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A Chinese Malaysian's encounter in a train cabin in China

By Kuan Yong | | Updated: 2016-10-11 09:36

A Chinese Malaysian's encounter in a train cabin in China

A passenger smokes before a high-speed train leaves the station in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, Feb 25, 2014. [Photo/IC]

I have been in China since 2014. The first thought I had was, “Oh, being a foreigner has a certain advantage”. Then I realized that’s for a westerner. Being a 3rd generation Malaysian Chinese coming to China for first time really opened my mind to how the mainland has forgotten about the overseas Chinese Diaspora.

As I vividly recalled, it was in August 2015 that I took a train from Shenzhen to Xiamen. It was cozy and comfortable because it is not the usual 5 chairs in a row but rather 8 passengers sitting inside a cabin with 4 beds. I took my time to find my bed and sat on it. It was a quiet, empty cabin with just 2 passengers inside. A few minutes later, a broad yet plump-faced teenager sat beside me. I was calm and focused, doing paperwork in English. He was curious and began prodding me to use English. He then started talking about his journey from his hometown in Sanmenxia, Henan to Shenzhen and to Xiamen. During his journey, he encountered a foreigner who couldn't speak Putonghua and he helped him. He then continued with a brief introduction of his hometown, Sanmenxia in Henan province.

As the conversation became more friendly, he then asked a simple question most Chinese people will ask, “Where are you from, brother?”

I can’t really say where I am really from because maybe he had no idea where it is, so I answered “I’m from Chaoshan, Guangdong”. It is not a lie because it contains 25% truth in the answer.

I am born with a Chinese name yet it doesn’t follow pinyin in the official national registration.

I have a typical Southern Chinese face and speak different languages including not-so-accurate Putonghua, Cantonese, English and Chaoshan dialect.

I have been in China since 2014 and have been traveling extensively, so I know quite a lot of China ‘s places and current issues.

All this blended to make me a typical average Chinese.

However, the truth was revealed when a train attendant start checking identity cards inside the train. All passengers inside the cabin showed their Chinese I.D while I showed my passport and it is did not have the Chinese emblem on it. Rather it is printed with two tigers standing with “Pasport Malaysia” on top.

The curious youngster then asked me, “Brother, I thought you said you are from Guangdong.”

“Partly true,” I replied. I then continued saying, “I am actually from Malaysia, my great grandfather and grandmother are from Shantou, Guangdong and both of my parents are pure-bred Malaysian Chinese of Chaoshan ancestry. By nationality, I am Malaysian, by race, I am Chinese but my root is still in Chaoshan.”

The youngster looked astonished, as he has no idea about overseas Chinese except the turtle (Chinese returnee) and non-Chinese foreigner.

After briefly introducing my background to him, we started to exchange Wechat contacts and chatted briefly. I even toured with him around Xiamen. To this day, we still contact each other from time to time.

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