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Zhangzhou, Fujian: Bing Han’s migration trip (1)


chinese-emigratingHow did your ancestors make their migration journey? How does one travel to a new beginning? The story below follows a typical Chinese emigrant on his way to Semarang, some 100 years ago.

It is 1912, the first year of the Republic of China. Bing Han has just turned 16 and is about to leave his village in Zhangzhou, Fujian province. He has never left home, but now needs to make a journey of 4000km. He is scared.

Equipped with straw sandals, an umbrella, and a bag of food, Bing Han sets off for Semarang in Indonesia, where his brother Bing Yao has already been living for four years. Their oldest brother, Bing Swie, has to stay at home to till the fields and take care of their parents.

The Zhangzhou Inn in Amoy
With feet of lead, Bing Han walks to the city of Zhangzhou, which takes a day. From there, he goes on a flat-bottomed wooden boat to daunting Amoy (Xiamen), the bustling emigration hub of Fujian. In Amoy, Bing Han stays at the ‘Zhangzhou Inn’, whose guests all come from Zhangzhou and who all seem to be going to Semarang.

They will need to go to a place called Singapore first. There, Bing Han will meet Tik Tjoe, who is organizing the whole trip and will bring him to Bing Yao. Tik Tjoe has partnered with the Zhangzhou Inn for years and he has arranged that its owner gives Bing Han his boat ticket.

After several lonely days of waiting at the Inn, the boat for Singapore is ready to leave. Bing Han follows the other guests to the harbor and nervously approaches the intimidating, metal steam boat.

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