Author: Jane Huang Hsu, 12/18/18My Ancestors and A Gift From Our Hilly Aborigines Great-Great Grand MotherSeveral years ago, my third elder brother, Chang-shen (黃長盛) , an expert on dam building (shih-meng water dam), visited us in Binghamton, NY. My husband, Shin-yi Hsu, taught at the university from 1970. My brother had finished the story about our relatives and our beloved homeland Ghee-Lan. I asked him about the Huang family history since my two children have asked me about our “roots”. He told me that we are the 8th generation: our parents (7thgeneration), ground parents (6th generation), and great-grand parents (5th generation) are all descendants of the immigrants from Tsan chow, Fukien, East China. All our male ancestors from great-great-grand father (4thgeneration) and above, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd generation male ancestors were brave and adventurous to cross the stormy and dangerous Formosan Straight. This crossing was against the Ching Dynasty laws and regulations, and luckily they landed safely in a village called Ta-ke-kan, (大嵙崁) Tao-yuan on Northern Taiwan. These men started families with the native “Hilly” aborigine women to preserve and establish the Huang family line on this newly found Homeland.Our female ancestors from our great, great grand mother (4th generation) and above, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd generation female ancestors were the Ta-ke-kan Hilly aborigine people (平埔族) , who were different from the aborigines who lived in the mountain areas of Taiwan. Then I asked my brother how do you know that these women were non-Chinese? He answered with one example of the aborigine’s heritage: These women were supposed to wrap their children with a cloth strip (背巾 ) and place them on the back, if they were the Han’s. Instead, the women tied the baby with a cloth strip on one end, and tied the cloth on the other end on a big rock to prevent the baby from running away when they were working. They had to start the fire to cook the sweet potatoes to feed the whole family while their men were working to cut and clear the grass lands as much as their physical strength allowed each day. Gradually they moved to Ghee Lan and became land owners. It was like the meets-and-bounds cadastral system of the Northeast U.S. in the same time period. Unfortunately, it placed a great toll on their body, and they all passed away in their forties. In the case of our father, in order to save money to buy more land, he never ate outside, yet he died from stomach cancer in his forties when my elder brother studied in Japan. Ironically, after the 2nd World War, the Chinese government’s land reform policy took away all our land because we were too young, or were students, and could not till the rice fields or vegetable fields. We were not qualified to own the land our father and our ancestor exploited themselves each day to cut and clear the original grass land. Our father died of hardship, and from eating all the preserved vegetables, etc. My elder brother, Ben-yuan (黃本源), a country doctor, never allowed us to eat anything preserved. In my generation, 8 out 10 passed away in their 80’s and 90’s. So far, two are still living. I am the last one. I considered to be eating healthy, and reasonably healthy in my age group. It is a big progress as compared to the previous generations. We are healthier may be because it is a great gift from our female Hilly aborigine great, great grand-mothers!Childhood StoriesMy dear mother also died of breast cancer. She had a stressful life in an old traditional family, and was in charge of the whole family, after my father died in his forties. My mother came from a rich Chen family of Ta-fu, a coastal town in Ghee Lan. Every time she was mad or frustrated with things, she would cry and asked my father to take her with him in his place. Therefore, we always tried very hard not to offend her by behaving ourselves. My Mother Was My Grandma’s Baby Boy and As A GirlThe story I will never forget is when my Mom told me about how my grandmother lied to the village official to save my baby mother by wrapping her with layers of clothing and told the person in the immunization office that “mine is a boy” so that she was immunized against communicable diseases of the time. I was about five years old and was so shocked and never forgot the point my mother tried to make: as a girl I have to work harder to prove I am worthwhile for the family and the society. Perhaps this event inspired and impacted me so much later in my insistence to go and receive college education and eventually came to UCLA with a financial assistance. This is all against my passing father’s theory and practice that boys need to have college education in order to compete outside, and for girls, the most important thing is to learn how to keep the house clean and neat and teach the children to behave well. By the time I graduated from the Taipei First Girl High School (TFGH北一女Pei-i-nu), my first choice was Si-Ta (師大)because of the free tuition and free room and board, my father had passed away many years earlier. In TFGH the teachers taught me how to learn more and how to think, and I made more friends and found out how smart and competitive my classmates were and how to work with them. I really learned and benefitted a lot at TFGH. I did not appreciate so much by going to Si-Ta (師大) maybe