Where I really come from...

If you want to know where I'm from, well, I hope you have some time, because it's complicated.

  • I'm from Philly. I live outside Philadelphia, PA. [But you don't have that cool Philly accent, like Kate Wislet in Mare of Easttown.]
Independence Hall, Philadelphia, PA

  • Okay, dude, I'm from a native Californian, born and raised in San Mateo, CA. But I have lived and worked all over the US and around the world.

[Well, what about your parents or their families?]

  • Alright, Dad, he grew up in San Francisco where went to high school and college.
  • Grandpa, he wasn't from San Francisco. He grew up out in the country in Palo Alto where he went to high school and college.
  • His father, my great-grandfather, spent over half of his life living in Palo Alto as well. But he first came to the US in 1888.
  • So, we've been Californians for generations.

[Where did your great-grandfather come from?]

  • Great-grandpa was from China. He was born in Dong On village near Zengbian Shangge Taishan 台山縣上閣曾邊村, which is close to Macau and Hong Kong. When he was born, the family had been in Taishan for 15 generations (since around ~1350). So, we've been Taishanese (or Hoisanese in the local dialect) for hundreds of years.
  • By the way's our family name is Dong, Tsang, or Zeng depending on what dialect you speak. Regardless of which dialect, it's written like this:

I'll use the Mandarin spelling for Chinese names and places from here on out.

  • Before going to Taishan, we had been in Guangdong province since 963 CE, or for at total of 30 generations, which was when the first Zeng migrated to Zhuji Alley 珠璣巷 in Northern Guangdong from Ganzhou, Jiangxi. Since most of the Han Chinese in Guangdong settled there in the 1100's after fleeing from China's central plains during the Mongol invasions, you can consider us a very old Cantonese family.

[Why didn't you say so?] ...hey, don't interrupt, I'm on a roll.

  • Before going to Guangdong, we had been in Jiangxi for 25 generations starting in 10 AD, when Zeng Ju 曾據 fled south from Shandong with 1,000 members of his family after he refused to serve the emperor. Since this mass migration, the Zeng's have been almost non-existent in Northern China and are concentrated in Jiangxi and Guangdong. So, our family lived in Jiangxi longer than we lived in Guangdong. So, you could say we're really from Jiangxi, and an old Southern Chinese family.
    Portrait of Zeng Ju

Frequency of Zeng Surname (as a % of population)

[I get the feeling there's more. You said Zeng Ju was from Shandong?]

  • We know that Zeng Ju's 13th great-grandfather was Zengzi 曾子 who lived from 505 to 436 BC and was the founder our clan. He was from South Wu City 南武城 in Shandong. Zengzi was a disciple of Confucius, the main author of the Great Learning 大學, and one of the four Sages credited with transmitting what we know as Confucianism down through the ages.
  • That's him over there... one of the four Confucian Sages, the Duke of Zong Sheng, the big Kahuna, the founder of the Wu Cheng Zeng Clan
    Z E N G Z I...

AND... in case you're curious...

  • We can trace Zengzi's family back another 70 generations. Those generations include tales of the taming of wild beasts and raging floods, virtuous rulers, assassinations, and an exiled prince. That history and mythology starts with the Yellow Emperor in 2,698 BCE near present day Qufu, Shandong. So, we've been in Shandong hundreds of years longer than we've been in Southern China (Jiangxi and Guangdong combined). So, at some point it is Shandong all the way down. If you want to know more than that, you'll have to look beyond China's historical and mythical past.

TLDR: I'm from Philadelphia where we've lived since 2018, before that California, specifically, the San Francisco Peninsula where my family has lived for 130 years, 925 years in Guangdong of those 538 in Taishan County, 953 years in Jiangxi Province, and 2,708 years in Shandong Province.

That's where I'm from on my dad's side. I'll tell you about my mother's side another time. How about you? Where are you from? I've got some time.

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