Coming to terms with a stigmatic linguistic identity – William Poy Lee
Suey Wan is an innocuous farmer’s village nestled among remote hills in the backwater heart of the fertile Pearl River Delta in Guangdong Province. My people’s six counties are collectively known as Toisan. Toisan’s origins are more legendary than historically established, but the first Chinese settlers are said to have arrived here during the chaotic last days of the Tang Dynasty, hoping to find peace in this then far-off corner of the expansive Chinese empire.
For a millennium, my forbears lived relatively unperturbed, rarely traveling farther than 20 miles away from their village, and eventually evolved their own version of the Cantonese dialect – the rustic, rough-sounding and salty jizz-juice tongue of Toisanese.