An emotional return to ancestral home in China

A few months ago, I shared with you some touching letters from China to my mother. These letters built the bridge between my mother and her remaining brother in China, both were separated by war, politics and poverty for 40 years.

During their separation, my mother never ceased to support her brother’s family in the Fujian province of China even though we had very little ourselves. We lived in Malaysia and Singapore then and my mother would squeeze any money that she could find and then sent money and medicine (such as ginseng) to China, for example, to help fix a leaking roof, and to help pay for the bride price so that her three nephews could get a wife in their poor village. My mother also enabled her elderly sister in law (now 96 years old) to visit Singapore in 1992 to fulfill her once-in-a-lifetime dream.

Last week, my 80-year-old mother returned to China to visit her old house in China, where she left as a skinny four years old. My mother never saw her father and her other brother again – both died within a few years since she left. Last week my mother returned with two of her five daughters and one handsome grandson. It was an emotional reunion.

In this post, I’m going to show you some images of my mother’s ancestral home. The small village still has no street light and the route to her old house seems labyrinthine.

The roof no longer leaks, windows have been added and the walls strengthened. An extension has also been built and the house now has a television.

I am very moved to see that on the wall in my mother’s ancestral home in China hung a collage of faded photos of us. These were rare snapshots that my mother had sent to China in the 70s and 80s. My mother’s eldest brother lived a life in poverty as he was the only one left behind in the poor village in China as my mother and my grandmother braved the sea voyage to Singapore. Brother and sister finally reunited in 1979, and they recognised each other through a photograph clutched in their hands.

My uncle did not get to meet any of us, but you could see our status in his heart as he put the photos in a huge picture frame, and displayed them in the room. He always treated us as his family.

To our relatives in China, my mother is their queen. They show her the utmost respect and the younger generation has heard of the stories of my mother’s sacrifices and contribution to the family. My mother regarded this trip as her final visit to China, but I promised her that I would visit China with her next time.

Tomorrow I’ll show you images of the younger generation of our family in China.

The Letters from China series was inspired by Blog Exercises: Before the Blog by Lorelle VanFossen. You can find more Blog Exercises on . This is a year-long challenge to help you flex your blogging muscles.

My Related Posts:

10 thoughts on “An emotional return to ancestral home in China

  1. friendlytm

    Dear Janet, my comment to you was lost in the cyberspace. My family also had a memorable trip to China few years ago. I encourage you to publish yours via I just published my first cookbook. Take a look.

    I look forward to reading it. For some reasons your blog and some others that I follow, did not appear under my reader.


    1. Janet Williams Post author

      Dear Denise,

      Thank you for this information about book publishing.

      What was your family reunion like in China? I quite like to hear your stories.

      p/s: WordPress Reader is not always reliable. It fails to deliver some posts to me too.

      1. friendlytm

        My reply was again lost halfway. I try to be brief here. Our family trip was in 2005, long before my blogging days. It was a big group including our cousins in Australia, about 30 plus people. Our village is very small. We had two houses, one already collapsed. We visited the house where my grandfather was born, and paid respect to our ancestors. Our grand uncles and grandfather were all buried near the village. We donated some money to the senior center. The villagers organized a group of children to sing and dance to welcome us. We went to visit the graves, the most important event. Then we had a big meal cooked by the villagers, very fresh vegetables, unbelievably good. I would not have time to find those pictures now. But will keep in mind if I have the chance to do so.

        Good luck to your future writing and posting. I look forward to reading more.

  2. Behind the Story

    Your mother sacrificed a tremendous amount for her family. It’s heartening to know how grateful they are. The photos provide for us a clear picture of the people and the house. I enjoyed the post a lot.

  3. Hari Qhuang

    Mine is the fifth Generation of our family in Indonesia. My Grandfather did return to our ancestral village in the 90s. He found that all of our relatives were gone. There was only one elderly woman who still recognized him, (She even knew his nickname!)

    The houses were still there but the function had changed. They were used to keep farming equipments. The surrounding lands had turned into green fields.

    I have not got the chance to visit that little village. When I do, I wonder if I will have much story to tell. I hope I will remember to take the old photo of the village with me, so that I can compare how much it has changed!

    This post is wonderful, Janet. I enjoy reading it very much. I can’t wait for the next part! 😀

  4. Pingback: The unbreakable family ties | Janet's Notebook

  5. Lorelle VanFossen

    I’m so eager to hear more, Janet. What a treat. What inspired her to decide now to go back “home?”

    As the family genealogist, I’ve been honored to return back to our many roots over time, and still have many of those locations on my destination list, though few remember my family. But once in a while I get lucky.

    What a fantastic story. How far this whole story, a simple assignment, has taken you! I’m so proud.


    I am really enjoying reading your blog. What an incredible story, so much emotion, love and family loyalty. Thank you so much for sharing. I will try to read your blog regularly.


Post a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s