He­nan county an an­ces­tral haven for Chi­nese world­wide

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFE - By ZHAO SHIJUN zhaoshi­jun@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Ge­nea­log y is a com­mon in­ter­est among many Chi­nese peo­ple, whether they are liv­ing at home or abroad, as an­ces­tral wor­ship is at the core of Chi­nese cul­tural val­ues.

He­nan prov­ince, which is known as the Cen­tral Plain, is the cra­dle of Chi­nese civ­i­liza­tion and the ori­gin of many Chi­nese fam­ily clans.

Ac­cord­ing to Shi Jichun, deputy chair­man of the He­nan com­mit­tee of the Chi­nese Peo­ple’s Po­lit­i­cal Con­sul­ta­tive Con­fer­ence, 78 of the top 100 fam­ily names in China have their ori­gins in He­nan.

Gushi, a county in He­nan, holds a unique place among res­i­dents of Fujian and Tai­wan, as well as many over­seas Chi­nese, be­cause of large mi­gra­tion move­ments from Gushi b e g i n n i n g d u r i n g t h e Ji n Dy­nasty (265-420).

In Tai­wan, 63 of the top 100 fam­ily clans have ori­gins in Gushi, ac­cord­ing to their fam­ily history books.

In Gushi, there is an an­nual root-seek­ing cul­tural fes­ti­val, of­fer­ing a plat­form for peo­ple shar­ing Gushi-na­tive her­itage to get to­gether.

This year’s fes­ti­val opened on Septem­ber 26.

A mile­stone event dur­ing the fes­ti­val is the open­ing of the Wang’s Me­mo­rial Mu­seum to com­mem­o­rate Wang Shen­zhi, one of the most fa­mous his­tor­i­cal fig­ures from Gushi.

Wang was ap­pointed the gov­er­nor of Fujian in the tur­bu­lent years of the late Tang Dy­nasty (618-907).

While the rest of the coun­try was in the midst of con­stant war and con­flict, peo­ple in Fujian en­joyed a peace­ful life be­cause of his wise and ben­e­fi­cial ad­min­is­tra­tion.

As the ruler of Fujian, Wang was said to be fru­gal, of­ten wear­ing hemp shoes and resid- ing in a small house. His crim­i­nal penal­ties were re­laxed and tax rates were low. These poli­cies were said to lead both the gov­ern­ment and its peo­ple to wealth, and keep his realm rel­a­tively calm.

Be­cause of Wang’s con­tri­bu­tion to lo­cal devel­op­ment, he was re­mem­bered by the Fujian peo­ple as one of the most prom­i­nent fig­ures in lo­cal history .

Wang’s mas­sive fam­ily also went with him to Fujian, where they flour­ished into a large lo­cal clan af­ter dozens of gen­er­a­tions.

The mu­seum was in­vested in and built by Wang Mingyi, chair­man of the Pin­na­cle Group based in Zhengzhou, cap­i­tal of He­nan prov­ince. He is also a 36 th-gen­er­a­tion de­scen­dent of Wang Shen­zhi.

Wang said the pur­pose of build­ing the me­mo­rial mu­seum is to en­hance the co­her­ence of the Wang clan, to re­mind them of the great con­tri­bu­tions of their an­ces­tor and to pass down the moral legacy of Wang Shen­zhi to fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

“One of the most re­mark­able lega­cies left by Wang Shen­zhi is his sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity for the peo­ple and the coun­try, and the en­ter­pris­ing spirit in build­ing a home­land amid many dif­fi­cul­ties,” Wang said.

Af­ter set­tling in Fujian, some Wang clan mem­bers also went beyond Fujian to Tai­wan prov­ince, South­east Asia and the rest of the world.

“Wang’s Me­mo­rial Mu­seum will also of­fer a plat­form for the Wang clan mem­bers to wor­ship their an­ces­tors and build con­nec­tions,” Wang said.

In ad­di­tion to Wang Shen­zhi, there are also other prom­i­nent peo­ple from Gushi that made great con­tri­bu­tions to the spread of Cen­tral Plain cul­ture — an im­por­tant part of the Chi­nese civ­i­liza­tion — to the rest of the coun­try.

Wang Zhixue, head of the Gushi county gov­ern­ment, men­tioned Sun Shuao, the prime min­is­ter of the Chu State dur­ing the Spring and Au­tumn Pe­riod (770-476 BC), who brought the rel­a­tively ad­vanced farm­ing and nav­i­ga­tion tech­niques of the Cen­tral Plain to the south. Li Tong, a Han Dy­nasty (207 BC-AD 220) gen­eral, also made great con­tri­bu­tions to the coun­try’s uni­fi­ca­tion.

Wa n g a l s o t a l ke d a b o u t C hen Yuan­guang , a Gushi na­tive dur­ing the early Tang Dy­nasty, who was a prom­i­nent pi­o­neer in de­vel­op­ing Fujian.

At the age of 13, Chen ac­com- panied his fa­ther Chen Zheng, com­man­der of the south­ern China mil­i­tary ex­pe­di­tionary force, on a march to Fujian to set up a re­gional ad­min­is­tra­tion.

In 677, Chen Zheng died, and Chen Yuan­guang took over his fa­ther ’s du­ties, lead­ing the troops.

Chen es­tab­lished or­der in Fujian and, as a re­sult, the en­tire re­gion, with Zhangzhou at the cen­ter, be­came sta­ble. He then in­tro­duced ad­vanced farm­ing and pro­duc­tion tech­niques to the re­gion, mak­ing it as pros­per­ous as the Cen­tral Plain.

Chen’s de­scen­dents also set­tled in Fujian and later moved to Guang­dong, Tai­wan and through­out South­east Asia.

The peo­ple of Zhangzhou, Fujian, along with the de­scen­dants of im­mi­grants from Zhangzhou to Tai­wan, Sin­ga­pore and Malaysia, all re­fer to him as the “Sa­cred Prince, De­vel­oper of Zhangzhou”.

Qu Shangy­ing, Party chief of Gushi, said the county has been a tra­di­tional destination for ge­neal­ogy among Chi­nese peo­ple all over the world.

“We are glad to see that many Chi­nese peo­ple with an­ces­tral roots in Gushi have ex­erted in­creas­ing in­flu­ence across the Tai­wan Straits and through­out the world,” Qu said.

He said the ge­nealog­i­cal events in Gushi are build­ing close con­nec­tions be­tween Gushi and the world, and the grow­ing affin­ity for Gushi among Chi­nese peo­ple in the rest of the coun­try and the world is ex­pected to bring more cul­tural and eco­nomic pros­per­ity to the county.

Since 2008, when the first Gushi root-seek­ing cul­tural fes­ti­val was held, more than 100,000 peo­ple from home and abroad took trips to the county, pray­ing to their an­ces­tors, do­nat­ing to lo­cal ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions, or set­ting up busi­nesses, ac­cord­ing to Qu.

We are glad to see that many Chi­nese peo­ple with an­ces­tral roots in Gushi have ex­erted in­creas­ing in­flu­ence across the Tai­wan Straits and in the world.” Qu Shangy­ing, Party chief of Gushi

XIANG MINGCHAO / CHINA DAILY

Folk per­for­mances are held to cel­e­brate the Gushi root-seek­ing cul­tural fes­ti­val.

XIA YI / FOR CHINA DAILY

The mil­len­nium-old Miao­gao Tem­ple is ev­i­dence of the long­stand­ing and bril­liant cul­ture of Gushi.

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