22 August 2008

My Chinese genealogy

In a previous post, I identified my late maternal grandfather as South Korea's Shinan Ju (新安 朱) family, which, in turn, traces back to China (where the name is pronounced Zhu), allowing me to claim Chinese ancestry.

Some Internet search work turned up some more info. Wikipedia says that small numbers of Chinese individuals have historically trickled into Korea and, in some cases (as in my ancestor's case), founded Korean family lines. These Chinese consider themselves purely Korean, a survival mechanism to overcome Korea's homogeneity and xenophobia.

Starting in the 1880s, Manchu China sent some soldiers and merchants to Korea; the soldiers were sent to meddle in Korean internal affairs, as Korean kings were paying tributes to the Chinese emperor at the time. (Eventually, the Koreans, having learned Western-style diplomacy, declared themselves an empire.) As China evolved into a Nationalist republic then a Communist state, and as Korea itself evolved into a Japanese colony then a divided nation, the numbers continued to increase - until the military dictatorship of Park Chung-hee, when currency reforms hurt Chinese merchants greatly. Most of this Chinese community, loyal to the Nationalist government, moved to Taiwan or North America. Only 26,000 of them still live in South Korea.

Today's Chinese community, over 300,000 strong, is made up of mainlanders holding People's Republic of China nationality, and many of them are ethnic Koreans who had settled in Manchuria during Korea's Japanese rule.

Back to my ancestors. The founder of the Shinan Ju family line is pronounced Ju Jam (朱潛) in Korean (I have no idea what the Chinese pronunciation would be). He lived in Sung China, somewhere in Anhui Province (Shinan is his immediate area's name pronounced in Korean), and fled to Korea with his son and a few other individuals, settling in Naju. His arrival was sometime between 1213 and 1259, during the reign of King Gojong. By 1259, the Mongols (Yuan Dynasty) took over Korea, and was hunting for Chinese exiles, at which time Ju Jam was forced to go into hiding and use a pseudonym. Not much info afterwards, though a few key people are named, including admirals and independence activists. 1985 South Korean taxation statistics say that there were 153,474 Shinan Jus, ranking 42nd in population out of 274 surnames. (There is another "Ju" in Korea, also of Chinese origin, but it is written in a different character and pronounced "Zhou" in Chinese, so it's not the same.)

Shinan Ju origins (Korean only)