Blood and Soil

The Chinese minority targeted in Indonesia, historically and today – Frank Beyer

The Palace Museum in Yogyakarta, a city on the Indonesian island of Java, is a mixed bag. The gated entrance to the Sultan’s royal palace complex, the Kraton, opens onto a large grass-covered square – a relief from hot, traffic-choked streets. Within, the museum is not very well maintained but has several interesting exhibitions, one being portraits of all the Sultans of Yogyakarta since 1755. The date of birth, length of reign and number of children of each ruler are given – one managed eighty-two offspring. Today’s Sultan, Hamengkubuwono X, gave up the tradition of having concubines and has only one wife and five children.

In contrast to the rundown Palace Museum, a nearby Chinese temple, the Vihara Buddha Prabha, looks like it just received a fresh paint job. The entrance is bright in its yellows, reds and blues – more ostentatious even than similar temples in Taiwan. Inside, there are altars featuring an array of different buddhas and deities (the cast of the Chinese heavens is hard to remember). Adding to the impressive interior are scenes from the Chinese classics painted on the walls.


What We Owe Each Other

Anxiety of influence in writing from the diaspora Jane Shi 

I am afraid of ancestral debt. The debt that does not come in the form of money, though it is often steeped in it. The debt that is not knowing – of how to ask and where or why exactly it hurts. An inheritance that cannot be thrown out, a thing more ceaseless than ocean and more anguished than birds swallowing plastic. 

What is ancestral debt? To whom are we indebted, and how? Over time, as I come into my voice as a Chinese Canadian writer and poet, I learn that the central questions of diaspora are best attended to through metaphor. The movement of a vehicle (ocean, birds) as it reimagines a tenor (inheritance of debt) is much like what happens when bodies migrate across land and water to reimagine belonging. If a poet’s job is to bear witness and reassemble everything that gets tugged away and lost through displacement, what happens when the poet herself houses the memories, stories, and hauntings of that loss? What does she do with images that keep coming back and refuse to let go? 


Queer Finds Family

Cantonese opera ignites LGBTQ voices in Vancouver’s Chinatown – Kimberley Wong 

Editor’s note: To celebrate Pride Month and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, this column brings you three stories from queer and LGBT+ diasporic communities over the next three days, beginning with Kimberely Wong’s route back to the art of her grandfather, a master of Cantonese opera. – Rebecca Choong Wilkins

As I stood at the bottom of the stairs at the Wong’s Benevolent Association, I held a plant in one hand, my hand gripped tight to the grainy bottom of the pot, eyes interrogating the leaves, ensuring they were glossy and auspicious-looking. I wanted to make a good impression on the folks I would be meeting today. I had my notebook, with ‘Wong’ written on the front, in the other hand. I had asked my Dad and my Grandma, both born Wongs, to tell me the names of our ancestors and fellow Wong Chinese-Canadians, so that I could look them up in the manifestos and so that I could tell Uncle Tim Wong, the elder Wong historian, to whom I was related. In the scurry of looking through photos of my Yeh-Yeh, my paternal grandfather, we figured that he and Tim Wong must have been in Chinatown at around the same time, in the same social circles.


The Past is a Foreign Country

Finding a vanished Chinese home in Vietnam – Connie Mei Pickart

With children at least, balloons are still popular here. A little girl has a big red one tethered to her wrist. When I was seven I had one like it on Chinese New Year. I recall the bang when my father burst it with his lit cigarette. A boy nibbles on a dripping popsicle that looks and tastes like watermelon. I know the taste because it was one of my summertime favorites. Nearby, a woman stirs a bucket of gooey maltose with a pair of wooden sticks. The old man outside my primary school sold these for 10 cents a stick. “Maiyatang!” The woman hawks at me in Chinese, as if she knows.

It all seems familiar. For a moment, I feel like I am transmitted back in time, to the heartland of China where I grew up.

Diaspora, Q&A

Singapore with a Republican Accent

Rebecca Choong Wilkins interviews Jannis Jizhou Chen about the Sinophonic voice

Jannis Jizhou Chen was born in Chengdu and left China in his teens. Since then he has sojourned in Singapore, Germany and the United States. His publishing debut is a collection of short stories in Chinese, The Stories of Eng Watt Street (永發街事), released in January. Rebecca Choong Wilkins sat down with him as part of her Diaspora column for the China Channel to talk about the controversies of the Sinophonic voice, in all of its varieties.

Can you tell me about your debut work?

It is a collection of 12 short stories taking place in Singapore on Eng Watt Street. I had lived there for six years and got to know many lovely neighbors. I started writing some of the stories while there, and turned many of my dear neighbors into fictional characters. Each story focuses on one household, but when read together, they form certain connections with each other.