Inspired by the discovery of a 900-year-old grave and a bundle of rare documents, Frank Ching researched his family tree through thirty-four generations and nearly a millenium of ancestral history. The result was Ancestors, a dramatic history of his family and of China itself.
Writing Ancestors changed my life. I was very touched to hear from distant relatives, of whose very existence I hadn’t been previously aware, and I also learned that my book had inspired clan elders to update the family genealogy.
The chief editor of the new genealogy, Qin Zhihao, was an inspirational figure. One day, he asked if members of my family could help with the task of updating the information. I had to tell him that my only son, Jonathan, was still a teenager. However, he was quite interested in the project and accompanied Anna and me to Wuxi, where we visited the grave of our Song dynasty ancestor, the poet Qin Guan. The photograph of our visit was included in the new edition of the genealogy.
Work on the new edition brought together many members of the clan who did not know each other, as well as Qin family members overseas. When the Herculean task of publishing the genealogy was completed, the clan decided to set up a fraternity association so that its members could continue to meet, research their family histories, update family developments and provide assistance to Qin family members who come to Wuxi in search of their roots.
Interestingly, clan histories do not only bind members of a clan within China; they reach out to the Chinese diaspora around the world. The year 2009 marks the nine-hundredth-and-sixtieth anniversary of the poet Qin Guan’s birth in 1049. China has traditionally marked time in sixty-year cycles, so that means this year is the completion of sixteen sixty-year cycles. The completion of another sixty-year cycle will not happen again until the year 2069. The clan in Wuxi is planning a celebration of the occasion in late October (after China celebrates the sixtieth anniversary of the People’s Republic of China on October 1). They are hopeful that many of Qin Guan’s descendents will be drawn to Wuxi to honor the poet, whose grave has recently been renovated. (more…)