尋根 / Ancestry

 Chaozhou, Guangdong, China 潮州

So this entry really isn’t just about Chaozhou, but about Chaoshan. But when we’ve spent decades claiming that our homeland is Chaozhou, not realising the difference? That’s a little shameful. Then again, I didn’t even know Chaozhou was a city until recently (I thought it was a province), and couldn’t point to it on a map if you asked.

Three-quarters of my bloodline hails from the Chaoshan region. It’s often simply and confusingly referred to as Chaozhou, better known amongst the Cantonese-speaking diaspora (of which I am a part of) as Chiu Chow, and as Teochew in its eponymous language that I cannot speak or understand. While part of the Cantonese-speaking Guangdong province 廣東/广东, the Chaoshan (Teoswa) region is unique in that it uses the Teochew language instead. (Mandarin has four tones, Cantonese has six, and Teochew has eight!) While not actually true, it sometimes seems like there’s far more Teochew people outside of Chaozhou than in it! Many ethnic Chinese people you may know, even prominent politicians — particularly in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and immigrants in Canada and USA — trace their lineage to this region. Members of this Teochew diaspora have tended to lose their language within a generation, including my parents, who are still able to understand it due to being raised with the language present, but largely unable to speak it.
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