Family History, Time Travel, and Ghost Banishing - My Family Travels
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Family_Shrine
Family_Shrine
Hell_Notes
Hell_Notes
Home
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I was as far as possible be—displaced into a world where time raced around in circles. I was in a place that felt incredibly foreign, yet gave me a sense of nostalgia and hospitality. The trip consisted of a party of fourteen (ranging from my grandmother to my cousins, my aunts, my uncles, and my parents). For some, it was an adventure. Others, a learning experience. But for all of us, it was a connection to our past. In the summer of 2007, my family took a trip to China and Hong Kong.

We spent a week in China where we visited my grandparents’ village and meet with old relatives and friends. The village was located in a rural and remote part of southern China. Roads were vacant and rice paddies covered the plains. Oxen grazed on the sides of the road and geese populated ponds. We arrived at the archway of my family’s village. It was worn with age and didn’t shine like those in your local Chinatown.

We entered the village over a small stone bridge that arched over the local reservoir. Houses were packed together and a network of ally ways veined through the community. Sewage trenches on the side of the main street had an odor that attacked the nostrils when we got too close. Chickens pecked around, looking for a meal before they themselves became one. The house was made of bricks, now packed with debris and time. The rain washed-red door welcomed our presence.

The house had been vacant for decades but was still furnished and looked as if someone just walked up and left. The air was ghostly and it felt like we just warped back in time. There were no modern technologies. No television, no lights, no air conditioning (which would have helped with the oppressive tropical climate). The kitchen sink remained full of pots and pans. Straw mats hung on the walls to dry various foods. Looking up from the kitchen was the family shrine where incense would be lit to honor ancestors. It was the center of the house and the second story balcony wrapped around it. We found bedrooms full of artifacts and furniture. There were wooden beds with straw mattresses. Bureaus and chests contained objects like bowls, clothes, chopsticks, and keys. I realized that this wasn’t just some house really far away; it was our home. And this was where my roots began.

We visited our “new” home several times before our week was up and had to ferry to Hong Kong. But before we left, we had to make sure that we were leaving in good spirits and have the house protected for more decades to come. No, we didn’t sup-up the house with high tech cameras or impassable lasers. This surveillance system consisted of fire, smoke, and a lot of noise.

Evil spirits are the bane of superstitious Chinese and to have them in your home would ensure misfortune for the family. To protect the home from evil spirits, we guarded each entryway of the home with a new set of burning incense. Firecrackers were also lit to scare off any malign entities lurking in the corners. And, as a blessing to our home and family, we ceremoniously prayed to our ancestors. We burned hell notes—special paper money that would be used for the afterlife of our departed. Before our final departure, we took turns holding incense and bowing three times in front of the shrine. This is our way of saying “good-bye” to the physically dead and the spiritually sound around us.

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