Rooting for Truth: A Legacy Lives On

“There is something in all of us that thrills to this experience of touching the past. It could be an old letter, a genealogical record, a battlefield, a cemetery, or fragments of an ancient text.” (James Tabor)

Those words touched me deeply as I pondered how to share the story that I’d unearthed as I searched for my roots. I had hit many walls when it came to my immediate family, but as they say, “When one door closes, another opens.” In this case, it was the door to the Forbidden City, the world’s largest palace complex, and to Yangshi Lei, the architectural family who played a part in its creation. In fact, Yangshi Lei designed and built one fifth of China’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites and was recognized by UNESCO in its Memory of the World Register.

As the 400th anniversary of the birth of Lei Fada, the progenitor of Yangshi Lei approaches, I am honored to fulfill a promise I made recently to Lei Zhangbao, the tenth-generation descendant. That promise was to share the story of Yangshi Lei with the Western World. I am pleased to announce that “The Legacy of the Lei Family Architects Lives On: The Story of Yangshi Lei” is now available on Amazon.

The Legacy of the Lei Family Architects Lives On_cover_XXXMy sincere thanks to  my sister Florence Louie Bass, who joined me on the journey in 2018 even though rooting is not her cup of tea; to my guide Liu Hao from My China Roots for her assistance with my research including finding Lei Zhangbao and arranging our meeting; to Zhangbao and his family for meeting with a distant cousin from a far away land; to Friends of Roots who helped pave the way in 2016 for this journey; to all of the Louie/Lei clan; and to my ancestors who guided me to share this amazing story.

Carole Louie, aka Lei Bao Ling 雷宝玲

 

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Rooting for Truth – A sojourner returns to the family villages

For two years, I looked forward to taking my sister Florence to our family’s villages. After much planning, we finally arrived in early November 2018. I remembered the way after studying my notes from the trip in 2016 and Google and Baidu maps on-line. However, as we drove to San Duo village, road construction blocked our path. In just two years, the expansion of S273 meant that the rickety signage to San Duo was torn down and the entrance closed. No matter, we headed to Hong May village and the timing was perfect. san duo (4)

I wondered if the girl who was getting married in 2016 moved to her husband’s village and if I’d see any of the ladies who shared goodies they had made for the wedding. I hoped to reconnect with the village chief but learned that he was in the hospital. After touring the usual spots in China, here we were in a small village in the Taishan District of Guangdong. The village where our great grandfather Louie Fat was born. We walked down the narrow path to the plot of land where his house once stood. Someone had erected a make-shift brick wall to circle a patch of green onions. Jiegua/zitgwaa節瓜(fuzzy squash) still grew on the south side of the plot.

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With the help of a village lady, I paid respects to our ancestors by burning incense. Maybe because of the brick circular wall in the middle of the plot, I did not feel my ancestors’ presence this time the way I had in 2016. What a powerful moment that was for me. One that had affected others in my Rooting group almost as much as it did me.

This time I walked around the village taking it all in because it was surreal for me in 2016. This time I wanted to smell the earth, touch the grey brick walls that had stood for over a hundred and fifty years, and imagine what it was like walking through the narrow alleyways from house to house, house to field, village to village.

img_4072I met several elders who welcomed me even though we could not speak the same language. Did they sense that I “belonged” here? Their smiles and gentle hands held me with delight. I wanted to know their stories too. Did they or their parents know my great grandfather and grandfather? Whatever they experienced in their eighty-ninety years of life in Hong May, in this moment they were radiant. I watched as their children came to their home to prepare their meal with simple yet elegant filial piety.

You can imagine my surprise when a man came up to us and said in perfect English, “Hey. Where are you from?” After we recovered from our shock, we asked him where he was from. Peter Louie said, “I was born here, but I live in San Francisco now. I come back to visit my relatives every year.” Was he like our ancestors who came to San Francisco to create businesses and sent money back to their relatives in the village? Observing him with his family at the village and later at the restaurant where we went for lunch helped me envision what “homecomings” must have been like for Louie Fat in the late 1800s.

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As we drove out, I noticed the banyan tree and an altar at the front of the village. We stopped and got yet another perspective of the village. Even though my great grandfather’s house was torn down for reasons unknown to me so far, the people of the village and the new buildings speak to the vitality and prosperity that has returned to Hong May.

After our lunch, we headed back to S273 to figure out how to get around the construction at San Duo village. Thankfully, we were able to jump the ditch and left the driver who found another entrance.

