Monday, January 9, 2006

My family is from Amoy/Xiamen in China

In a recent conversation with my mother, she mentioned that the Chinese part of my family is from Amoy, and that my grandfather journeyed to Panama originally to be a gold miner.

I did some reading and general poking around and found some information on Amoy, or Xiamen as it is now known.

"Another all-American food, hamburger, is not really complete without ketchup, a condiment that bears little resemblance to its namesake ketsiap, which is what the people of Amoy, an island off the coast of Fukien, called pickled fish sauce."

"Speaking of Chinese", Raymond Chang & Margaret Scrogin Chang, ISBN 0-393-32187-8 p. 40

"During the nineteenth century, Yankee clipper ships sailed past Kowloon up the Pearl River to a city once known to the West as Canton, now spelled Guangzhou in Pinyin, bringing ginsing roots, otter furs, and cash to trade for tea and silk. In 1848 they brought a golden dream as well, a dream that caused wretched coolies to leave their life of hopeless toil in civilized China to make their fortunes in the land of the barbarians. They indentured themselves by the boatload to reach the gold fields of California, called by Cantonese to this day the Mountain of Gold. San Francisco, the first city they reached, is the Old Mountain of Gold. For most immigrants, the new country turned out to be a mountain of laundry, but that is another story."

"Speaking of Chinese", Raymond Chang & Margaret Scrogin Chang, ISBN 0-393-32187-8 p. 90

I found a couple of web sites with info on Amoy:

  • Amoy, the language, is also known as Minnanyu

  • Amoy, the port city, is now called Xiamen

  • Fukien, the province, is now called Fujian

  • The written Chinese for Amoy/Xiamen is 厦门 (厦 = Mansion, 门 = Gate)

  • There's a place where you can download traditional music from Amoy:

  • The official website of the Xiamen government is (there are also pages for traditional and simplified Chinese)

  • There is a Wikipedia article on Amoy/Xiamen at

  • Apparently there was a dice game invented in Amoy in which you threw six mah jong dice into a bowl to compete for mooncakes. I haven't found instructions yet.

  • Another Amoy expat website: (which is mostly cheerful and light-hearted punctuated with a horrifying story about the opium wars)

That's what I've found so far. I've also found a couple of sites where people ask geneology questions, specifically about Amoy. I don't really know anything other than the name Chen Man Tak and that he (or someone related to him) was a gold miner in Panama. His wife's name was Lam See, and his brothers may have been named Backu and Pinyu.

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