Turns out these days, adult immigrants from my dad’s hometown in China are all in America, and their babies are in Fuzhou being raised by grandma.
It’s that grand old extended Confucian family that easily accommodates trans-Pacific existence…both boon and bane of my existence. Grandmas and grandpas enable the parents to work and provide for everyone else.
My dad’s family left decades ago, when Mao’s Communnist Party took over post-1949. But my dad still considers the place home in an abstract sense and has a new hometown–Shanghai, where he and my mom live part of the year.
My favorite memory from a 1998 visit to Fuzhou with my parents was a trip to an old Buddhist monastery. It was a huge grey stone structure built on top of a verdant mountain. To reach it, you traveled up a winding road past acre after acre of tea orchards. (Fuzhou is famous for its tea.) You almost expected some monks (still dressed in the austere grey or black garb seen in kung fu movies) to bust out with some wuxu. Maybe do a gravity-defying run up some walls and pound some maurading bandit ass, a la CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON.
The restaurant inside the monastery was a fine old one. Vegetarian, of course. We sat in the shade under some trees and sipped tea and ate mushroom dishes, tofu, and rice little plates. It was heavenly, so to speak, and I realized why monasteries were so appealing in pre-industrialized China: they were beautiful, serene, and uncrowded. Three things it’s hard to experience in most places in polluted, vibrant, jam-packed China.