because the government took away almost all my father’s rice and vegetable fields years ago by the so-called land-to-tiller reform policy. Anyway, the Huang family had no money left to allow me to go Tai-ta （台大）even I passed the joint college entrance exam.Checking Whether My Relatives’ Guava is Ripe?However, I did have great times in my Elementary School years. Every Summer I would go back to our country farm house surrounded by big Bamboo Forest and stay with my mother and paternal grandmother and played with my cousins. Each day we started with visiting the relative’s gardens to see if their fruits were ripe yet, such as guava, kumquat, etc. These relatives told me that they were very happy to see me back in the summer – they would pick the ripe fruits and saved them for me. I thanked them and left. Learning How to Ride an Adult BikeThen, each of us would try to take turn to learn how to ride an adult bike the only bike available to us. When it was my turn, my stronger male cousins would help me by holding the adult bike with their hands in my back and run with me in my back in sandy country road, back and forth many, many times. Eventually, they would tell me they were so exhausted and could not run with me any longer, and have to let me go to ride alone. I got so excited and scared that I had to look for the haystacks on the side of the country road to hit and stop the bike to prevent myself from a big injury. Legacy of Huang Cheng-lung (黃振隆)My cousin Huang Cheng-lung, the last child of my uncle, and I were very close. We played every day every Summer. Later, he studied Japanese himself and got the scholarship to go for advanced studies in Japan. We always support and encourage each other ever since. He later became the Secretary General for the Governor. So we called him “the Secretary General.” He told me how he lobbied for Ghee Lan County Cultural Planning and Development and got all the resources needed for the cultural developments for our hometown. He also told me from the beginning he asked the county officials to do their best in planning with the best architects, designers, the best materials available in Taiwan. He told me that the county officials did an excellent job with a big smile and big pride in his face. I feel exactly the same and I am very proud of Ghee Lan. Maybe this is the reason why I agree to write this article for President Richard Lin of the Ghee Lan Association USA even though I have never written anything before. The story and legacy of the Huang Cheng-lung must be told and preserved to generations to come in Ghee Lan! Dragon’s Eyes and Stomach AceDuring a late hot Summer, my third brother, Change Shen, took me to pick the dragon’s eye fruit in our mountain fruit farm between Ghee Lan and Taipei. It took more than half an hour and have to pass the small sandy road on the fringe of the village graveyard. Once we got there, my brother climbed up the tall fruit tree to pick and eat the dragon’s eyes fruit himself, and then he would pick and drop some of the fruits for me to eat. It was so sweet, fresh and juicy that I kept on eating until totally satisfied and thirsty also. I always went to the mountain creek to fetch some water with my palms and drink it. Later, when we got home, our mother was so happy to see us safe home and forgot about the spooky story near the grave yards. Most of the times, I got stomach ache because of the bacteria in the clear mountain creek water. However, we were very happy and kept on going back to the dragon’s eye fruit farm every late Summer.My AncestorsOne evening in the Summer at our country farm house, my mother asked me to write down the exact dates and month of all our deceased ancestors so that my first sister-in-law, who was my mother’s substitute in the Town of Ro-tung, could prepare the food and fruit to worship the deceased ancestors. I started with my father, my grand parents, my great grand parents all with names and the dates of their passing. After that the female ancestors from great, great grand mother and above had no names only the male ancestors had names. I thought it had something to do with male chauvinism. In fact, many years later, it was confirmed through my third elder brother’s telling that these female ancestors were non-Chinese, and thus without Chinese names.
Recently, our daughter, a nephrologist, asked me and my husband to have a DNA test through “23andme.” The result are as follows for me:
99.9% -- East Asian & Native American
94.4%Taiwn, Mainland China
1.4%Filipino & Austornesian
0.5%Indonesian, Thai, Khmer & Myanma
3.6% Broadly, Chinese and SoutheastAsian
My husband, Professor Shin-yi Hsu, is as follows:
84.6%Taiwan, Mainland China
4.2%Broadly Chinese, SE Asian
2.4%Broadly Japanese, Korean
0.8%Broadly East Asian, Native American
We may try to have another DNA Test run with Dr. Marie Lin of Ross Mackay Medical School Hospital in Taipei if we have the chance.
In conclusion, our new year wish is to remember and remind the hardship and the great strength of my ancestors. Hopefully, we will be all learn to make new efforts to improve ourselves to become better and stronger and making new friends who will respect us and will support and help each other in the good time and in the crisis.
We will contribute together for the democracy, peace and prosperity of the Indo Pacific region where our female ancestors had journeyed through.