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CHINA DAILY
Lan Honglin, head of the Lan Family Association in Zhangpu, Fujian

Compiling genealogies and building ancestral temples are Chinese traditions. They connect people who have the same family roots and promote their sense of belonging.

Genealogies, or family trees, are the best resources for discovering family histories, because they can answer the philosophical question of where we come from.

To some extent, genealogies are like "identity cards" for families. They contain excellent information, including the names and deeds of each generation.

One significant practical function of genealogies is to help those who have moved away from their hometowns to trace their roots.

Every family establishes a temple where their ancestors are enshrined and worshipped. Traditionally, when a family member dies, a tablet that embodies his or her spirit is made and placed in the temple

Most people in Zhangpu village, Nantou, Taiwan, have the Lan surname. Their ancestors were soldiers from Zhangpu, a county in Zhangzhou, Fujian province.

During the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911), three generals - all members of the Lan family in Zhangpu - were sent by emperors successively to suppress rebellions on Taiwan.

Most of the soldiers who accompanied the generals were also members of the Lan family. When the fighting ended, many stayed on the island because the land was fertile but the population was small.

About 56,000 people on Taiwan are descendants of the original Lan family. They are proud of their family histories and help each other.

In the 1980s, they started returning to Zhangpu and the ancestral temple. They bring their genealogies and ancestral tablets so they understand which generation they are.

No matter what job they do, whether they are rich or poor, successful or not, when they visit the temple they all kneel and pray before their ancestors and they recite the family maxims that have been passed down for centuries.

Lan Honglin spoke with Zhang Yi.