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Richmond first-generation immigrant felt emotional after learning his family history

A first-generation immigrant felt emotional after learning about her great-great uncle's journey.
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Huaiyuan Sun(left one) said the more he understands his genealogy, he feels he has come to know himself and his place in the world.

It was only when Huaiyuan Sun moved away from his roots did he become interested in them.

Before immigrating to Canada, Sun wasn’t particularly interested in exploring his family tree, but since living here in Richmond and untangling his genealogy, he feels he has come to know himself and his place in the world.

“All journeys begin from home,” said Sun.

“If you don’t know anything about your family history, it’s like being a leaf without knowing you’re part of a tree. And we serve as bridges between the memories, present moments and the future journeys,” he added.

Sun has traced his roots back to Henan, a province in Central China’s Yellow River Valley where Chinese civilization is widely believed to have originated.

Over the centuries, however, his ancestors branched out, travelling all over the globe, including to North America.

One of the oldest recorded ancestors Sun discovered was his great-great uncle, Qinbo Sun, who was born in 1900, a time when China was ruled by the corrupt Qing family, and its ports were controlled by foreign nations. 

Despite China being in a state of chaos and called “the sick man of Asia, Sun’s great-great uncle was determined to “save” the nation by importing the latest in Western science and technology. 

“My great-great uncle decided to take a brave move to study modern agriculture abroad since the vast majority of farmers in China relied on old-fashioned and outdated equipment to harvest land in China,” continued Sun. 

Qinbo graduated from a college in the U.S. and later moved to the United Kingdom where he thrived as a foreigner, explained Sun. 

Regardless, Qinbo decided to return to China where he took a job working for the Chinese National Party, which governed all or part of mainland China from 1928 to 1949 and subsequently ruled Taiwan under Chiang Kai-shek.  Qinbo’s job was mainly to recruit top talent to the Chinese National Party’s ranks. 

“My great-great uncle had even kept a signature from Chiang Kai-shek,” said Sun. 

“I guess Chiang Kai-shek must have loved the work my great-great uncle did, or perhaps they held the same belief for building a better country,” Sun said hypothesizing how Sun senior could have obtained a signature from such a high ranking leader in China.

Sun wonders if it wasn’t his great-great uncle’s desire to explore the west that inspired his own venture to Canada, noting that he’s not the only decedent with a taste for travel. His family tree can be traced all over the globe.

“Genealogy isn’t directly related to politics. But it’s hard to talk about genealogy without mentioning the history. The more you look into it, you would feel we are nothing but just specks of dust in this universe. Life is short, but it’s also so beautiful to be alive,” said Sun. 

“Just cherish the present and people around you - this is my suggestion for you after learning about my family’s history.”