In the spirit of the upcoming Chinese New Year, we're kicking off a special series of reports from China. I had the opportunity to retrace the steps of my ancestors to a village in southern China. It's a place I recently visited and took along a station camera to capture the sights and sounds.
Growing up, my grandparents often told me stories about their motherland. Now I could see for myself Zhongshan; the place they once called home.
This city in southern China is where the ancestors of 75 percent of the Hawaii Chinese population bravely took the first steps to a better life, many of them arriving in Hawaii in the 1700s.
"Zhongshan is very special to us because my mother was born here in Zhongshan," said Honolulu resident Delphine Wai Ping.
I was surprised to find out the founding father of the Republic of China, Dr. Sun Yat Sen also called this home. He received his western education in Hawaii at Punahou and Iolani before returning to put an end to the more than 2,000 years of monarchy in China.
Today, Zhongshan and Honolulu are sister cities.
"It is an especially proud moment for myself being here to represent my family and ancestors who have worked so hard in Zhongshan," said Chinese Chamber of Commerce President Leonard Kam.
So much has changed since our ancestors left China.
"In the past 10 years, the population of Shanghai has grown by at least 5 million people. So they estimate it...we will have another 5 million in another 10 years," said Shanghai resident Jasmine Li.
"Ever since I was little, I've always been so proud of being Chinese and coming back to where it all began pretty much brings it full circle," said Honolulu resident Amanda Wong.
"Being in China you realize there are people with lots of money, there are people with no money, people here trying very hard to improve their lives. Nobody is asking for a hand out and it's a really admirable thing to see," said Honolulu resident Russell Leu.
Seeing the sights and learning about the culture is one thing, the food is another and it's nothing like the Chinese food we're used to eating here in Hawaii. I'll have more on the bizarre foods in China tomorrow at 10.