Ancestor hunter

By Liu Zhihua ( China Daily ) Updated: 2014-10-14 07:29:02

Ancestor hunter

Huihan Lie (right) with a distant kin in Zhangzhou, Fujian province.[Photo by Xiang Mingchao/China Daily]

Ancestor hunter

Dressing of the Qin Terracotta Warriors 

Ancestor hunter

A peek at Jinsha's ancient wares 

A Dutch citizen eager to trace back his family history now helps many overseas Chinese do the same, Liu Zhihua reports.

Huihan Lie, a 36-year-old Dutch citizen, never expected he would someday make a profession out of helping fellow overseas Chinese find their roots through jiapu or "ancestry book", when he first visited China in 2004.

Jiapu, also called zupu in Chinese, are records that are kept by clans of their lineage and histories. Lie didn't know much about jiapu until he came to China.

He was born in Amsterdam, Netherlands, to a family that emigrated from Indonesia, with Chinese origins on both his parental sides. But no one in the family spoke Chinese.

In 2003, Lie decided to learn the language after he obtained a master's degree in international law at University of Amsterdam.

"We look Chinese but we speak Dutch, and that made me wonder about my family history," Lie says, adding that he had peppered his father and grandfather with questions about his family history since he was a teenager and was always interested in China.

After studying Mandarin at Beijing Language and Culture University for two months, Lie decided to stay longer and says he worked at international enterprises.

A few years later, he decided to pursue his interest in history and genealogy, to help others find their roots.

"Many overseas Chinese don't speak Chinese and cannot make good use of jiapu or other important files," Lie says.

In 2012, he founded My China Roots, which specializes in jiapu and Chinese ancestry.

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