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Home Run

Home Run

The idea of belonging can be an elusive one; but sometimes, understanding can come from a book and a plane ticket.

When I was ten, my parents packed up our lives in Singapore and moved us to Australia. Here, in a strange new world where the light was somehow sharper and the clear, cloudless sky was the colour of crushed sapphires, I became part of that 1990s diaspora of Malaysian and Singaporean kids who always felt a little out of place. At home, I was scolded in Cantonese, watched ‘Empress Wu’  on TV, and celebrated Chinese New Year. At school, I ate Vegemite toast, got sunburnt, and learnt to sing ‘Waltzing Matilda’.

“Is Singapore in China?” I was asked whenever some well-meaning adult found out where I was from. The first time this happened, I went home and pulled out the atlas to find China.

“All your grandparents are from China,” Mother told me. I must have looked perplexed because a few days later, she gave me a book. It was ‘The Crippled Tree’, the first volume of Han Suyin’s acclaimed autobiography of growing up in pre-Revolution China as the daughter of a Belgian mother and a Chinese father.

Everyone has a favourite book. This one became mine. I read it every year, always haunted by a single line: ‘The tree is known by its roots.’ I wrote Han Suyin a fan-mail, and she wrote back. “You are Chinese,” she said. “You must find your roots.”

I never really understood what she meant, even as I ate Bakewell pies at school and increasingly sounded like an extra from ‘Crocodile Dundee’.

Then one day, when I was all grown up, I flew to Shanghai for a meeting and there - amidst that glittering skyline and a rush of people who looked exactly like me - I felt something click into place. I’ve never been able to explain it, but it felt like I’d found something that been missing without my even knowing it was missing.

I’ve been to China many times since, but I’ve never lost that feeling of familiarity, of deja vu, even in places I’ve never been to. Whether in the heaving metropolises of Beijing and Shanghai; the beaches of Sanya; the misty fields of Xian; the snow-capped mountains and mirror-flat lakes of Yunnan; the granite gorges of Lijiang - I am invariably overcome by a sensation of familiar unreality that resonates deep.

That no matter how far I may travel, there will always this gossamer-thin, yet unbreakable thread that binds me to China, this vast, strange, compelling world. A world where every visit I make - no matter the years that separate them - always feels like a long overdue homecoming.


Are you looking to embark on your very own journey to China? Find out more here.

We look forward to journeying with you.

Daven Wu is a freelance journalist based in London and Singapore. He is the Singapore Editor at Wallpaper*, and also edits the Louis Vuitton City Guide Singapore.

Daven Wu is a freelance journalist based in London and Singapore. He is the Singapore Editor at Wallpaper*, and also edits the Louis Vuitton City Guide Singapore.

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