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Search for Titanic Chinese survivors: 8 Chinese passengers, 6 survived

Search for Titanic Chinese survivors: 8 Chinese passengers, 6 survived

by YCPress

At the beginning of the film Titanic, the camera follows actor Jack through the third-class aisle, and a braided Chinese looking for the cabin with a dictionary. After the ship sank, he lay on a floating wooden board and shouted “I’m here” in Cantonese.

Jack and Ruth’s love is fictional, and the Chinese on this board is not.

When Steven Schwankert, an American who studies ocean history, found his director friend Arthur Jones and said he wanted to make a documentary about the Titanic, the latter had little interest: “Titanic is very mainstream and there’s nothing else to discover.” ”

Schwank told Luo Fei that there were eight Chinese passengers on board the Titanic.

They have lived in China for more than 20 years, and Schwank remembers going to the Dongdan Cinema in Beijing when the 1998 film Titanic was released. At that time, pirated discs were popular, cinema ticket prices were more expensive, seats were uncomfortable, and the voice of the BP machine was always ringing, “but there were still so many people to see it and a second time.” “Even Chinese aunts who can’t speak English can sing the original theme song, “My Heart Is Eternal.”

The 3D version of the film was re-released in 2012, Chinese mainland grossed nearly 1 billion yuan, almost half of the box office for overseas films. In 2019, in an effort to attract tourists, a company in Daying County, Sichuan Province, announced an investment of 1 billion yuan to build a 1-1 titanic replica.

Despite Chinese enthusiasm for the “floating palace”, few knew that there were eight compatriots in the third class and that six survived.

“If people only know about one shipwreck, it’s the Titanic, ” says Schwank, who grew up by the sea. Anything that can modify or add a part of the story is a success. ”

At first, he thought it was a story about a shipwreck, and what attracted him was the process of decryption. Later, he discovered that “the shipwreck was a big piece of steel” and that the story of the people on board made it meaningful. After five or six years of hard investigation, Schwank re-introduces the six forgotten Chinese survivors to people more than 100 years later. “And the Titanic wasn’t the biggest pain of their lives.”

Six names

The originals for the “Six” were only six names, written on the passenger list: Ah Lam, Fang Lang, Chang Chip, Lee Bing, Cheong Foo, Ling Hee.

“Is this Cantonese?” Or Minnan? Schwank wondered, why are these Chinese names from more than 100 years ago all two words? Each pronunciation can correspond to several Chinese characters. The documentary team abandoned Cheong Foo’s storyline early on because there were so many people calling the name. “Ah Lam” has been incorrectly recorded as “Ali Lam” in history.

In an office in Shanghai, the six names are scattered on a whiteboard, with key messages filled in one by one, around the names. The researchers were spread across Shanghai, four or five in Shanghai, two or three in the United States, two in the United Kingdom and two in Canada – one of whom joined the housewife after seeing the news on Facebook.

Schwank is fascinated by the story of the shipwreck, but faced with six names, he feels like a research tour like a raffle, and may end up with nothing.

A researcher searched archives and libraries in the United States, browsed newspapers at the time of the April and May 1912 shipwrecks, and found thousands of pages of records of interviews with the six men, even though there were more than two dozen Chinese media in the United States at the time.

The Titanic, with 700 survivors, once stood in the heart of Washington, D.C., with a memorial statue. British-born director Luo Fei says survivors are well-known in at least their own countries. As a child, an elderly neighbor survived on the Titanic, and a casual internet search would tell the story of when she was born, how many children she had, what she had experienced on board and how she lived. Other survivors were treated in a similar way, except for the six silent Chinese.

“If you don’t have any particular interest in Chinese survivors, it’s hard to study them.” Schwank said.

In 2018, the documentary team commissioned a company called My China Roots to look for traces of six people. It was a company that helped overseas Chinese find roots, and it helped reunite a Chinese woman in Texas with distant relatives in Guangdong, and found a Chinese-Chinese chinese in Liverpool, England, a half-sister he had never heard of.

