin about his journey to his village, accompanied by Gordon’s partner Dorothy Yee, Dorothy’s sister Linda, brother Albert and his wife Emma Woo, and many of Gordon’s old friends Phil Chin, Laureen Chew, Winston Lee and Jane Chin.

NORMAN: First of all, Gordon, can you tell me some of the history of your family?

GORDON: My Great Grandfather, Yong Lun Hong, was born in 1865, in our ancestral village of Chang’an, Miaobianxiang , Duanfen Town, Tanshan City. He emigrated to America as a young man, in the early 1880’s. Before he left China, he and his wife (my Great Grandmother) Lun Yuet Gee, sired a son, Yong Yiu Fong in 1882. This was my grandfather, Lun Yuet Gee, who would sire seven children, five sons and two daughters, including my father, Yong Gok Jeung, who was born on July 10, 1920. My father would later emigrate to America in 1933 under the “paper name” of Roger Sik Yen Chin.

NORMAN: Can you tell me about the visit to your ancestral village and who we met there?

GORDON: When we arrived at the Chang’an village on November 3rd, we were greeted by my first cousin, Sik Ke, and his son Weng Ruizhan. It was an emotional moment as I was meeting them for the first time. I had seen photos of them from previous trips to the village by my Canadian cousins Freda and Jennifer in 2012, and my Uncle Henry in 2015. Sik Ke, now 83, was the son of Gok Jun, the second eldest of my father’s siblings. He had two other brothers and two sisters (now living in Chicago and Boston). Sik Ke lived for time in Chicago, but decided to “move back” to the village a few years ago.

Sik Ke’s son (and my nephew) Weng Ruizhan, is a goose farmer in the village, raising geese for local restaurants. We did not get to sample any goose dishes while in the village. But I was very impressed to learn that cousin was also the village chief ! How cool is that?

We visited both my Great Grandfather’s ancestral house, the house where father grew up, and a house further up the alley, where Sik Ke lives with his son and his family. The ancestral house, now vacant, was one of the larger village homes we saw, with an ornate bed where Great Grandfather slept. At Sik Ke’s home, which was also fairly large, we spent a lot of time looking at old photos with Sik Ke and his son, and burned incense in honor of our family. Sik Ke also showed us the water well outside his house and asked me to pump the water and wash my face with the water of our ancestors.

gordon chin at his ancestral home
Gordon at his ancestral home

gordon chin looking at photos with his nephew who is village chief
Gordon looking at photos with nephew, who is village chief

NORMAN: Wow, very cool ! Gordon, what are some of your other memories of the Roots Plus trip?

GORDON: There were so many great memories. We visited some great cultural sites, including the Wong Fei Hung Martial Arts Museum and the Meiguan Pass through which the earliest Chinese first arrived in Guangdong. On our cultural site visit to the excellent Guangdong Overseas Chinese Museum, I had the honor of presenting a copy of my book, “Building Community, Chinatown Style” to Mr. Miles Zhang, Deputy Curator of the museum. Mr. Zhang said it was very timely as the museum is embarking on a new project creating a library of major books by Overseas Chinese.

gordon chin overseas chinese museum
Gordon presents his book to the Overseas Chinese Museum

gordon chin meiguan pass roots plus
At Meiguan Pass

Another moment I will never forget, was at the end of my village visit, when my nephew Weng Ruizhan showed us the new Chang’an village center. It will be the centerpiece of the village once completed and furnished, and my nephew has championed the project as the village chief. I was honored to make a contribution to the effort, and I am very proud that my cousin and nephew are “Building Community, Taishan Style”.

NORMAN: One more time, “Very Cool, Gordon!” Any final thoughts?

GORDON: Just my joy in being able to share this wonderful trip with my friends and family and a great, big Thank You to the entire Roots Plus team (John Wong, Walter Lim, Jane Chin, Albert Cheng and Steve Owyang) who are doing a fantastic job in leading this fantastic program.

gordon chin cousin roots plus
With cousin at the new village center


Originally published in Sing Tao Daily on November 25, 2018

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