I first met her last year. early this year, she had a stroke but Auntie Ida told me she was well enough to receive me: I didn’t have her phone number. One of the reasons was her Shanghai accent is rather strong, making a conversation difficult. Auntie Anshu said she was very eager to see me, because we are all from the same family branch – 三房 san fang. This time, we chatted in her apartment a little more.
According to Auntie Anshu, my great granddad had seven wives:
- name unknown
- Popo’s Mom
- Anshu’s grandma – her daughter was Liu Rensheng, Auntie Anshu’s Mom
- .. who’s from Suzhou
- .. who died after giving birth to a son
- .. who gave birth to a son and a girl
- .. who’s one son &ntwo daughters
She said, one son died at age of 20 and the other joined army, and went to Qingdao – Jiujiu had mentioned few times that his grandfather had a young son who was born around 1933, a few years younger than Uncle Harry and about the same age as Jiujiu because Uncle Harry said he would not addressed him as Uncle since he was younger than he was. It’s very normal in the former time to have a younger Auntie or Uncle because of young concubines. Uncle Harry might have other reasons for refusing, because this son was despised by family members due to his anti-capitalism activity in Qingdao. Reportedly, 八舅爷 had textile factory in Qingdao with the Zhous, and out of consideration to his Dad, 八舅爷 gave a job to his much younger half brother. However, the half brother wasn’t amount to anything, instead he would become the snitch or revolutionary, 清算 (expose and criticize) his own brother who gave him a job.
She said Popo was Dad‘s little girl. She married so late was due to the fact, she was her Dad’s favored kid. Popo was very gifted at Chinese literature, and her Dad loved to have her around, and at times helping him out. Popo resent this very much, she never visited Shanghai again after her marriage, however miserable it was in Beijing. Her kid brother, 八舅爷 took the most beating growing up but he’s also the most successful and 孝顺 showed the most filial obedience. He financially supported his Dad and his sister – my Popo whenever they needed.
As for dowry, Auntie Anshu said the Grand dad gave Popo 7,000 大洋 dayang, the silver dollar, and Anshu’s Mom only 5,000 dayang. Auntie Anshu explained each dayang, the silver dollar worth 37 铜板 copper coin. At time, it cost about 3 tongban for a large pancake. If this were true, 7,000 silver dollar wasn’t a big deal. Jiujiu disagreed: Popo had far more ..
As for the house, it’s in a prime location but is dilapidated. The room she’s living in with her husband was my great grandfather’s the study. Across from this former study, was a room with the red door. One of her aunt (?) committed suicide there. The various neighbors (not housemates, although it felt like house mates since they all live under the same roof ..), or precisely families, all taken up whatever the space they could get their hands on. Auntie Anshu took me to the roof where a family is currently living.
“They’re the cadres, and took this roof illegally ..” the family built a room on the roof.
I remembered Auntie Anshu said few times last year that she couldn’t wait for the demolition – to move out of there. Surrounded by a few unfriendly families (or possible tormentors) isn’t fun.
Jiujiu wrote on April 14, 2011