I wondered if the lady with the pink chair was still there and was delightfully surprised to find her. She was shy at first and she probably did not remember me, but after a few explanations from a young man, she perked up; and when I gave her the photograph of her from 2016, she smiled ear-to-ear. 30878114637_25ab16fa1b_zShe’s ninety now and still spry and still has her pink chair. I wonder if she will be there on my next trip back to the village and if she is, next time, I will ask her name, but she will always be the “lady with the pink chair” to me.

This time, I followed the directions on my map that I’d created from the notes I made from the files at the National Archives. This time, the village chief was there to open the door to my grandfather’s (Louie Mow) house. This time, I climbed the rickety wooden ladder up to the altar where tablets for the twentieth and nineteenth generation still stood. san duo (9)

Too excited, I didn’t move the incense bowl to get a better photograph, one that I could use to translate their names to add to my genealogy records and I forgot to pay respects with incense and paper money much less firecrackers. Somehow, I know my ancestors understood. Instead, I took in the view of the doorways below as I climbed down the stairs. I noted the sophistication of the designs even if not well made. Even though there was little furniture in the room and the house was obviously used for storage rather than for living accommodations, I knew back-in-the-day it must have hummed with activity when my father and his two brothers lived there.

san duo collage

As we left San Duo, I noticed what must have been the old entrance. A factory invades the space now, but as I looked back toward the village and noticed the rice drying where two years ago construction equipment was strewn about and the renovated community building, I knew that I’d be back again to learn more about the people, my people and the stories of their lives, reflections of my ancestors.

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Rooting for Truth – A Legacy Lives On

Rooting for truth has taken a new dimension for me. Two years ago, I found a nugget that turned out to be a gold vein. The veins grew and grew until I traveled to Beijing in October where I was able to meet Lei Zhangbao and his family. He is a direct descendant of Yangshi Lei, eight generations of architects for the last eight emperors.

Thanks to Liu Hao from MyChinaRoots for helping me with the research, setting up and translating for me at our meeting, and 20181028_132338-1helping me at the Tsinghua University Library.

You can imagine how excited we were to visit the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, and the Summer Palace, places that Yangshi Lei designed and built. I can hardly wait to write a book about this branch of the family tree who is listed in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Registry. You’ll have to read my book to find out why.

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Next, back to Taishan and what we discovered at the villages.

The Cosmic 2 x 4

As anyone who has had an “awakening experience” can tell you, the cosmic 2 x 4 is tailor-made to get your attention. It comes in all shapes and sizes. In fact, I believe that where you put your attention is where the Universe will plop the thing in your lap. I also believe it comes as a cosmic 2 x 4 because we missed the hints, nudges and even potholes along the way. Rarely do we miss the big one.

Such was the case for Eben Alexander, M.D., a successful neurosurgeon who suffered a week long coma and near death experience that rocked his world. His left-brained scientific background studying the brain did not prepare him for other worldly connections that forced him to think about the nature of consciousness in a very different way. His journey to understand the ramifications of his experience unfolds in his latest book, Living in a Mindful Universe. Thankfully, during his explorations he discovered that one does not have to have a near death experience to tap into ones higher consciousness. Enter Karen Newell, co-founder of Sacred Acoustics. Her innovative work in brainwave entrainment audio meditations not only mirrors Alexander’s experience on the other side but also demonstrates key practices of consciousness exploration: heart awareness, intention, and more.

If you have become aware of the hints, nudges, and potholes dancing around in your life, you will not want to miss the two-day event with Alexander and Newell: Living in a Mindful Universe/Into the Heart of Consciousness. I hope you will join us.

Even if you are not able to join us, be mindful of those hints in your life that call to you to “Wake up.”

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Celebrating Love

I want to take a moment to thank my very dear friends for asking me to talk to their son, who passed over this week. Talking with him was a reminder to me that there is perfection even where our ordinary consciousness sees imperfection and all the opportunities we have to love unconditionally.

It will take me a while to put into words all that he is showing me, but I wanted to share the music I hear surrounding this beautiful old soul, welcoming him to the other side.

 

I love the words from this poem by Mary Elizabeth Frye.

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.

It is part of the human experience to feel all kinds of emotions when a loved one passes. Honor those feelings and know that love does not die. Love is eternal.

 

What does spiritual prosperity mean?

What if amid the turmoil we see going on in our world we could create a beautiful life? What if despite the negative reports of economic downturn we could live in a prosperous world? What if we could live in a peaceful place when all around us there is chaos? In other words, what does it truly mean to be spiritually prosperous?

Those are some of the what ifs we will explore in the Spiritual Prosperity Consciousness workshop. Sign up here.

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