In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

204 China Review International: Vol. 2, No. 1, Spring 1995© 1995 by University ofHawai'i Press Regardless of such reservations, however, the richness of Oxfeld's ethnography , the numerous interesting questions that she raises in relation to Chinese studies, and the depdi ofher analysis make this study particularlyvaluable to those with an interest in family dynamics, emigration, entrepreneurship, or ethnicity in the Chinese diaspora. Nicole Constable University of Pittsburgh Lynn Pan. Tracing It Home: A Chinese Journey. New York: Kodansha International , 1993. 229 pp. Hardcover $22.00. Paperback $12.00. This elegandy written family history takes readers on a voyage to discover the recent past of the author's family. Along the way, we learn how national and international events intersect with private life, how ideology in the hands of the powerful can affect ordinary people, and how complex are the human responses to both positive and negative circumstances. In addition, Pan provides a fascinating view of Shanghai, especially in the 1940s and 1950s. Ultimately, this book reveals how strongly China's cultural identity has inscribed itself on die audior, even though she has spent most ofher life living elsewhere. Throughout the book the author's sense ofbeing a part of several different worlds recurs. Though she was born in China and lived there in her early years, the Communist victory in 1949 caused her father to go to Hong Kong, and then to Malaya. Widiin a few years her mother, and finally she and her brother, followed him. Until her mother's deatii in 1977, China remained a distant memory. But with that deatii, Pan began to wonder about the mysteries in her family history that her father would not or could not talk about. This search for her family 's past reveals a great deal about her own private history. But the book does not stop there. For, in exploring the particular ways her ancestors were influenced by cultural assumptions and historical events, she reveals much about the ways ordinary Chinese citizens fared during the tumult of the twentieth century. It is this which gives the book a universal appeal, while bringing things to a very human level. This book also shows how traditional Chinese assumptions about men and women hurt both groups. We learn, for example, about Pan's paternal grandmother who committed suicide in 1926 at age 33 because ofher husband's liaisons widi odier women. This shocked and confused the people around her, who Reviews 205 could not imagine a wife commiting suicide over her husband's affairs, since it was so common as to be expected. They could not imagine that she might actuallylove him and therefore find his actions intolerable. After her death, one ofthe grandfather 's two mistresses, Pearl, was elevated to the position of"madame" ofthe house. Ultimately she banished the other woman, Jade Peach, and her son, Yeshu. Jade Peach sued the family, unsuccessfully, and ultimately turned to opium. Pan's father was not aware diathe had ahalf-brother until Yeshu appeared at their father's deathbed in 1947. The lives ofPan's father and his half-brother took very different paths—one ofrelative comfort and privilège and the other ofmere survival. The revelation ofan unknown half-brother would repeat itselfupon the deadi of Pan's father in 1984. This, too, resulted in a lawsuit in which the father's will was contested and Pan's brother, "Didi," lost a considerable amount of his inheritance to the previously unknown mistress and her son. Ironically, Lynn was able to remain somewhat removed from this struggle since, as a daughter, her inheritance from her father was minimal and therefore not challenged. These events cause Pan to reflect upon the degree to which it is possible to escape the past, and whether things recur because one expects them to or for other reasons: "... to many Chinese what happens in history is not past, but all part of their now . . ." (p. 47). Much of Tracing It Home takes place in wartime Shanghai, where several things stand out. The first is the carefree attitude of many of die wealthy during the upheavals of the 1930s and 1940s. Pan's parents continued to live in...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 204-206
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.