Tag Archives: ancestry

Indawgyi Lake

Nationality: Burmese

Primary Language: Burmese

Other Language(s): English, Chinese

Age: 19

Occupation: Student

Residence: Hanover, N.H

Performance Date: 03/17/2024

P.P has been my friend since middle school and is also a Burmese person who is originally from Yangon, Myanmar. When I asked her of any legends, myths or tales she knows of, she recounts a legend that she learned of when traveling with her family and friends. Her family went on regular trips along with other family friends, to different places all over Myanmar. This included a lot of superstitious tourist spots. 

“Another tale I learned related to dragons was at Indawgyi Lake in the Kachin State. There, there is a Pagoda on an island in the middle of the lake, that’s where I visited. When the tide comes down, there is a path to the island. When I went there, the guide told us that there are dragons in the lake because dragons are usually in bodies of water. There were a lot of stalls selling food for us to feed the dragons while we walked on the path. I saw that some people were wriggling around like a snake on top of the path, it was really weird. I asked the tour guide about it and he said that’s because some of them have ancestral ties to dragons, and since they are near the dragons, their dragon spirit comes out and they start acting like dragons. It was so funny and unbelievable but quite a lot of people were doing it. There was a shaman that told one of my friend’s mom that she had a dragon spirit so they encouraged her to feed the dragons. She ended up buying milk as a donation and poured it into the lake! I think that this story was created just to make the tourist attraction more fun to visit. But the main reason is definitely to make the tourists pay for the food in the stalls and gain more profit.”

I interpret this legend as both a means of reinforcing cultural beliefs and scamming tourists. I see the dragon lore as a reflection of many Burmese people’s spiritual beliefs. On the other hand, the behavior of people acting like dragons is too nonsensical so I assume they are either hired actors or people who simply want attention. The legend seems tailored to mainly enhance the tourist experience and make more profit off of them. By making the location more mystical and intriguing, it preserves local folklore but also generates economic activity through the sale of food and souvenirs. 

Dumplings for the Deceased on New Year’s Day

Text: On New Year’s Eve, dumplings are served for the close family members that passed away, such as grandparents or great-grandparents. Each person being commemorated will have an individual plate/bowl with utensils. Then, the family would call the family member and say, “It’s a new year, time to come home,” and then start eating the other portion of the dumplings.

On New Year’s Eve, my informant’s family will make and cook dumplings. Before she and her family eat the dumplings at midnight, they will use small bowls or plates to contain a small portion of the dumplings. She believes it’s a way to connect with the old family members since the new year is the time to gather with family. It is an essential part of her New Year, and she was surprised when I said I never heard of anything like that. According to my informant, she knows a few people who celebrate the New Year, like her family.

Serving dumplings for deceased family members is symbolic of their continued presence and inclusion in the family celebration, even though they are no longer physically present. Inviting them to come home and eat with the living family members shows a belief in an afterlife and the importance of family ties, both in life and in death.
This tradition also reflects the value placed on family in Chinese culture. New Year is a time of reunion and coming together, and this ritual-like act emphasizes the importance of acknowledging and remembering those who have passed away. Continuing to include deceased family members in the celebration reinforces the idea that they are still a part of the family and not forgotten.
This tradition also highlights the importance of food and its role in Chinese culture. Food is not just something to eat but has symbolic meanings and cultural significance to Chinese people. In this case, dumplings are not just a delicious dish but also serve as a connection to the past and a way of honoring their loved ones.

Ancestral Visits

Informant Info: The informant is a 21-year-old male who was born and raised in Chanhassen, Minnesota. His parents both moved to America from India when they were in their twenties. He is currently a student at USC studying Electrical Engineering.


Interview Transcript:

Interviewer: Do your parents, being first generation immigrants, have any traditions or rituals that they’ve passed down to you?


Interviewee: Every time we go to India, we take the train down to my mother’s ancestral village, like where her parents and grandparents grew up. It’s really old and small… only like 20 or 30 people live there I think…so it’s really tiny. And everyone is old, I think the average age is like 80ish, not to be rude.  But it is really, really important to my mom, so we go every time.



This story represents the significance of ancestral history. Despite leaving India and coming to America, his mother’s ancestral home is still very important her. It is where she grew up with her parents, spent her childhood, and was taught all of the values and traditions that she still carries with her today. For her, she goes to pay her respects to her ancestors and her hometown, and by doing so, the informant is also learning about its importance.

Family Heritage

Folklore Piece 13


Main Piece: Story of the Romanov Family


My family is distantly related to royalty through the Romanov family, and my mother told me this story as a part of our heritage.


