Sunday, September 6, 2015

Ancestor land

厦门 Xiamen China

Last month my wife and I went on a free and easy holidays with my youngest son to 厦门Xiamen China. Hersan 禾山 village nearby  Xiamen was where my great grandfather Chew Joo Chiat was born in 1855. During his growing up years, China was ruled by the Qing Dynasty. Below is an old city map of 厦门Xiamen. The fortified walls had gates opening to the  north, south, east and west . 禾山Heshan village is not on the map as it is to the north of the city.

                                                                Picture credit to Ho San Kong Hoey Singapore.

Silk Air flight time to Xiamen was about 4 hours

Day 1
                                               Xiamen Swiss International Hotel

We arrived at Xiamen late in the afternoon and checked in at Xiamen Swiss International Hotel. It is directly opposite the tourists’ island 鼓浪屿 (Gulangyu). We took a cab to a hilltop restaurant overlooking the beach. The weather was hot like Singapore and the beach was very crowded.

Yummy food

Beach at Xiamen

We had dinner at the restaurant overlooking the beach

Day 2
We thought of going to Gulang Yu but could not get ferry tickets. The cruise centre was very crowded with tourists and school children on holidays. Since we had no fixed itinerary, I suggested to visit Heshan Road, hoping to find my great grandfather Chew Joo Chiat’s home village.

                                            Picture from Google Earth

My visit to Xiamen was partly to trace my family history in China. I was not prepared then but simply hope something would materialise. I was totally wrong. Chew Joo Chiat’s birth place,  禾山(Heshan) has been merged with Xiamen city. The place is now criss-cross by highways and multi-storey buildings. Searching for Chew Joo Chiat’s birth place was like looking for a pin in a haystack. Heshan village is not as before and after about an hour’s walk, we gave up.

                                                        禾山路Heshan Road 

                                                          Another view of Heshan Road

Mary needed rest to ease off the pain in her leg. A cab took us to SM City Plaza, a shopping mall nearby. 

                                               SM City Plaza Xiamen

The cab driver stopped us on the wrong side of the shopping mall. We had to walk a short distance to the building.     

                                           Mary could not walk and rested outside a restaurant.                

                                                         Mary could walk again

Day 3

We visited the Overseas Chinese Museum as it was near the hotel. See map 

 Entrance gate to the Overseas Chinese Museum

The Overseas Chinese Museum contains exhibits mainly from overseas Chinese. It show-case the story of Chinese migrant workers to south-east Asia during the Qing Dynasty. At the museum, I was hoping to find clues or pictures of my great grandfather Chew Joo Chiat but in vain. Majority  of the overseas Chinese then had no education. They worked hard as manual workers  such  as cooks barbers, tailors, dealers, hawkers and various other jobs. Some succeeded to be employers, teachers, doctors and lawyers, traders  etc. Many  entrepreneurs had made a name for themselves such as Tan Tock Seng, Lim Nee Soon, Tan Kah Kee, Chew Joo Chiat, Dr Lim Boon Keng and  others.

                                        Chinese migrant workers on board a Chinese junk

Zhongshan Road is the main commercial area in Xiamen. A large section of the road is now a pedestrian mall. We went hunting for souvenir and gifts for friends. As it was dinner time we had our meal at a seafood restaurant.

                                                   Dinner at a seafood restaurant

Day 4

We booked a ferry ticket in advance from the hotel for Wed 19 August 2015. Mary had problem walking and was given priority to jump queue. Although inside the barrier she could not move due to the pain and had to wait for the pain to go off.

                                            Passengers queue up to go to the ferry

Gulang Yu island is a tourist spot. It was once an international settlement in China beside Shanghai. Hence, there are many colonial buildings of Victorian era. We covered less than one percent of the island and returned to Xiamen due to Mary's condition. 

                                                  Gulang Yu Islang


                                            Anglo Chinese College Xiamen in 1898. 

                                                      Yang Villa built in 1935

                                                       Roadside artist

                                             Mary on wheel chair at Cruise Centre

Day 5
Home Sweet Home

                                                View from our hotel room

                                 Good bye Xiamen. Hope to see you again