I don’t know if it’s because the Chinese tend to be so openly curious about foreigners, but I find myself engaged in at least one unusual conversation per day here. Today, while buying mini-chopsticks for the kids, the store owner decided to examine my notes and then declared to the cashier, “That’s not English. Probably Russian.” And it’s true, my handwriting doesn’t really resemble English. It doesn’t resemble any language in fact. So I could see how she had come to the conclusion.Of course, I had to correct her, though. After ascertaining I was an English speaker, she then logically asked for my Chinese name.
“毕强,” I said. (Bi Qiang, pronounced “Bee Chee-ang”)
Oh, her (pointing to the cashier) family name is 毕 too! 毕荷花. (Bi Hehua, Lotus Blossum Bi)
Now this was definitely unusual, because in all my years of traveling China, I have never met another 毕. I don’t know if the clan got wiped out in the Song dynasty because of poor eyesight or the Cultural Revolution took a heavy toll on us or what, but there are definitely not a lot of 毕 around today.
So, the moment was duly commemorated with a photo, and the shop owner proudly proclaimed, “Five hundred years ago, you were of the same family. Today, you have found each other again.” It was very touching.