Yihsaijou- Genealogy Lessons

Yihsaijou: a descendant of the rich who enjoys himself by squandering money.

In the past, famous Chinese clans kept track of their heirs by using the terms “yatsaijou” (first ancestor), “yisaijou” (second), “saamsaijou” (third), and so on.  A neutral phrase, yisaijou, didn’t have negative connotations until the Chin dynasty.  The First Emperor of Chin reigned from 221-210 B.C., conquering six other states and unifying China during his leadership.  The son who succeeded him to the throne, Yihsai Wohngdai (i.e. Chin Emperor II), destroyed his father’s legacy within a few years.

Chinese people value their ancestors.  They often pay respects to their forebears by burning incense or sweeping their graves on important festival dates, like Ching Ming.  They also keep a genealogy record of the family.

I remember my father showing me the valuable book containing my heritage.  The names listed showed all the males, per custom, from the generations past.  The significance of ancestry recurs a lot in my writing.  One of my short stories revolves around a boy’s tie to his physical family record even as a war breaks apart his childhood world.  Heritage also plays a role in one of my novels, where an all-female family experiences the importance of culture and the conflict of male-centric tradition.

As for me, I made it into my illustrious family’s records.  (For more on my upbringing, including a foray into the Chinese restaurant world, click here.  If you want to delight your taste buds, see this post about dan tat by fellow blogger Lara Britt.)

Thank you, Dad, for your decision to break the rules and your abiding, wonderful love.  May we all respect those who come before us, not the least of whom are women.

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Fogei- Waiters, Those Who Bring Sustenance
A-Fuk/Fuktauh- Blessed are the Fools


  1. I am fascinated by the fact that I can so frequently identify elements of my own life in the writings of those whose experience has been so different from mine. My heritage on both sides of my family was virtually 100% Irish — literally a world away from your culture — and yet the same elements of tradition and personal morality recur in my memories of my upbringing. One brief example can be found in the negative attitudes of many Irish Catholics toward Irish Protestants, which my Catholic parents rejected entirely, and thankfully, passed on to me by their many examples of tolerance and good will. I feel so blessed by the lessons of my childhood, and the enduring influence that my parents and grandparents have had on my adult life.

    Your fiction projects sound terrific, Jennifer, and you might consider someday gathering your posts into a non-fiction collection. They are wonderfully written, and a welcome education for those who would love to know more about your culture as a whole and your personal experiences in particular. Thanks for sharing these insights with the rest of us!

  2. How wonderful it must have felt to have your name written in the family book! Your stories sound interesting. I grew up in an all-female family.

  3. Thank you, Pat, for all your encouragement. I’m glad that you can connect to my experiences, despite the difference in cultures. And thanks, Elizabeth, too, for the support. It would be interesting to learn more about your experiences in an all-female family. Thanks for reading!

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