When I sat down to write this week’s column I wasn’t sure what emotion to express. While I’m very grateful, I am also disgusted and angry. Very much like the way I felt when the China Alley statue of Ho Tai was badly vandalized.
Early in May we received several calls regarding a “cement block” with Chinese writing that appeared to have been dumped on the south side of the parking lot behind the City of Hanford offices and next to the cyclone fence just behind the Antique Emporium store. When we then received a few emails with photos, I recognized that the cement block was a grave marker and most likely stolen from Hanford’s Chinese cemetery. Steve left the Tea Room to bring it back to the Taoist Temple Museum. Shortly thereafter he returned red faced, sweaty and empty handed. “That thing is heavy,” he explained.
We rounded up Museum docents and helpers who brought the abandoned grave marker back to China Alley. I took several pictures, with the intention of obtaining a translation of the three columns of calligraphy etched into the marker. Mom was able to read a few of the words, but we needed a full translation.
It took me a few weeks, but here is what is written on the grave marker:
The right column of calligraphy reads: People of the Baan Mei Yuen Village, Zhang Shan. The middle: Grave of Mr. Wong Woon Naam. The left column: The date November 18 of the 30th year of the Republic of China (1941).
I wasn’t sure what do to next. Return the grave to the cemetary? Try to find Mr. Wong Woon Naam’s family? As it does, life became busy and the grave marker issue became buried under other “to do” lists.
Then about a couple of weeks ago, something trembled in my mind and I had the strong sense I knew something about this grave marker. But I was unable to pull a thread of memory or awareness. Wisps of thoughts floated in my mind but never formed completely. I thought perhaps I had dreamed about the marker and thought the dream was reality.
Maybe I had such a dream. Maybe Mr. Wong Woon Naam’s spirit was trying to give me some information. The mind and consciousness are far vaster than we usually credit during the mundane busy-ness of day to day living. Recently a friend told me about a dream her husband sent her immediately after his death when the veil between worlds is thin. My own dream, however, remained vague until the other day and I knew exactly why I knew about the grave marker and that it had definitely been taken from the Chinese cemetery.
In October 2015, the Chinese American Museum, Los Angeles presented a new exhibit: “Tales of the Distant Past: The Story of Hong Kong and the Chinese Diaspora (A tribute from the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals of Hong Kong).” The exhibition explored the migration of the Chinese peoples and their possessions, and several items belonging to the Taoist Temple Museum were displayed as we have many artifacts that exemplify the diaspora of Chinese to California and to Hanford specifically. Members of the Chinese American Museum, Los Angeles and the Tung Wah Museum picked up the items from us in July 2015. Prior to picking up the items from the museum, they visited the Chinese cemetery where they took photographs, including of the grave marker for Mr. Wong Woon Naam. The shadow of a dream flitted through my mind, whether a dream of a memory or a message dream, I did not know.
The next day Steve and I went to the cemetery. We found the spot where the marker had been. That’s when I became very grateful for those who saw the marker and got in touch with us, and very angry and disgusted with those (it’s heavy, so I’m pretty sure there were more than one) who thought it would be a good idea to take it, and then just dump it. It’s one thing to vandalize a statue of Ho Tai, the unoffical official mayor of Hanford, but someone’s grave?
Anyway, for the most part, the mystery of the abandoned grave marker is solved, though I still wish I could remember fully the dream I have come to believe was as real as the photographs I came to remember. So I thought there should be some sort of celebratory feast that included noodles, which in the Chinese culture, are symbolic of longevity. I wanted to serve them, not because we had been dealing with graves and cemeteries, but to mark and celebrate ongoing life and awareness, the continuity of knowing and recording reality, whether in the language of dreams or in black and white images. And because – China Alley, may you live forever.
With this too hot weather, the mere thought of cooking every dish I wanted to serve for this said feast, made me wilt even further. Now is not the time to be laboring over hot stoves and ovens. I’m sharing with you a cellophane noodle salad. Cellophane noodles are made from mung beans and are often called glass noodles. The original recipe calls for Thai chili peppers, but this time I used half a poblano because that’s what I had on hand. Use the type of pepper suited to your preference of heat. If you don’t like the heat, this salad is just as tasty and refreshing with a red bell pepper.