Roots-Finding: Locating Your Ancestral Village in Teochew (Part 3)

Since The Teochew Store was formed, we have received numerous requests for help from fellow Gaginangs to locate their ancestral village. Depending on the leads provided, we were able to assist many, but for others it is more difficult because some places have been renamed or now fall behind a different boundary line, other communities are unlisted on maps or the internet, or even when a place is found, there remains uncertainty if its residents have the same surname.

Fortunately the Shantou University (STU) Library has built a khieu-phue database (僑批數據庫) allowing keyword search for meta-data of some 70,000 pieces of khieu-phue (or "migrants letters", which were correspondences sent together with money remittances by Teochews living in Southeast Asia to their homes in Teochew), receipts and return letters. The site URL is

 Some of these artefacts date as far as to the early 20th century.  The searchable meta-data fields include:

Title (of letter) 题名
Name of sender 寄批人
Origin of sender (usually country) 寄批地
Name of receiver 收批人
Receiver address (usually county and village) 收批地
Year of letter 写批年
Handling letter agency 批局
Remittance amount 批(封)款


To conduct a search, you only need to type in a keyword in the search-bar on the top left corner of the homepage of the site. All entries with relevant "hit" will be listed in a table.

Partial-word search can be made, if for example you only know the first two Chinese characters of a person with a three-character name you are looking for; on the other hand you can also narrow your search by entering multiple search fields (up to three, using the basic boolean operators: AND, OR, and NOT) under advanced search (高级检索). 

Click on each individual search result and you will be shown scanned image(s) of the corresponding letter (which can only be viewed in enlarged format within the STU campus network) and a table showing its metadata (as shown below).

The possibility of finding a letter linked to your kin is of course fairly slim as it is limited by whether he/she did send/receive a letter in the first place, and if it was preserved, collected, scanned into the archive. However important findings can still be made, such as ascertaining the correctness of a village name, or the resident surname of a particular village. The language for searches and results are only in Chinese.

For those interested, the same website also contains a fairly large collection of background information, news, true-life stories, research articles and documentary videos about the Teochew khieu-phue heritage, which is central to the “Qiaopi and Yinxin Correspondence and Remittance Documents from Overseas Chinese” documentary archive that is now part of the  UNESCO Memory of the World Register. 


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