Ancestral Protection

2 Feb 2021

I welcomed 1 Feb 2021 by bringing home a pot of Desert Rose. This is one of my late father’s favourite plants. He was hugely successful in growing them. Till this day, the balcony of my mom’s little flat is a hanging garden of “Flowers of Abundance,” (Fu Gui Hua 富贵花)as the Desert Rose is known in chinese.

I was born in the Year of the Water Rabbit. This year my lunar birthday fell on 22nd Jan 2021.

My paternal Kinmen grandmother was 50 years old when I was born. I was her first grandchild. As a mother who had lost two daughters even before they turned 5 years old, my arrival must have felt as if one of her little girls was being returned to her.

Thus I was raised with much care, and given every chance to wear whatever beautiful clothes available to children of my neighbourhood.

On the same day as I gave thanks for my birth, I was happy to see a Facebook feed from Kinmen Blog explaining the origin of my grandmother’s surname, 翁 (pronounced as “weng.”)

One of my dominant childhood memories was of her pointing out the chinese character of her surname on her citizenship document, and getting me to pronounce it accurately. That could have been the first chinese word I laid eyes on.

Full Moon rising on the old city of Houpu, Kinmen Island, Taiwan.

I made my first trip to my grandmother’s birthplace on her behalf in 2019 and walked the streets she might have played on in her childhood.

At the doorway of an ancestral shrine belonging to the descendants who share the same family name as my grandmother.

As I stood under the golden brush strokes bearing my grandmother’s family name above the entrance of one of the many ancestral shrines that dotted the island, I felt energised.

Perhaps there’s a reason for my deep affinity with black ink strokes against vermillion & scarlet, and gold characters against black. What may appear tacky to some feels like home to me.

I think when ancestor veneration is forbidden or discouraged in the name of progress, religion or politics, we lose our connection to the wisdom and protection of our forebears.

And for me this loss can never be compensated by promises of power or paradise.

Ollie and the map of Kinmen Island.

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

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

Google photo

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

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s