The Ancestral Quest: A True Story of a Family Torn Between Two Worlds

The Ancestral Quest: A True Story of a Family Torn Between Two Worlds

By F. G. Kwong

Format: Paperback

(4 customer reviews)

Publication Date: Sept. 28, 2021


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Categories: History, Politics and Society, Biography

ISBN: 9781913208899


When traditional Chinese parents attempted to bring up a family in Britain in the old ancestral tradition, the two worlds of East and West collide head-on in a clash of cultures with tragic consequences. It was a quest for identity and a quest for peace.

In 1921 aged twenty-two, Kwong Shuin Ji as the eldest son was ordered by his father to leave their ancestral home in semi-feudal China for the West to save the family from starvation in the civil wars that erupted following the fall of the Last Emperor of China.

Landing in Liverpool, he went on the run to escape threats and extortion by criminal Triad gangs who targeted immigrants such as him. At the age of thirty-eight, married by proxy without a say in the matter to a girl of eighteen with no name from a neighbouring village in Taishan, duty and obligation to look after his family in China as well as his increasing brood of children in Britain dominated his life. Enduring the bombing blitz in Liverpool during the war and facing attacks by thugs who thought that they were Japanese, he managed to protect his family and survive.

From the time his eldest son Francis was born, his father treated him with mysterious diffidence, bordering on hostility. Constantly at war with his parents, elopements, recriminations and tragedy haunted the family. Convinced that his father was hiding a dark family secret, he began a search for an answer.

In 1966, his father returned to his homeland at the height of the Cultural Revolution to see his siblings after forty-five years away, only to be savaged as a stranger accused of deserting his peasant roots.

On his deathbed, Kwong Shuin Ji now eighty years old, with stark revelations now in the open threatening to destroy the family, was it too late for redemption and reconciliation between father and son and the quest for the truth now finally buried forever?

After three decades in clinical practice in the physical therapies in London, F. G. Kwong retired to devote time to his other passion of writing.


Simon Holder (Guest Review) - 07 Oct, 2021

I am only half way through this wonderful book, but already I believe it to be a masterpiece; beautifully written, bitterly emotive, fascinating, involving and breathtaking , its descriptive command of China's emergence from its feudal roots clashing with the 20th century is like standing on ground being shaken by an earthquake. It is on a par with that other great Chinese masterpiece, Wild Swans by Jung Chan, which so moved, enlightened and fascinated us some years ago. To understand China today and why there is that feeling of revenge (although this is not a vengeful tale of itself) this is essential reading; fact and history, personal doubt and then triumph over hideous odds, betrayal and redemption, despair and hope - all written with the sharpness of a British Chinese man's eye trying to balance the tangible experience of his own roots with his adopted ones, give us an idea of why China is how it is today. A must-read...

P.R.Brooks (via text) 10/12/21 (Guest Review) - 30 Dec, 2021

Love, Grief and Hope through the conflict of War and Across the Racial Divide. A Family's journey of Survival from Ancient China to the West.

This is a poignant tale of having to leave all you know to start afresh in a new country and a different culture is as relevant today as when The Ancestral Quest was first set back in 1921. This is a story concerning the eldest son from a traditional Chinese family forced to leave his ancestral home to travel to the West to save his family from starvation and the ramifications of war after the fall of the last Emperor of China. Beautifully written and introducing the reader to a shocking world of extortion and vendettas by criminal Triad gangs, marriage by proxy, living through the Blitz in Liverpool during the war, inter-racial tensions, and a patrilineal duty to support two families in vastly contrasting cultures, this is a thought-provoking account ultimately about righting wrongs and reconciliation between father and son before it was too late.

It is also an incisive chronicle about the remarkable transition of two entirely different nations evolving in Britain and China over the last hundred years against the shifting backdrop of world events. A must read for fans of awe-inspiring true stories and biographies of gritty family sagas in their revelatory rawness with often tragic consequences when offspring elope to marry foreigners against their parental wishes. The Ancestral Quest is an accomplished work by debut author F.G.Kwong, and the heart of the story acts as an encouraging reminder that it is never too late to make amends despite impossible odds when confronted with the massive chasm between the cultures of East and West as well as to survive against seemingly insurmountable obstacles and then to triumph over adversity. A real page turner. Well recommended.

Frost Magazine: Life & Style (Guest Review) - 10 Mar, 2022

Editorial recommendation. Read The Ancestral Quest. It is a momentous and brave search for the truth!

Margaret Graham : Frost Review (Guest Review) - 08 Mar, 2022

The Ancestral Quest by F.G.Kwong is a triumph, exploring as it does F.G. Kwong's family - and two disparate worlds.
I know very little of Chinese culture and history, so this exploration of one man's roots - though in truth it is far more than that - is utterly fascinating. Not content with exploring the tensions between a present day son brought up in the British culture and his withdrawn father, Kwong Chun Ji, who left China in 1921, F.G.Kwong one feels, is also on a journey to understand his ancestors. So does it work?
Definitely. The writing is excellent, the meticulous revelations of a culture unknown to him, and a father similarly unknown to a son is recorded with empathy and sympathy. So let me lead you into this extraordinary autobiography, biography, or is it history? Perhaps it is all three.
Kwong Chun Ji was ordered by his father in 1921 to leave their ancestral home in semi-feudal China and head to the West to save the family from starvation during the civil wars that erupted following the fall of the Last Emperor of China. Landing in Liverpool, Kwong Chun Ji found he had not actually escaped the turmoil he had fled. There it still was, in the shape of the Triad gangs who were waiting to target disembarking Chinese immigrants. He managed to evade them, (for now), settling elsewhere in the country. At the age of 38 he was instructed by his family elders to marry by proxy a much younger bride from a neighbouring village who joined him in Britain, and together they produced a family. All the while, Kwong Chun Ji still continued to support the family back in China - as befits a dutiful son. So was it all happy ever after? No....It transpires that there was a huge unexplained gulf between Kwong Chun Ji and Francis, his first born son - the author of this absorbing book. Why did the father treat Francis with diffidence bordering on hostility? Was there a dark family secret?...
This is a book to be read carefully; one which will introduce the reader, not only to the culture and upheavals of an increasingly powerful China, but takes them on a quest into the ancestral past, a quest into the secret of a father's near hostility to his son, a quest for identity and then a search for peace and reconciliation before it was too late.

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