Founder Li Weihan was born in the Netherlands, and after his ancestors left Fujian 200 years ago, the family lived abroad for seven generations. Apart from his name, birthday longevity and skin color, Li Weihan grew up with no other Chinese elements. It was not until he returned home that he understood the long-term psychological impact of “recognizing his ancestry”.

Usually, Li Weihan’s clients are looking for the descendants of their ancestors, but looking for these six people is different, looking for both ancestors and future generations, “we are not so much going back in time as trying to move forward.” ”

By then, Schwank’s team had identified the six men as employed by British merchant ships, and the company planned to send them to New York, then to Cuba, where they would eventually be transported back to the UK. That’s why they set foot on the Titanic. Less than 24 hours after the giant ship hit an iceberg, six Chinese survivors were brought ashore and immediately set foot on another boat bound for Cuba, continuing their adrift journey.

Fortunately, Li Weihan’s team found the crew list at the National Archives in London. It records the sailor’s birthplace, the time he boarded and the boats he worked on, and even finds the names of four of the six Chinese, as well as photographs.

Some of the crew listed their addresses in the UK, liverpool’s old Chinatown, where many of the buildings were gone when the documentary team ran there.

The researchers also found that Chang Chip, who had escaped the shipwreck, had not escaped pneumonia and died in London just two years later. He was buried in the south-east of London, and the cemetery was filled with new gravestones, leaving no headstones.

Researchers in the UK say tracking six people is a fascinating experience, despite its sad tone. Looking at old photographs of Chinese crew members, researchers imagine their lives a hundred years ago: working in the boiler rooms of giant steamboats, far from home and loved ones, always drifting, without a permanent address, “must be a lonely life for many people.” ”

From the information recorded on the crew list, the researchers roughly pieced together the whereabouts of six people who left the Titanic, transporting fruit back to Europe, then north America, then Europe, and then North America, some of whose names appeared on ships in Britain, France and Spain.

“I was asked why you made so many documentaries and ran so many places.” “Because they (six) ran a lot of places, we were pushed there,” Schwank said. ”

Ah Lam is the oldest of the six, “nearly 40 years old, but the picture looks like 50 years old.” Schwank said. His name always comes first on the crew list, and researchers speculate that he is likely to be the leader of the six, with more experience and English.

Ling Hee had a scar on his face, which led researchers to quickly confirm his identity. He was last seen in the data in 1920, when he boarded a ship from India and has since disappeared. After the end of World War I, British merchant sailors retired from the navy, and the Chinese sailors who had filled their vacancies were redundant, and many were secretly repatriated.

Ah Lam’s trajectory disappears somewhere in Asia. “If you think about it, you’ve been a sailor for decades and suddenly you’ve been sent to places you haven’t lived in decades, and you’re out of work.” Looking at the photos from a hundred years ago, Schwank lamented, “It’s like I went back to the U.S. for three weeks, my visa was suddenly canceled, I didn’t have a job in the U.S., my stuff was in China, so what to do.” ”

Fang Rongshan and Fang Lang

Fang nationals were born in the United States, do not speak Mandarin, like to hunt deer with guns, have their own piece of land. He runs a restaurant and lives in a middle-class community. One day, Fang received an e-mail from China, “Do you know Fang Lang on the Titanic?” ”

“That’s my father, his name is not Fang Lang, it’s Fang Rongshan.”

Fang National impression of the father is always a straight suit, tie, hand wearing a phnom penh-encrusted jade ring, he is used to silence, often smiling at his son.

In 1894, Fang Rongshan was born in the village of Hagawa Island in Taishan City, Guangdong Province. Taishan is a famous overseas Chinese town, in the Lower Nanyang, the heyday of five continents, and even have “American overseas Chinese half Taishan” statement. Taishan was once regarded as China’s “Chinese” in North America’s Chinatown, known as “Little Esperanto” and as the “GreatEr Esperanto” English.

Today, Taishan’s 100-year-old building also says: Talent trumps Washington, and Vulcans beat Napoleon.

Fang Rongshan entered the United States in 1920, when he was 26. At the age of 61, he was given U.S. citizenship and immediately married and returned home to visit family. He married his wife in his 20s, had two sons and soon divorced. In his later years, he worked as a waitress in the restaurant to support himself.

