See other grants from this quarter:
For the last in this quarter’s cluster of grants, I’m mostly going to let the recipient – Cecilia Chien – speak for herself. I’ll just start by saying that I’ve been fascinated by Chinese genealogy since 1999 when I researched a story for PBS’s Ancestors series. It’s hit and miss as many records were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, but if they survived, it’s not unusual to find 4,000 years of family history. I’ll let Cecilia take it from here:
“As an American-born Chinese, I have long been interested in my roots. When I was growing up in the Midwest, my father, an immigrant from China to the U.S. in the 1950s, told me that the Chiens were descended from a king of the 10th century. Alas, I did not begin to investigate this tantalizing thread of my roots until after my father died in 2002. I have since discovered a network of Chien family societies across China.
According to our genealogy, I am a 38th generation descendant of King Chien (852-932) who founded a prosperous kingdom in the Yangzi delta. My goal is to write an account, “1,000 Years of a Chinese Family,” an odyssey back to the land of my parents. So far, I have shared my findings with the community in bits and pieces. I am a member of the Chester County Historical Society in West Chester, PA, where I have participated in genealogy workshops. I have spoken at “Family History Day” at the Historical Society of PA in Philadelphia. I’ve made good use of the Valley Forge Family History Center to tap into the Salt Lake City Family History Library. My research feeds into my lectures at West Chester University, where I teach in the History Department; as this is a normal school, most of our graduates go on to teach K-12 and, I hope, will incorporate such interests in their own lesson plans. I have enjoyed presenting my slides and findings on campus and at conferences.
I have furthermore shared my work abroad, particularly in China. I am a member of the King Chien Society of Shanghai, in the region where the king established his kingdom. This genealogical society is staffed by volunteers, mainly retirees and professionals in various fields, and almost all descendants of King Chien. We at times greet each other not by name but by generation number! The Society annually publishes an 80-page journal of research, letters, poetry, photography, and distributes it to members of the family across China. They run a website with the latest lineage news, reunion celebrations, and digital photo albums.
Once I joined the King Chien Society, I became their link to America. Few members have access to Western scholarship or are able to read English materials or have the chance to travel overseas. I have written short articles for them in Chinese on the efforts of local Chester County genealogists and about the Salt Lake City Library, which they have read with great interest. I have mailed copies of their journal to collections on the East Coast. I have translated some key historical texts from Chinese into English. I created the English subtitles for a 28-part historical TV drama series on King Chien—I hope this bilingual version can be produced for an English-speaking audience.
This year, I will finally have the luxury of doing some reading and writing with a sabbatical leave. I plan a number of field trips, including to the Shanghai Library, which has the largest genealogical collection in China, with at least 80 editions of the Chien lineage. I will also visit King Chien’s natal place, his capital city, and his royal tomb, all within a few hours of Shanghai. In each of these locations, the local government has opened to the public a number of museums and cultural parks to help promote heritage education, architectural preservation, environmental conservation, not to mention tourism. I feel I can make a contribution in shedding light on the genealogical practices of our two countries.”
Cecilia requested and received funding to cover half of her round-trip airfare from Philadelphia to Shanghai for her fieldwork.
UPDATE: You can check out the results of Cecilia’s trip here.