January 25 – March 2, 1997
The Chinese Culture Center is pleased to present in celebration of Chinese New Year and the genealogy program “In Search of Roots,” an exhibition of 30 photographs by Fred N. Lee. After fifty years of absence from his native home, photographer Fred N. Lee and his wife left San Francisco in the Spring of 1987 to visit his village home in Taishan, Guangdong Province, China. When they arrived, there was a celebration for a new village school with children lining up to greet them chanting words of welcome. On visiting his former high school, the young principal came out to see them and helped look up Lee’s school record. Just across the street was the grade school Lee’s late twin sister attended. She was a school teacher who had died during the Japanese occupation.
The house where he had lived is now occupied by a family of six. They toured the house inside and out trying to recollect childhood memories. On the living room wall are two panels of photographs Lee had sent to his parents of his life in the United States. His father had pasted Lee’s late twin sister’s portrait next to one of himself as a way of remembering the children. Their relatives, including Lee’s cousins, came to visit them at the Overseas Hotel in Kaiping city all crowding in the hotel room. Some were crying secretly at our short reunion.
For Fred Lee, things had changed in China, yet at the same time, everything seemed unchanged. The village looked very old except the added new TV antennas and overhanging electric wires. A question which will always be on Fred Lee’s mind is, how are things back in Taishan now? Are all the “grandmas” still working hard, taking care of those kids? The answer is probably yes.