Fang RememberS That His Father Took Him To Rent A House, Opened The Door Is A Tall White Man, Mocking Them As “Yellow Dogs”, Fang Rongshan Punched The Man In The Face, When He Was 70 Years Old.

He lived almost all his life in Chinatown, surrounded by old buildings, clothes and mops hanging outside. Although the overseas Chinese have been away from home for many years, they still retain their Chinese habits, posing at home, posting portraits of leaders and hanging yellow calendars.

In those days, many Chinese who first came to the United States chose to open a laundromat. A Taishan compatriots told their own experience, “I cut my hair every quarter in the mine, others called me four seasons, and then accumulated a few money, then changed to engage in laundry, the money does not need much, as long as there is a small workshop, a board, an iron can be.” ”

These men in their hometown do not do laundry feel faceless, often hidden from relatives in the country, at home books, they call the laundromat “clothes shop.”

Fang Rongshan sends silver letters to Taishan’s family every month, a family book with remittances, which is now listed as a memory of the world. He had a sum of $10, $20 in his letter, and the important information was written in red, “perhaps on the day he set off from Hagawa Island, he had an idea in his head to take care of his family.” Schwank said.

Zhu Hongpin is the grandson of Fang Rongshan’s sister. “My grandmother’s life depends on money sent back by my uncle.” At that time in the countryside to raise a pig, two years do not grow, can not go to the city.

Zhu Hongpin remembers that Fang Rongshan sent fruit cake from the United States, packed in a blue box, “all the cakes I ate later were not comparable.” Zhu Hongpin, 64, lives in a duplex with large floor-to-ceiling windows and thinks about life. The box was kept for more than 10 years before it was thrown away when it moved.

In the 1970s, Zhu Hongpin for his family and uncle through the letter, Fang Rongshan’s letter often has a “world war inevitable, hope for world peace.” “By then Fang Rongshan was very old, always in the letter said that the nose is not comfortable, eyes sick.

There are thousands of silver letters in Guan Yichun, which collects overseas Chinese items in Taishan. In 1950, a silver letter from San Francisco to Taishan, USA, wrote: “I believe that there are still difficulties in all parts of China, for a while failed to do so, the government is expected to have a way to pray for peace of mind.” “In 1952, “overseas Chinese in the United States is not very free, but also can only maintain the living ear” “expected our country several years late, the development of industrial agriculture, etc. , I believe that many overseas Chinese returned to Taiping day also. ”

Today, in his hometown of Taishan, Yinxin has become an electronic transfer.

Mr. Guan said he was lucky to be able to set foot on American soil like Fang Rongshan. Earlier, many Taishan people were “selling piglets”, locked in the bottom of the hatch to be transported to all parts of the hard work, sick and thrown into the sea. In one photo, The Chinese worker’s braids hang on the rope, naked, waiting to be examined. “Like an ant.”

In 1859, a ship bound for Cuba from Macau sank, and the captain’s sailors escaped in small boats, killing all 850 Chinese workers.

When the Pacific Railway was built, tens of thousands of Chinese worked a great contribution. When the east and west were in line, a ceremony was held in 1869, and the Chinese workers were unable to attend. These people in the United States is known as the “Chinese”, “The Chinese”, but in his hometown is respected as “Golden Mountain Guest” “Golden Mountain Bo.” Bring back the “Golden Mountain Box”, the more stuffed the fuller, the more glorious.

Lee Bing probably sent money home, too, “and his life was a success.” Schwank said.

Lee Bing’s trail appeared in a small town in Canada. He was the only survivor of the shipwreck to speak publicly about the six. He opened a coffee shop in Canada, often carrying milk to children playing on the street.

Fang Never HearD His Father Talk about The TitaniC Or The Shipwreck, He didn’T Even Know His Father Was A Sailor, His Mother didn’T Know. But Fang Rongshan has a sailor’s common fruit style on his arm, Fang Guo has only seen it twice.

