Too Many Homelands

To be Chinese in Vietnam, and Asian American out of Asia – Gladys Mac

One day in second grade, Mrs. L demonstrated Chinese calligraphy for my class, explaining that it’s an important part of Chinese culture. But I am Chinese too, I wondered – so how come I had no idea what she was talking about?

My family has always self-identified as Chinese, even though they lived in Vietnam for at least two to three generations. Some of my grandparents were born in Vietnam, while others migrated from Southern China. My great-grandparents had arrived in Vietnam after fleeing the Japanese occupation of China. My parents were both born in present-day Ho Chi Minh City, but they were educated in Taiwanese-founded private schools during their early school days; they did not receive a Vietnamese education until after the north and south were united. My dad’s side of the family owned a bustling Chinese restaurant; my mom’s side owned a lumber yard.

Chinese Corner

Classically Trained

Gladys Mac leaps into Jin Yong’s retro wuxia language

When I was in elementary school, my sister and I would stay up late on Saturday nights to watch TVB’s 1994 production of Legend of the Condor Heroes (射鵰英雄傳), based on a novel by Jin Yong, the beloved writer of wǔxiá 武俠 (martial arts) fiction who passed away last year at the age of 94. The Los Angeles branch of the Hong Kong channel aired this drama at midnight – we would watch two episodes before going to bed at 2 am, quite the commitment from the under-ten set. This drama reran a couple times in later years, and each time my sister and I would watch it as eagerly as we had the first. Sometimes it aired on weekend afternoons, and once on weekday afternoons during summer vacation. We scheduled our plans around the show in order to catch every episode. Many versions of this drama were produced in the following years, but none of them are as fun and fast paced as the 1994 version.