My China Roots: Podcast Interview with Huihan Lie (李偉漢)
Despite all the high-profile media, I have never heard of Huihan Lie or My China Roots until I started researching potential podcast guests based in China.
I discovered that the team at MCR has helped many people reconnect with their Chinese ancestry and long-lost relatives. They were recently involved in the research of the 6 Chinese survivors of the Titanic in the 2021 documentary “The Six (六人-泰坦尼克上的中国幸存者)” and also helped three adopted teenage girls from America (who find out they’re related) discover their Chinese roots in the 2021 Netflix documentary “Found”.
I enjoyed my chat with Huihan as I aspire to make the pilgrimage to my great grandparents’ Ancestral Villages in Southern China to explore my family’s history and see how many generations the Clan book (家谱 / 族谱) goes back.
Diaspora stories are often rooted in hardship from war, cultural revolutions, colonisation and more. This hardship filters down to the new generation through certain behaviours & communication patterns (intergenerational trauma), and when you combine this with racism and discrimination, questions around self-identity & belonging start to happen.
Unfortunately, for many Overseas Born Chinese, answering these questions about identity & cultural history can be difficult for several reasons. The death of family and the difficulty of communicating with older generations makes it difficult to piece together one’s family history.
Born in the Netherlands, Huihan started asking questions about his Indonesian-Chinese ancestry & heritage. Knowing nothing about the language or culture, he moved to China 18 years ago to find out more about his roots and experience life working & living in China.
In the process, he found many others on the same journey, and so he founded My China Roots to help other Overseas Chinese reconnect with their roots & families (timestamps, topics & quotes below).
About My China Roots (中華家脈)
Essentially the Ancestry.com of Asia, My China Roots offers a wide variety of services & tools to help Overseas Chinese (and those with Chinese Ancestry) piece together their family history and even help those looking for their long lost relatives.
They have an extensive online database of records both in China and overseas (like in Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Peru, US, UK, Europe, etc) where you can start building your family’s pre & post migration histories – simply create an account and answer a few questions to start piecing together your family tree.
My China Roots also provides investigative, research and translation services if you run into any brick walls (or if you simply have no idea where to start).
If you want to collaborate with Huihan or find out more about My China Roots, give them a visit here: https://www.mychinaroots.com/
Also join their Discord community here if you want to meet like-minded people who are on the same path as you: https://www.mychinaroots.com/community
We had a few technical/audio issues and the conversation got a bit rushed at the end as we started to run out of time. Skip to the 2nd half of the episode if you want to hear more about My China Roots as the 1st half focuses more about life in China for returnee Overseas Chinese.
A big thanks to Huihan for sharing his journey on this podcast. I definitely encourage those who are on a similar journey to look into My China Roots or at least join their Discord community to meet like minded individuals. Feel free to reach out to Huihan directly if you want to find out more about anything.
Work & Life in China
- 4:50 – Why Huihan decided to stay in China over the last 18 years
- 6:55 – Is it harder for foreigners / overseas Chinese to find a job in China now?
- 9:42 – Advice for Chinese Diaspora looking to find a job in China
- 10:52 – What if you don’t speak English?
- 14:34 – Is there discrimination if you don’t speak Chinese?
- 18:50 – The importance of exploring and having an open mind
- 20:30 – Any disadvantages for Overseas Chinese returning to China?
- 23:45 – How did Huihan make friends in China? Advice for others
- 25:50 – Best way to learn Chinese?
Huihan’s Personal Journey
About My China Roots