Zhu Hongpin, a posterity who had communicated with Fang Rongshan, listened to grandma say about her uncle’s “hit an iceberg by big boat”, “an old lady has no culture, only this matter memory for decades, must have touched a lot.” ”

Whether the “big ship” was the Titanic, the documentary team studied all the ships that hit the iceberg during that time and found that there were only two or three, mostly small boats, and Fang Rongshan was probably Fang Lang on the Titanic.

Hagawa Island is looking for people

Fang Rongshan’s hometown of Hagawa Island is on the shores of the South China Sea, surrounded by typical tropical plants, and a sandy beach has been developed as a scenic spot. On the other side of the mountain, the locals kept a quiet life. On a rare sandy beach, the waves are breathing ups and downs, and more than 100 years ago Fang Rongshan was a boat ride from here.

While Fang believes his father Fang Rongshan is Fang Lang, the documentary team is still looking for stronger evidence.

Researcher Li Dachuan’s ancestry is also Taishan. His grandfather went to America, where his father was born. Looking for Fang Rongshan’s history, Li Dachuan, who had passed through middle age, returned to his hometown, “I went to at least 30 villages.” ”

Li Dachuan often wears neat shirts, keeps the elegant head, looks for fang family descendants as if looking for their own past. Every time he went to the village to inquire, he summed up the experience, time selected after lunch, the location is every village has feng shui trees, the elderly like to sit down to cool, Li Dachuan far see them, smiled and said hello.

Villagers always respond warmly to outsiders. Schwank remembers a knock on a stranger’s door, a bare-chested man opening the door, seeing microphones, cameras, and foreigners in front of him, men cheerfully invited into the door. “If it were me, lock the door and call the police.” Schwank said with a laugh.

In 2018, the documentary team found Fang Rongshan’s nephew in Hagawa Island, facing the camera, he suddenly read Fang Rongshan wrote in the letter poem: “The sky high sea waves, a wooden stick to save me, brothers together have a few, wipe away tears and laugh.” ”

The poem is attached to the body, the handwriting is clear, summed up Fang Rongshan’s experience, but also to prove that he is Fang Lang important evidence.

On a leafy island in San Francisco Bay, a neat piece of Chinese character appears on the building. They are very similar to Fang Rongshan’s poems, “the United States case is as harsh as a tiger, people trapped in board houses more, detention pending trial more grinding, birds into cages too folded fall.”

When the ship carrying the survivors of the Titanic arrived in New York Harbor, it was during the period of the U.S. Exclusion Act that China’s bottom workers were not allowed to enter the United States, except for businessmen, students, etc.

Angel Island is a processing point for immigrants waiting to be repatriated, and those who wish to enter the United States from here often have to wait half a year for a round of questioning to prove their identity. The question is “where to put the rice cylinder in the house” “a few steps from the main road to the door of your house”, a slight error, that is, to be repatriated.

The documentary team found Yang Yuefang, a Chinese scholar who studies Angel Island, in her 70s, with white hair and a powerful recital of the bitter poems left by Chinese a hundred years ago. Some people are even overwhelmed and self-inflicted.

Producer Luo Wei listened at the scene, tears rolled down. “I fully felt the feeling that the Chinese had entered the United States.” When she entered the United States for a documentary, she was stopped by immigration officials, entered the waiting room and severely questioned. “I’ve only been waiting three or four hours, and those people have been waiting three or four months.”

Today, Angel Island is a museum of American immigrant history. The Exclusion Act was repealed at the end of 1943.

Schwank described the process of finding six people as pulling a thread, can pull down a point is a new discovery, if broken can only count.

Director Luo Fei remembers a famous photograph taken by survivors the morning after the shipwreck. If Fang Lang’s face can be seen in the lifeboat, and then compared with Fang Rongshan’s photograph, it is undoubtedly the most powerful evidence.

Luo Fei used a magnifying glass to look closely at the photos downloaded online, it is difficult to see clearly. He searched an archive in England for original photographs, paid for them immediately, and waited months to finally receive a large envelope. He hurriedly opened, saw the archive logo on the back, excitedly turned over, found that it is a very small version, more blurry than the Internet.

In the end, however, the documentary team found strong evidence.

