My first Tulou visit didn’t happen until I was 19. My first immersion into Tulou life didn’t happen until this week as a 21 year old.
Vicariously experiencing Tulou through my Mother’s stories and walking through the area now, I feel a distant yet familiar bond. Though I never lived here, Tulou is very much a part of me because of it was home for my family during the immensely difficult struggle of the Cultural Revolution. With every person I meet from my Mom’s younger years and every element of the countryside that I get to experience, I feel closer and closer to understanding my Mother’s teenage years and my family’s hardship in the countryside. At the least, I understand where my family’s work ethic and resiliency originated.
I visited the tiny room (equivalent to a small studio) my Mother used to sleep in with six other people, walked the trails she used to frequent, and passed the fields she used to labor in. But the most powerful part for me was to sit on the steps she used to sit on every afternoon. When she came back after an exhausting day on the fields, she would sit on these steps and gaze out to the mountains with tears in her eyes because she thought this was it. There was no future.
But three decades later, she has achieved the American Dream. Seven years after stepping onto America’s shore and first hearing English, my Mother graduated college with her CPA. She came with only a 5th grade education, a determined attitude, and hope for a better life. She paid her way through college and sent money back to China so her siblings could come to America too. Today, I am the living testament that her life has gone far beyond the Tulou.
The Tulou has had a profound effect on my family and shaped who they are. By extension, it has shaped who I am. These are my roots. By experiencing where my family came from, my hope is that I can come closer to understanding who I am and who I might become.
^ The Tulou my Mom and family spent 11 years in
^ Outside the room my Mom used to sleep in with 6 other people
^ The step my Mom used to sit on and gaze out to the mountains