When I awoke on the Saturday, it was with a bit of alarm, as the weather forecast had been for rain and the streets in Huizhou were wet. I was concerned whether we’d be able to go visit the grave of ancestor #1 — not that it would really have stopped me (or probably many in our expedition!). We had allocated an extra day for our trip in case we needed it.
Luckily, the skies cleared and things dried out. We met up again at the Wing Wu shop, and after a while chit-chatting, we all got in the bus and headed south, away from Wing Wu and Tam Tong. Several of the local relatives accompanied us. In our bus were ten people from our original party, much more than we’d expected, as our original plan had only four of us (Chee Sing, my father, me, and Kim Seng) since we had anticipated a tough slog through the brush. Obviously the excitement of finding ancestor #1 was infectious and the anticipation was in the air.
We turned off onto street that led to a school, parking outside the school gate. Behind the school were several hills, with power transmission lines crossing them. It became apparent that those were the hills we were going up. After traversing a cleared section of land with several deep ditches, we ended up at a small creek at the base of the slope. This creek was the source of water for the locals as there was a constant influx of people filling up their plastic containers from a hose. We followed a path that paralleled the creek upwards for a while and then took a fork to go up a series of several steep paths that had some basic steps carved into them. These would have been fairly tricky if they had been wet; as it was, the remaining damp helped to keep the dust down.
We met a few other people descending the path and it seemed likely that there were other graves in the area. Just before the base of a transmission tower, our guides cut left across some low, springy undergrowth to a grave site about 50m from the path.
As we looked at the decaying gravestone, there were enough of the characters discernible to confirm that this was Chung Yuk Yen’s grave. This was our holy grail! It seemed inconceivable that only a relatively short while ago we had not even known where Tam Tong was. Now we had found the very first recorded ancestor in our genealogy who lived from 1551-1622. Again, this site has good views of the surrounding valley, though luckily its location seems to be less threatened at the moment by being directly under power lines and on a steeper section of hill.
We returned back to Tam Tong, humbled and glowing with achievement. At the Chi Tong, we lit incense and placed them at the main and side altars and outside. That day happened to be the start of Ching Ming, the special time of the year for Chinese when ancestral graves are cleaned, couples get engaged, and the spring renewal of life is celebrated. The timing couldn’t have been better.
When leaving, we took a leisurely stroll through the village, meeting up with other relatives, including one that worked in Huizhou and had an email address. While doing so, some relatives rushed up to us, saying in effect that “everybody’s waiting for you back in the town!” One phone call later, we had arranged to meet a new relative back in Wing Wu for a late lunch.
This new relative happened to a be a Mr. Lee. He was Nai Yen’s oldest daughter’s son. One of Nai Yen’s youngest daughters, Meng Yue, had later left for Malaysia to get married, and the age gap between the nephew (Lee) and his aunt (Meng Yue) was only a year, so they had grown up and played together as children in Tam Tong. He hadn’t seen her since she left in around 1940, and he brought along a 20-year old wallet-sized picture of himself for us to give to her. She had been asked to participate in the trip, but had sadly declined. That day was also her 90th birthday, an auspicious occasion for Chinese.
Each day in Wing Wu / Tam Tong exceeded the previous one. We’d achieved much, much more than we had ever anticipated on the trip. More importantly, we’d forged links with the local relatives, and reacquainted them with their ancestry, something that had long been lost in time. Hopefully we’ve planted some seeds of interest with them and perhaps some day we’ll get a call from China with some new information.