My first impression about my family name is the many complex strokes it takes to write the Chinese character '蒋', often pronounced like Chang in English, when my Dad first taught me hand-in-hand how to draw it on paper.
When I attended school, other kids nick-named me as '蒋光头' as nick for '蒋介石' (Chang Kai-shek), out of contempt and belittlement, possibly under the CCP government propaganda influence back in the days.
My Dad told me I have two names, '蒋嘉之' and '蒋友勇', the former is on my birth certificate and passport, the latter on the family-tree book only circulated in hometown village. Dad reasoned, "I feared that your publicly bearing the middle name '友' may bring bad luck to you as we live in mainland China. Chang Kai-shek's descendants have same middle name series. God knows when it'll be another Culture Revolution, during which I was denied access to college and many other citizen rights." What an interesting fear-inspired reasoning!
After I turned 30, I realized that my family has been routinely worshipping ancestors' tombs dated back to the late Qing Dynasty. A wooden plate looks like the one below hang on top of my family's old house's front-gate. One of my ancestors made it to a high ranking academia title by studying hard and passing the Imperial Examination by the Qing Dynasty monarchy:
This is interesting and it encouraged me to dig a little deeper on ancestor stories. Most of them are businessmen or craftsmen such as watch-smith. Then I found an interesting person, 叶琪/Kee Yep. Kee Yep's elder sister married my grand-father's grand-father as his 3rd wife and she raised the kids to grown-ups. When I dig a little deeper, I found him quite a figure in China contemporary history. My Dad said Yep fought in the China Xinhai Revolution that over-threw the Qing Dynasty. His regiment was the first army raided Peking (Beijing) city killing soldiers of the late Qing Dynasty. Then later he became colleague of Li Zongren and Bai Chongxi, whose military regime has been ruling south China under Chang Kai-shek's Republic of China. Yep died of a horse fell-off accident, as stated in history book. Dad said he was assassinated, after he finished a lobbying trip trying to align interests from 4 south China provinces' war lords, in an attempt to wipe out BOTH Chang Kai-shek's army and the CCP Red Army from mainland China.
Like learning everything else, the fun part is always being able to connect the dots and make sense of them. This practice of finding out what's in my name gradually helps me form a historical sense of being. I'll die one day and join my ancestors into the dust and dirts. What's my story and legacy that I would leave behind and show my descendants?