Rooting for Truth: From genealogy researcher to author to speaker

When I began “rooting” for my ancestor’s stories, I never dreamt that it would change my life. Most rooters will tell you what an awesome feeling it is to stand on the earth where your ancestors stood, if you are lucky enough to find that location. It took me twenty-six years to find that spot of earth, but as you will read in my stories, there were a few hurdles to jump over. That’s the life-changing part.

Now that I’ve made the journey to the tiny villages in Guangdong, China twice, I’m more comfortable with who I am, daughter of a man whose family had the courage to sojourn across an ocean. Now that I’ve accepted that I am a Medium, I’m excited about the conversations I have with those ancestors and to know that just because they are no longer in the physical world, they are not dead. And now that I’ve shared their stories, I  am thrilled to focus on next book about my reincarnation research and experiences. And yes, you can be sure that my ancestors play a role in that book too.

If you are in the Richmond, VA or Williamsburg, VA area in November, I hope you will join me at the book discussion groups.

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Celebrating Talk Story

To thank the Sponsors and all those who put in a lot of hard work to create the Talk Story Events and well as to those who attend, I’m offering a FREE copy of the e-book version of my first book, Conversations With a Hungry Ghost: Memoir of a Reluctant Medium. You can download your copy from April 12-16th. Please feel free to tell your friends and family.

“After a lifetime of blocking the ghosts who tried to talk to her, Carole found the courage to overcome her fear to speak with her father’s ghost. Their conversations helped Carole understand her father’s reluctance to share his story about his journey from China to the U.S. and guided her to the Louie family ancestral villages. Their conversations were more than a genealogical exploration; they were the beginning of a spiritual journey, a journey into the spirit world and past lives, a path of healing and love.”

 

I hope you will enjoy my story and if you do, I hope you will write a review on Amazon.

I invite you to join me at the TALK STORY EVENT on April 14th. To learn more about TALK STORY, go to my previous blog.

TALK STORY

I’d like to invite you to join me at TALK STORY in Washington DC on April 14th. See the flyer for more details. Many thanks to the sponsors – the 1882 Foundation, the Chinese American Museum, OCA, Chinese Service Center & CACA – for the invitation to share my story about “rooting for truth” and my short/short story “Ching Ming.” If you are a Louie or Lei and plan to attend, let me know ahead of time so I can bring you a copy of my new book.

If you are not able to attend in person, be sure to catch the event on the 1882 Foundation Facebook page.

Talk Story Carole Louie Flyer_proof_1_LI

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

 

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.

hong may (22)

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.

hong may collage

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.

san duo collage_2

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.

Rooting for Truth – patience and persistence pays off!

Another day at NARA (National Archives) and digging through more files, I hit pay dirt. The ratio of Chinese women to men in the early days of Chinese Sojourners to the Gold Mountain (U.S.) was very small. So, I cannot help wonder what motivated my grand-uncle to bring his young wife, Toy Shee, to San Francisco in 1928. I cannot help wondering what she must have felt as she birthed three children in this strange land. However, I have a feeling that my uncle Don (Louie Hung Don) would have cherished that young family as much as he loved spending time with me and my siblings in the 40’s and 50’s because he was one of the “bachelors” (the thousands of men alone).

What a difference it was reading Toy Shee’s interrogation versus her husband’s! And what a treasure trove of information painting a picture of her life in China. She must have come from a family of substance because ten servants accompanied her as she rode a sedan chair to her wedding. No doubt they were loaded down with gifts for the Louie family as well as all her worldly possessions. She proffered her husband (my paternal grand-uncle), a man she had never met, a cup of wine and paid respects to his ancestors at the family altar. Then, he went to the men’s celebration while she stayed at her new home with the women. A home she’d share with her in-laws and their servant, a young girl who fetched water from a river a few blocks from the house.

How did she feel when her husband returned to the Gold Mountain before their first child was born? How did she feel when he returned, decided to take her back with him but left their first-born with his parents?

A note to fellow genealogy researchers who are new to the Chinese traditions: Toy Shee means that she was from the Toy clan. I do not know what her birth name was. I do not know if a woman took a “married name” as her husband (Louie Kaow/Louie Qiao Wei) did. Her confident gaze speaks volumes to me even though she could not write or even sign her name.

I hope her spirit and/or the children’s will tell me more. Until then, I will enjoy MY grand-nieces and the memories of the day we shared exploring the Korean Market, snacked on fermented blue crabs, baby crabs, ramen, glass noodles and more. I’ll enjoy my extended family (new ‘cousins’ I met while doing research at NARA) as we dig through the documents, the Jiapu, and of course more food.