The Wǒ Men podcast is a bi-weekly discussion of life in China hosted by Yajun Zhang and Jingjing Zhang. Previous episodes of the Wǒ Men podcast can be found here, and you can find Wǒ Men on iTunes here.
There are approximately 46 million ethnic Chinese people living outside China. The term “overseas Chinese” is mostly associated with the first period of migration (the 1850s–1950) after mass migration from China began during the mid-19th century (according to Hong Liu and Els Van Dongen’s 2013 book on the subject). At that time, a growing number of Chinese people left their homes in search of a better life and employment opportunities outside of China. It was then that Dominique Fong’s grandfather emigrated to America.
When Grandpa Yu first set foot in the United States, his “paper father,” a man he had never met before, was waiting for him. Grandpa Yu adopted a new surname — “Fong” — giving him a new identity along with a new life in California. Supported by the local Chinese community, Grandpa Yu had a similar life path to many in the Chinese diaspora — working in Chinese restaurants, waiting tables, learning English — until finally, he opened his own restaurant and lived his version of “the American dream.”
Now 86, Grandpa Yu probably never imagined that his granddaughter would return to China on a quest to find the home he left over 66 years ago. In our latest podcast, we sit down with Dominique to talk about this special project, her efforts to find her family’s roots, and the fascinating stories she has uncovered along the way.