Until We Meet Again at a Softer Place
Photo Essay by:
EVELYN HANG YIN
I was hiking deep in the Cascades when I stumbled upon what the locals called the "Chinese wall.” It was a hand stacked rock wall made of mining tailings, stretching as far as the eye could see.
I have since been going to places in rural parts of the West Coast in the United States, in search of stories from early Chinese immigrants.
One of them is Hanford, CA.
There used to be many more oak trees standing right next to this one. They are now dying, roots soaked in irrigation water during long summer days, quietly waiting for the moment to snap and fall.
Larry likes to say that even though he is Portuguese, this history is his history too. His grandma took pride in entering the Chinese stores in the 200-feet alley through their back doors.
Some people are gone; they left things in buildings. Some buildings are gone; they left memories in people.
Camille is one of the only Chinese Americans that never moved away. She once said to me: “We are saving this for you, the future. If we don’t save things, they will go away with us, and there aren’t many of us left.”
A Chinese family once lived on this empty lot on Shanghai St, between Cherry Ln and Lotus Ln. They left behind a jujube tree and an array of broken ceramic pieces.
For decades, Chinese people were not allowed to be laid to rest among other Americans.
A group of community members restored this cemetery in 2000, before which it was a field of weeds.
It is in the Chinese tradition that fallen leaves will return to their roots. Yet sometimes the withered leaves are blown away by a little breeze, swirling high up in the air before they land on the ground a few trees down.
The wind took us far away after all. Yet I’d like to believe that no matter what land they are on, the tree roots are all connected and constantly talking to each other. It is the same imaginary roots that bred us, fed us, and nurtured us to become you were and who I am today.
So long, my early friends.
Let us meet again soon at that softer place underground.
Evelyn Hang Yin is an interdisciplinary artist and filmmaker based in Los Angeles. Yin investigates how her experience moving between China and the U.S. informs her cultural identity, and is invested in issues of race, history, place/displacement, and collective memory.