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MY FAMILY BACKGROUND

I was born in the late 60s on the southern coast of the China sea near "Pearl City” an allusion to the old story "Pearls returning to Hepu". The coast is lined with dark green “ma wei song” trees and white sandy beaches like snowy deserts that don't change all year round. The tropical climate without winter, the mysterious forest and the long stretches of beach have left me with a sweet memory.

 

My father‘s family were poor immigrants from the south-west of Guangdong. He was the last child of his parents. When he was born his father died unfortunately in a storm at sea. His parents had no money to send him to school. He went to a private school for a few months, studied about technics on his own and taught himself to be a tailor. With his skilled hands he began his future and continued his self-education. In my memory, my father always had a dictionary close at hand. I remember a story that he told me about the time of the great famine when he and my mother had to go to the mountains designated by the government to dig a water reservoir. He took his dictionary with him in the baskets in which they carried my sister and brother. My father was a diligent and studious person with many interests. In addition to his work as a tailor, he was a farmer and enjoyed net fishing in the sea and in the river. He worked hard, never stopped. He liked to help people in the surrounding villages. He worked day and night, and in the little spare time that he had he played in his Guangdong Opera Group. He was good at singing and playing instruments. My mother always said that many girls liked him, but because he was poor, no one wanted to marry him.

 

Compared to my father's poverty, the wealth of my mother’s family was unfathomable. My mother’s parents inherited the business of their parents and a large amount of land. My mother had to take on the job of managing the workforce since she was a teenager and because of that she could not go to school. The family should have had a very prosperous life with such a wealth, but their good fortune came to an abrupt end. My maternal grandfather was an intelligent man, but also heavily addicted to opium. He often went to Saigon to smoke and buy opium and at the same time he kept his eyes and ears open for the latest news. He was a man with a good intuition about politics and business. He learned that the Soviet "agricultural collective movement" had begun and that Communist League meetings were frequently held in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Saigon. He understood that land reforms were unavoidable in China and that he was about to lose his vast property. So, he started smoking more opium, waiting for land buyers to whom he could sell his land bit by bit. The little money he got he used to buy still more opium. There was too much land to sell before the reforms would take place.

 

The family had raised no less than four army officers, two in the Kuomintang and two in the Communist Party. They forced the family in a precarious situation as the struggle between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party was heating up. In order to have a chance of survival, my grandfather offered all of his remaining property to the government. He believed that this would bring safety to the family, as Mao Zedong was the winner and Chiang Kai-shek had fled with his people to Taiwan. My nineteen years old uncle, my mother's oldest brother, who was a military student realized the danger that was looming over the family. He decided to join Chiang Kai-shek and to leave to Taiwan. Soon, my grandfather who had nothing left, was sent to prison and shortly after that an uncle was lynched in the street, accused of being the son of a big capitalist. Now that all the men had vanished, only five women were left: my grandmother and four daughters went to live in a dilapidated house under a cliff because the big mansion had been confiscated. A family with nothing left, the father in jail, one brother dead and the other having joined the enemy, was now politically tainted and to be scorned. Having to carry such a heavy load my mother got the advice to stay low and to marry a poor but nice and hardworking man who lived in another village. My mother went to meet him and it was quickly decided: they would marry.

 

I am the fifth child of my parents. In the year I was born, my grandfather returned to his hometown after eighteen years in prison. A few months later he was taken to his old property and shot to death after he was paraded and criticized. No one dared to bury him because of his disgraceful past. The soldier who fired the shot is 85 years old when I write this. Sadly, the political stain plunged the family into darkness. But in fact, during the time of the Cold War, the biggest stain for the family was my uncle who had had an American education and served in the Taiwan military. In 1991, after a period of twenty-four years, he came back to his hometown for a short stay. Because of his history, my parents were deprived of all rights, and for us children our education and employment were closely controlled. Because of our family background, my oldest brother who was an aspiring young man and a support for the whole family, was unable to escape the tragedy of that time.

 

I also personally experienced the tragedy of the family and still suffer unhealed pain. I studied business management and accounting and after graduation I went to work in a bank in a job that I did not like much. Luckily, I had my literature: I love reading and writing since I was a child, and it made me calm and gave me a new perspective. I resigned in the bank and went to Beijing where I enrolled in the Luxun College of Literature. After having published my first novels, I started a new life in Europe.