Words From Dad is an ongoing series that explores my Chinese heritage. With the use of archival images from my own family albums, I trace back my mixed roots through my grandfather’s life stories as told by my dad.
I am originally from The Netherlands. I am Dutch and a quarter Chinese. My Chinese roots come from my father’s side of the family. My grandfather Tek Suan Chen was born in 1910 in Wenzhou, China. He was a dignitary and the Chen family were judges and landowners there. Everything had been taken away from them, their possessions and their lives. The whole family was killed by the communists during the Mao Revolution. My grandfather was the only one who survived together with his teacher and cousin Bun Chen. He was just 23 years old when he fled, as a student, from Wenzhou to Europe, via France to Germany. Due to the political consequences of the war he eventually ended up in The Netherlands where he met my grandmother and opened the first Chinese restaurant in the city The Hague. This then became the two biggest and most important things in his life: his restaurant and family.
Even though I have unfortunately never met my grandfather in person —since he passed away before I was born— I have always had a strong interest in the stories my dad told me about him. Hence the title of this project, as my father passed me on the stories his father told him.