Blood Ties
summer 2005 (vol. 17, no. 1)
208 pages

Cover artists: Edward Burtynsky is a Toronto-based artist who received one of three inaugural TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) prizes in 2004. For over twenty years, he has used photography to explore the complex relationship between nature and human industry.

Ronald G. Knapp is a professor emeritus in the SUNY department of geography. He has written or edited more than a dozen books and numerous articles on China’s historical and cultural geographies.

Interior artist: On Char was born in 1889 to immigrant plantation workers in Kohala, a town on the Big Island of Hawai‘i. From 1911 until his retirement in 1954, he operated the City Photo Studio in Honolulu, except for a two-year period during which he trained in New York and Chicago. When he retired, he donated his life’s work of over 90,000 negatives to the Bishop Museum in Honolulu; many of these document the Chinese immigrant experience.

Blood Ties presents work from rural and urban China, Tibet, Singapore, and the U.S. Through fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and artwork, this volume explores the complexities of Chinese identity created by migration, displacement, ethnic mixing, and separation from home. Individuals whose identities have been made more complex by rapid globalization will find these works especially meaningful.

Authors include Alai, Zhang Kangkang, Zhu Wenying, Zhang Er, Wang Ping, Arthur Sze, Yan Li, Catherine Lim, Colin Cheong, Rex Shelley, and Yi writer Aku Wuwu, published in English for the first time. Subjects range from the preservation of ethnic-minority cultures to the transformation of women’s roles by industrialization and urbanization.

The volume also presents Konglish, a chapbook of poems by Yuzun Kang, the winner of the first Vincent Chin Memorial Chapbook Prize; a flash portrait of Hong Kong by Ken Chen; a moving essay by Gregory Yee Mark on the Chinese immigrant experience in Hawai‘i; and more.

Guest editors: Karen Gernant has published her translations in four issues of MANOA as well as the publications Conjunctions, turnrow, and Black Warrior Review. Chen Zeping is a professor in the Chinese department at Fujian Teachers’ University; he has published a number of works on Chinese linguistics.

Translators include Karen Gernant, Chen Zeping, Denis Mair, Bill Ransom, Mark Bender, and Jjiepa Ayi.

I wish for you to again shoot down the suns,
But no matter where I look, I cannot find you.
I wish for you to again shoot down the moons,
But no matter where I look, I cannot find you.

I wish for the eagles to circle in the skies above,
But the sunlight is too strong.
I wish for the mothers to sit beneath the eaves,
Weaving their cloth,
But the moonlight is too cold.

—from “Calling Back the Soul
of Zhyge Alu” by Aku Wuwu
(translated by Mark Bender,
Aku Wuwu, and Jjiepa Ayi)

On Char • Lee Keong and family, Honolulu, 1917

The old woman’s dark, gloomy face brightened with amazement. Lamplike surprise sparkled beneath her thin, wrinkled skin. Even the crowns of the two tall, pagodalike dragon spruces that crowded the verandah seemed brighter as they caught the jade-green rays of light. Grandma knelt down and held my face. “You’re willing to ask for help. Dorje, you asked someone for help! If you asked me for help, you can ask others, too!” On the spacious verandah at the end of the army hospital’s long, silent, medicinal-smelling corridor, Grandma’s face glowed. I thought she had no requests of me, but she was giving me an education in ethics. Gripping my hand tightly, she proceeded to pass on her life experience to me. “In the past, people couldn’t be proud, but had to be modest. Asking for help can express your modesty and respect for others and for fate. What’s more, we need help and rescue.” Pointing to the sickroom door, Grandma said, “That person” — this was the first time she’d not said “your grandpa” — “that person brought something bad from the Chinese people, and now it has crushed him.”

—from“Blood Ties”
by Alai
(translated by Karen
Gernant and Chen Zeping)

On Char • Y.C. Lin, Honolulu, 1912

Take the mornings, especially those that came with the year-end holidays. Mornings come to all but the dead, and who was more alive than a child on holiday? Those year-end mornings were good because they came after nights of rain. Awakened by the sounds of the coffee shop downstairs opening for business, I would get out of bed, shivering with delight, to the smell of cold, fresh air. As the sky lit up, dawn light would fall on green hills behind the blocks and lift their airy veils of mist. Perhaps all mornings in kampungs and elsewhere are the same to children, the only distinction being the question "Do I have to go to school today?" And perhaps it is not the kampungs we miss but our childhoods, which, like the villages, are only memories sailing further and further away to horizons we only reach in death.

—from“Down to the River”
by Colin Cheong

On Char • Father and son on an Italian motorbike,
Honolulu, circa 1930

So all night, we walk in one direction: up.

This is really the only direction you can go into Hong Kong, a direction hinted at by skyscrapers and aspired to by the Hong Kong stock exchange. By "we," I mean my father, myself, and our guide—my step-grandmother-to-be—who somehow possesses both our combined age and our combined speed. Trudging up the stairs behind her, my father and I are already panting. We stop and laugh—really only an excuse to catch our breath—but by the top of the stairs, we're bent and sagging, our hands on our knees. And there, at the end of the street, she's waving at us to hurry up—almost as if to fan away whatever remains of our quaint Californian version of walking. When we catch up with her, she says—in what seems like an especially Chinese blend of ridicule and public affection—that we walk too slow.

—from“City Out of
Breath” by Ken Chen

On Char • Chun Tong and family, Honolulu, circa 1938

Yang Baoguo was even more inflexible than the legendary Judge Bao and more overbearing than the village head. One year, the next-door neighbor Cao-er had been seven or eight months along with her third child. A car pulled up at her house, and Yang Baoguo and three other men jumped out. Just like kidnappers in the movies, they dragged the big-bellied Cao-er into the car and took her to the village clinic. One cut of the knife was enough for the slaughter of the unborn child. Cao-er wanted to jump into the river, and Yang Baoguo told his henchmen not to stop her. After that, Zhima shivered whenever she heard his name, and whenever a child cried, the adults scared him into utter silence by saying that Yang Baoguo was on the way.

—from"Zhima"
by Zhang Kangkang
(translated by Karen
Gernant and Chen Zeping)

On Char • Chun Lee's family, China, before 1919

I believe in these poems etched into the walls
because I can fit my fingers in their grooves.
To the co-ed behind me, this place is “a chorus
of angels.” Chorus? Singing what
songs? They were not angels. Just people
with words. Each hand that held the chisel was an island,
each mind that held the hand was an island.

—from“Chinese Poems from
Angel Island, San Francisco”
by Yuzun Kang

Chin Chow • Chinese family • Honolulu, circa 1900

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