According to Fang Lang’s crew list, he boarded a ship bound for the United States from France in 1920, which docked in New York Harbor and disappeared on September 15.

Fang found his father’s immigration documents on September 15, 1920, when he entered the United States. There’s little else to do, Fang Lang is Fang Rongshan.

Wipe away tears and laugh

Son Fang National wondered why Fang Rongshan didn’t tell his family about such a great life experience as the Titanic.

In 1912, the British and American newspapers did not interview six people, but from the mouth of other passengers, “Chinese” is said to be dressed as women, mixed into lifeboats to steal lives, and some people said they hid in the bottom of the cabin.

Schwank found an international school in Beijing and asked the students to make lifeboats 1-1 in a year to get them to sit in. He wanted to solve the historical problem with physics, whether chinese survivors could hide in the bilge.

The answer given by the experiment is no. Schwank bristled at the media and government investigations at the time, “Some of the most obvious or questions that must be asked, why didn’t anyone ask them?” ”

“If you look at 2021 and want to live, it’s not a bad thing, it’s human rights.” But he also understood the reaction of some people at the time, Schwank said, “Your husband took you and your children to a new country, and eventually he didn’t get on the lifeboat, and there were a few Chinese on board, and of course you were angry.” ”

The original stigma still hangs over the heads of modern people. The documentary team had found another clue to his descendants, who cried when he saw the footage, but still didn’t want to talk about his birth.

“The Chinese of that era, can not say, there are many secrets in my heart.” Director Luo Fei said.

On that night in 1912, four of the six boarded the folding lifeboat C and one boarded the last lifeboat when the Titanic sank. Fang Rongshan and two of his friends failed to get on the boat and fell into the water. He relied on a plank of wood and so on to fold back the rescue.

The ship’s conductor, Lowe, had actually rowed it away, but soon changed his mind and returned. Fang Rongshan was pulled onto the lifeboat, a female passenger rubbed his chest, others rubbed his hands and feet, he opened his eyes, speaking language that people could not understand. One survivor on board later described how the Asian quickly regained his strength and paddled for the sailor. “If I had a chance, I’d rather save someone like him six times, ” said the conductor, Lowe.

Director Luo Fei believes that Fang Rongshan did not tell his family about the experience, probably to protect them. From entering the United States in 1920 to obtaining legal status in 1955, Fang Rongshan lived as an illegal immigrant for 35 years. He has seven or eight names, is in a gray area, insecurities, and is used to not telling his own stories.

“Parents protect the next generation in a non-talking way, but the next generation thinks not to say doesn’t mean they don’t love me.” Luo Fei said. Some Chinese descendants did not understand their parents until they died, while others, unable to understand the previous generation, also lost their opportunities.

Zhu Hongpin, far away in Taishan, can sometimes appreciate why uncle Fang Rongshan is silent. At the beginning of the reform and opening up, Zhu Hongpin drove his old tractor two days and two nights to Zhuhai to ask for life. Without a permanent home, live in a broken house left behind by a roadside construction site, sheltered from the wind and rain.

He built a roadside repair shop because of the construction of the city was demolished, and when his father was born a major illness, he was poor to “20,000 yuan to sell me this life.”

“There are times when people suffer more than they do, and there are a lot of things they don’t want to talk about.” He speculated about his uncle’s state of mind, “maybe he suppressed himself too much, too bitter too tired.” ”

Taishan people mostly remember the hardships of their parents’ immigration. Guan Yichun’s main business is to run a translation agency, to make a national intermediary. A family, often a person to go out first, and then take the family out. Some women hope to go abroad through marriage, 40 years old have not married, wait until old, and so on a chance to go abroad.

Today, in the center of Taishan City, the buildings left behind by overseas Chinese carry out modern commercial activities every day. The exterior of the building has ancient Greek colonnades, ancient Roman arches, with the Chinese folk Meilan bamboo chrysanthemum, Flu Shouxi combination. Regardless of the shape of the Western style, the highest floor of the riding building is often worshipped with shrines, engraved with the style of home and ancestral training.

