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TangTou: Birthplace of Ming's father. Read - text below - about the exploration of an abandoned village, but a surprising gem. Location : Qingtian, Lishui, Zhejiang.China.

Ming Yu's quest for family relationships in TangTou / link to photos

Visit The Yu-village / TangTou.

   
       

   

TangTou.  
An increasingly narrowing and winding road runs from Qingtian to TangTou, and reveals the old Asian mountain village of the Yu family.
The context of this visit.
This story traces the search of a son to the native village of his Chinese father in Qingtian, China. The son, Ming Yu, was born in the Netherlands from the relationship of a Dutch woman and a Chinese man. His mother, Helena Anna Vermij, who lived in Amsterdam, married his father Yao Kuon Yu in 1945. (Residence permit for Aliens Service 27/02/1942, married on 12/09/1945). Father Yao worked as a cook in 'Cafe Restaurant China' in Amsterdam, a collective initiative with some compatriots. His professional status evolved from a farmer's son, to a sailor, to a cook. Sometimes a melancholic mood came over him, homesickness, a desire for home filled his mind. Then father Yao told his children about his village, the warmth of his family, the rice fields, the eternal tree, the views of the valley, the mountainous area. The sources of his primary identity. The children too young to understand this sentiment were fascinated by the images.

 
Context in China: the parents of Yao, Grandpa and Grandma Yu had three sons.
According to feudal law, the eldest son would inherit farm. He would cultivate the agricultural land in order to guarantee his own life and that of his parents. The two others would leave. The second Yao son left and arrived in Holland, Amsterdam. The youngest left en ended up in Switzerland. Migration as a consequence of the feudal inheritance system and of the shortage of agricultural land in the mountainous area. Farm land was a condition for the rice fields cultivation.

From the studies of the History of Overseas Chinese it is known that at the end of the 18th century residents from the area around Qingtian left to look for work and welfare in other continents. The Yu family and Yao must have heard these stories. The migrant pioneers who came back and who passed were recognized because they contributed to the prosperity of Quigtian City and the surrounding area through the money they sent and by retiring at a later age.
 
Yao Kuon Yu, the second son, would shape his life in a new continent. Leaving everything and everybody behind, he would walk down the 80 km winding road and would wait at the bottom of the Ou River in Qingtian-city for a ship to come that would take him downstream to the port of Wenzhou. There again looking for work and a cargo ship that would take him to a port.in a new world He arrived around 1940 via Taiwan in Rotterdam. Because World War II had started in Europe, further destinations were excluded. He would stay in the Netherlands and now also followed an emotional impulse. He became engaged and married a Dutch woman. Helena Anna Vermij and Yao Kuon Yu had four children, a daughter Ai Yo, three sons Ming, Ijoming and Jimming.
 
He made return journeys to China several times. He took the The Trans-Siberian Express, the world's longest railway, transport distance by nearly 9.000,-- kilometers, travelled over Moscow, across Russia via Irkutsk and Mongolia to the Chinese capital Beijing. From Beijing it is another 1800 km to Qingtian.
 
He went to his village TangTou to see family, to cherish where he was born and spend his childhood, to look for a home for later, to rest, to die and to be buried. A desire that fitted into a Chinese tradition: stay connected and reunite with the wandering spirits of the ancestors.
Perhaps he enjoyed the adventurous journey through ancient sights, various landscapes and interesting cultures and The Great Wall?

Also during the Cultural Revolution (1966-69) he went several times back. One time something happened to him, he was unable to talk about. Was there a traumatic event that he could not report about? The emotions too strong for words? Was he considered a capitalist Westerner and did he have to deal with the regime that cruelly wished to exterminate capitalism, culture and intellectuals?He went there with two suitcases to return without anything. He was skin and bones, only some clothes around the body. He usually stayed away for a few months.
Now he remained much longer, possibly mentally afflicted and materially squeezed out, forced to work.
He would never talk about it, he would never go back again. This experience put a line through the primal longing to grow old and be buried there.
He has carried the last journey as a secret in his heart, and to his grave Yao died in Amsterdam on 04/04/1987.

 
The quest, a geographical and psychological inquiry. Twenty years after his death, many questions arise in the head of his son Ming: what does his father's village look like? Has he prepared a house and a tomb there? is there still family? Is there a ancestral shrine? There is also a need to show him honour and respect for the endeavour that his father undertook. A father who bridged continents and cultures. It is time to finish something in his place, now.                                                                            
 Helping hands and assistance.

Mi Ying Chen. Ming was strongly inspired by her successful search in China and Taiwan for her Chinese father. It looked possible.
Rudy Chiu. As a former restaurant owner knew Yao and helped to define the Chinese character Yu, determined the geographical area and informed about the organization for Overseas Chinese.
Ijoming Yu, the younger brother of Ming could help to sharpen the memories of father.
Mowah Yong, a Dutch-Chinese bisinessman, his wife Lily and daughter Puyu. They accompanied us from Wenzhou to Qingtian and to the village of Tang Tou. Lily was the ideal support as an English-Chinese interpreter, Mowah was both a translator and a cameraman.
The organization for Overseas Chinese in Rotterdam and Qingtian.
The organisation Qingtian Municipal Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese played a perfect role, their research in advance and on-site reception were great. Special thanks to Yan Kiao Hai / Danny.   www.qtxql.com

  
The visit.
In the morning of 14 October 2014 we were welcomed by four members of the organization Qingtian Municipal Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese, including a spokesman, a specialist genealogical research, a photographer, supplemented by a TV cameraman for CCTV. Two cousins were present, the oldest with the family pedigree book. The names and characters from the city archives were compared with the family book. The data appeared to confirm each other. Ming recognized himself and his family in the characters. The cousins present were 'real' cousins and the birth village a reality.
After lunch we drove under the directions of the oldest cousin (he is 63 years old and has a son in Rome and one in Barcelona) to Tang Tou. A long winding road leads into the mountains. The winding road about 80 km long passes other villages, climbs and shows valleys, here and there are rice terraces and graves. The road narrows and ends on a plateau where we park.

At the highest point is a plain-valley, on the plain a perfectly maintained Buddhist temple belonging to the Yu family. The first thing we do is visiting the temple where the two cousins light candles and incense. When we come outside, fireworks are lightend. From the plain you look into valley and the village. Nearly 16 wooden houses of different heights stand together. Apart from two new houses, everything is old and partly in decline, some in dilapidation. More than half of the houses are uninhabited but still almost furnished. They have been left behind or are waiting for the return. Elderly villagers, men and women living in the other houses live there frugally and simply. Rice is shaken on one of the terraces, which dries in the sun. The village is fairytale-like, magical, no longer of this time and therefore poignant. Here Yao grew up and there is his house for which the three cousins are now posing. The equipment is still there, but under a thick layer of dust. With astonishment we take pictures and walk in the village and look in some houses.
It is moving to see such a simple village: the brilliance of simplicity. The wealth exist in its unique authenticity. Even the Chinese of the organization were impressed because they had not seen anything so simple and unaffected before. Here the lost time exists. You would wish this 'sanctuary' of the Yu family and Yu ancestors to be preserved. A miracle that this miniature village exists, a historic pearl in the continent that is developing the fastest.
Text and photos:    Bert Van Puyenbroeck.
November 2014


QINGTIAN - TangTou, China in October 2014.
Link to photos

Contact YU mail to  ming.yu@upcmail.nl

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