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A complex family legacy

By Fang Aiqing | China Daily | Updated: 2023-05-01 10:16

The Chen family write Spring Festival couplets on Chinese New Year's Eve in 2022. CHINA DAILY

Since the 1980s, the younger generations of the family have also sponsored road and campus construction, publication of local literature and development of local operas.

As one of Chen Ye's granduncles achieved the status of Datuk, the local equivalent of a knighthood, in Penang, Malaysia, generations of the Chen clan have also been promoting Chinese language and cultural education there.

In 2019, several years after Chen Ye's grandparents passed away, he spent part of the summer holiday cleaning up the vacant residence and sorting through the remaining belongings of the older generations.

As many previously unknown things came to light, he realized that it was his generation's duty to dust off the family history and accurately recount the life stories of their ancestors, fill in the family tree, and enhance the kinship with their relatives overseas.

It was not until he tore down a rusty warehouse in the forecourt that he discovered the symmetrical structure of the grouped houses, and that, in the past, the houses were all interlinked. Later he knocked down the barrier wall and restored the octagonal door that connects the west study with the ancestral hall.

For Chen Ye, the renovation is progressing slowly due to limited funds and the time he can spare from his busy working schedule in Guangzhou, but it's filled with surprises.

For instance, by chance, he found a stele embedded in the wall of the ancestral hall, hidden behind a layer of hardened dust. It is inscribed with the family's story, from how it came to settle in Zhanglin to how it started businesses in Thailand and Japan.

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