Grandfather had always been a good raconteur. Grandfather’s stories and anecdotes made us want to sit up and listen. They were not just stories of old, which were plenty, but current affairs.
One of the best stories was when the Republic of China was founded by Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, and liberated the Chinese people from the foreign Manchu’s rule. The Manchurian or the Qing Dynasty had imposed on all the Chinese men that they had to sport the half shaven front and the long pigtail at the back. It was a quite ridiculous look, caricaturized in movies by Charlie Chan. The Manchurian Government ordered anyone not sporting this hair style seen as rebellious to be punished by beheading and serving as a warning to others. This pigtail hairstyle became part and parcel of a man’s life. The parents would choose a good day for a little boy to start sporting this pigtail. On the day of liberation, Grandfather was fourteen. He remembered very clearly that his pig tail reaching his shoulder was just long enough to be braided by himself. He had also grown quite fond of his little pigtail, and was quite reluctant to cut it off. His mother too, was wary that the liberation news was a hoax, refused to let the proponents of Dr. Sun cut his hair. From thereon, to his death, he sported a short hair style, not exactly a clean shaven head, but with a short fuzz.
Grandfather revered Dr Sun Yat-sen so much that he has a big photo about 1 yard square in the centre of his wall facing the front door where people had the gods. People normally put their ancestors’ photo and worship them as God. Grandfather told us who Dr Sun was, “he is the most important man in modern Chinese History.” Dr Sun also emancipated women, he made the cruel feet binding of women illegal. Grandfather also told us girls to be thankful that our feet were not bound.
Photo Courtesy : My ex-student/friend Tionsan Tomas on his China tour in Kwang Zhou.