MY GRANDMOTHER YU MENGYING
Boats from Suzhou
The year was 1891, the 17th year of the Reign of Guangxu Emperor. A bright Autumn day on the broad Caogang Canal which bisects the ancient town of Zhujiajiao in the county of Qingpu.
Suddenly the morning quietness on the Canal was shattered by the deafening sound of firecrackers. Pungent gunpowder smoke irritated the eyes and noses. The crowd of spectators surged forward when the joyful music from the suona reached a crescendo. The bridegroom and his bride had boarded the richly decorated boat which came from Suzhou last night, her dowry having been loaded earlier. Now the boatmen untied the hemp rope, pulled back the wooden plank. With their bargepoles the men steered clear of the clusters of rice-laden boats. Soon they started pushing and pulling the big stern oars, and the boats glided gracefully forward. Minutes later one by one Suzhou boats passed under the tall arch of the old stone bridge towards the Dianshan Lake.
In the cabin sat the bride, 19 years of age, a native of Zhujiajiao. Xu is her family’s surname. The bridegroom was Yu Wenlan of Suzhou. In the Fall of the following year, in the morning of the 27th day of the eighth moon, the young woman gave birth to her first baby, a girl. Later, perhaps when she was schooling, the girl was given her formal name – Mengying. She is my grandmother.