In 2019, taishan city has 1.63 million overseas Chinese, with a resident population of 950,000. But the boom in going abroad is waning, Guan found that in the last five years, business is not good, many young people do not want to go out.

The place to go to sea

Schwank speculated that Fang Rongshan’s silence had another explanation: “He didn’t think it was a particularly remarkable thing.” I’m on a boat, the boat’s sinking, I’m surviving, so what, I’ve got to live, I’m going to make money. ”

When he set foot on the luxury cruise ship in 1912, 18-year-old Fang Rongshan had two pairs of boots, six shirts, half a dozen collars and a tie in his luggage. He is likely to plan to start a business in Ohio with two friends in the near future, become a businessman and legally live in the United States. “It’s his dream for the young Fang Rongshan to make money and succeed.” Schwank said.

With the deadly collision of the giant ship and the iceberg, Fang Rongshan’s two friends sank to the bottom of the sea, he relied on a piece of wood and so on to rescue, except for life, everything is gone.

“He didn’t end up being a very rich man.” Schwank said. Fang Rongshan opened a laundromat and restaurant, and after two or three years it closed down, opened another one, and closed down again. But he waited patiently for 35 years and sent money home to help his friends and family.

Modern people have had a hard time understanding that persistence, Schwank said. In the course of making the documentary, he experienced the death of a loved one, no progress in the investigation, a serious lack of material, several times want to give up, but think about it, or keep going, “you can also grab that board.”

In the film Titanic, the Chinese lying on a wooden board was a guest of Lin Fan, a Hollywood Chinese digital video production designer. Lin Fan was the first to express support when he learned that the documentary was about to be filmed.

Cameron, the film’s director, was willing to oversee the documentary and persuaded Hollywood to agree to use the Titanic clip. They also got the consent of every actor who appeared on camera.

From a Western perspective, the Titanic is a mark worth preaching for a lifetime. Rowe’s grandson, who commanded the lifeboat, had a memorial plaque on his doorstep, and his home was like a museum, with photographs, newspapers and relics. “Rowe is like a prince of the Titanic, ” said Schwank, who loves the history of the ocean.

Fang Guo followed the documentary team to The Home of Rowe’s grandson. More than 100 years ago, one man’s grandfather saved another’s father. Rowe’s grandson is not well, but he loves to joke. He said grandpa once fell in a river near his home, when he crossed from a big boat to a boat, and the next day came to the news that “the titanic survivors survived.”

As he left, Lowe’s grandson sent a picture of his grandfather to Fang, saying, “We found each other, and the circle finally closed.” ”

Shortly after, the documentary team received an email saying that Lowe’s grandson had died of illness.

Now in Fang’s home, there is a model of the Titanic, with a picture of Lowe on one side and his father Fang Rongshan on the other.

Fang Rongshan’s life was unknown, his figure could not be seen in official documents, and there were not many words left in the family story. 109 years on, his son may be proud to tell his father’s story.

Fang Rongshan died in the United States in 1986 at the age of 92. That year, Li Yuanzhe, a Chinese-American, won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. That year was also the International Year of Peace, when 60 Chinese singers sang the song “Tomorrow Will Be Better”.

In April, the documentary “The Six Men – The Chinese Survivor on titanic” was released in China, and the box office couldn’t compete with commercials. Producer Luo Wei said that many people to make no money to evaluate the producer, she does not think so, put a group of people together to make a thing, life once had such an experience is enough.

After the documentary was released, the production team returned to Shirakawa Island in Taishan City, where Fang Rongshan’s nephew, who was facing the camera three years ago, suffered a stroke and lay in bed. The production team used a computer to show him documentary clips and tell him that “the whole world knows what you’re reading.” The old man said something in his mouth that he couldn’t understand, and there were tears in the corners of his eyes.

Producer Luo Wei remembers that three years ago, the camera data card fell on the beach where Fang Rongshan was away from home. The next day, the team all returned to look, walking two centimeters at a time, a little fumbling. Eventually, the short-sighted director found it. Looking at the water tide and retreat countless times, Luo Yu felt that in the dark, the people of this land want them to tell the story.

May 12, 2021 05