Long-Lost Cousin Bi

See the resemblance?

I don’t know if it’s because people in China tend to be so openly curious, but I find myself engaged in at least one unusual conversation per day here. Today, while buying mini-chopsticks for the kids, the shop 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.  In fact, it doesn’t resemble any language at all. So I could see how she had come to the conclusion.

Of course, I had to correct her. Once she learned that I was not Russian, she then logically asked for my Chinese name.

“毕强,” I said [Bi Qiang, pronounced “Bee Chee-ang”].

“Oh,” she exclaimed, “her family name [pointing to the cashier] is 毕 too! 毕荷花.” [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 what, but these days, there are not a lot of 毕 around.

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.