“The Romanov Family rules Russia for over 300 years. The last Czar of Russia was Nicholas II, and he had been in power for over 20 years. In 1917, Russia was on a downturn in terms of following the current diplomatic state of the Czar. Their economy was on the downturn as a result of their involvement in World War 1. The Lenin-led Bolshevik revolution led what was called the Red Army in an attempt to overthrow the Czar, who’s loyalists were attempting to contain the coup, referred to as the White Army.

A curse was put upon the royal family by Grigori Rasputin, who was the advisor to the Czar. The general public blamed their misery on Rasputin because of his poor job of advising the Czar, including getting Russia involved in World War 1. Sensing something was coming, Rasputin warned Nicholas II of a prophecy: ‘Czar of Russia, if you hear the bell, it is telling you that Grigori has been murdered and you must know this: it was one of your relations who brought death upon me, and no one of your blood will live past two years, being killed by the Russian people.’

Both of Rasputin’s prophecies came try. Only two weeks after warning Nicholas II, Rasputin was killed by Prince Yusupov, who was married to a niece of Nicholas II, meaning his death was family related as was prophesized. A year and a half later, the entire Romanov family was executed once Lenin’s Red Army had seized power.

It is believed that Princess Anastasia of the Romanov family escaped the firing squad of the Bolshevik’s, carrying with her many family jewels. It is still unclear what was the outcome of Princess Anastasia, as she disappeared after escaping the overthrown state.

Imposters have tried to identify themselves as her over the years, but in 2008 there were remains found that match her DNA.”




My mom Laurie told me this story as a partial history of my heritage. I am distantly related to the Romanov family on my father’s side of the family, and my great grandmother told my mom this story once when my mom and dad still lived in Canada. My mom likes this story because it gives us a small bit of heritage in a royal family, and she thinks that is very cool to be able to say. She likes that it is historical while at the same time has a mysterious side to is, as it is still unclear what was the outcome of Princess Anastasia.

My great grandmother died before I had the chance to really have a conversation with her, let alone remember having seen her, and she had many stories about our family’s past. My Great Grandparents were raised in Eastern Europe during World War 2, as my Grandfather told me the story of how his father lost three fingers on his right hand. He was out playing in the field with his siblings when a grenade landed in front of him, and being a naïve child, ran to it to pick it up. It detonated near him, causing only damage to his hand but blowing off his middle, ring, and pinky fingers in the process.




My mother told me this story to give me a sense of where our family came from, and although we are distantly related, we still hold close to our heritage. When people ask what nationality our family is, saying Canadian isn’t exactly intriguing to people, and since my grandparents were the first generation to live in Canada, we tend to tell people we have Eastern European roots, giving this story as a background to where we come from.

This is generally told when someone asks about our heritage, and doesn’t necessarily have much context otherwise. It is usually an attention grabber, as most people would not expect my family to be of Eastern European descent, let alone royalty. Obviously the Romanov’s were overthrown, but to still have a connection to them is something I will hold on to and tell my kids about.


My thoughts:


As a kid, I loved the movie Anastasia, which was an animated depiction of how Anastasia escaped the Bolsheviks and was on the run to avoid getting executed. I like the mysterious aspect to the story in that we are not entirely sure what ended up happening with Anastasia. I personally would’ve loved to have a distant relative still in royalty but just being related to something so significant in history.


The Horse Statue

The Main Piece
Folk objects have been symbols for memories, past loved ones, and important places one has been to for ages. Their value is decided not monetarily, but by the owner. For instance, the porcelain horse statue Demie owns is not worth a lot monetarily, but because of its age and its passage through generations of family members, she finds it to be irreplaceable. To be more precise, the horse is a representation of her great, great, grandfather. Her family keeps it in the living room as a reminder of their ancestry and where they came from.
Background Information
My informant is Demie Cuo, a current undergraduate student at USC and friend of my close friend, Elizabeth Kim. The statue was brought to the states from China, it being one of the few possessions he owned. She is unsure why he brought the statue of all things, but it obviously meant a lot to him. Therefore, Demie cherishes it just as he cherishes it in respect for her great, great, grandfather. Her mother told her about the horse since it stems from her side of the family. Demie enjoys having the horse there because it makes her feel connected to her culture and ancestors even if she did not have the opportunity to meet them. She would also hope to pass down a folk object that would preserve her existence.
She, Elizabeth, and I were relaxing in my dormitory sharing stories of our life back home. She casually brought up that if we were to ever visit her, that we would see this odd statue in living room. She began to explain the significance of it and why it was there.
Personal Thoughts
The idea of preserving my existence truly intrigues me. I had no idea that a folk object could mean that much or do so much for a family. It brings to light what small actions such as keeping a horse statue can do. I found it interesting the she placed value in the horse simply because it meant so much to her great great grandfather, even though she had never met him. It is obvious that ancestry and culture mean a lot to Demie and her family.