Thermos Company Manuel

Relationship: Child of im/migrant

This is a manual from the thermos factory that my great-grandfather started with his sons (including my grandfather) in Shanghai. When Shanghai was occupied by Japan in the 1930s, they moved the factory west, to Sichuan first, and then out of China altogether, to Nigeria. Little did they know at the time, but the success of their factory was what would save them during the Cultural Revolution; the money they earned enabled them to make friends with the right people and emigrate to Hong Kong, which was at that time under British rule. As such, my father grew up in Hong Kong as a British citizen, separate from the atrocities affecting those in mainland China for much of his youth. In 1976, my dad came to the U.S. for university as an international student.

My father doesn't talk very much about his family's background or his childhood in general. In a way, I think he (and my family as a whole) must have been very privileged to get out of mainland China and grow up outside of the Communist regime. But at the same time, he grew up largely under the care of his older siblings since his parents spent the majority of their time in Nigeria, manning operations at the factory. This manual has been in my house for as long as I have, but I only found it and heard the story behind it a few weeks ago. Uncovering my family history may be the type of thing that I chip away at slowly, but objects like this make me feel all the more connected to my culture and heritage. 

Place(s): Shanghai, Hong Kong, Boston
Year: 1976

– Donia

Relationship:  Child of im/migrant Child of im/migrant