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Our Lives Stand Between the Past and Future

No matter who we are and where we come from, we are an integral part of our family’s ever-growing “thread.”

Right now, it is our turn to make history, and our duty to carry forward rituals and traditions important to our lineage.

At one point or another in life, we become curious about our forefathers from long ago, the people before us who have shared our blood and our name. Who were they? What did they accomplish? We want to know about them so we can know more about ourselves.

Although the newest DNA testing is capable of helping us to track down their origins across continents and seas through the sands of time, we mostly get to discover some basic attributes of our kin, such as their ethnicities and geographic origins.

The only ancestors we truly get to know in life are the ones close to us and our generation: our parents, grandparents, and those related to them. And, if we are very, very lucky, we may know our great-grandparents. While we still breathe the air of this world, we may witness ourselves gradually joining the older ranks of our family by becoming a parent, an aunt, a grandparent, or a great-grand-uncle to newer generations.

In the larger scheme of our family lineage, the few generations around us are only a small segment of our past. Learning about the people who came before us certainly helps us understand our family history, and appreciate the progress we make in our own lifetime.

This summer, my son, Keaton Sun Stubis, graduated from Johns Hopkins University and earned a PhD in mathematics. To me, his doctoral degree is historic by being the first in both the Stubis and Sun families.

As we celebrated his achievement, I couldn’t help recalling the lives of my ancestors in China; how my mother’s father was educated by a private tutor and my father’s mother never learned to read and write.

When it was time for my generation to go to school, my three sisters and I fought hard against poverty and political prejudice to win our four years of college education. And, three of us went on to obtain our master’s degrees in America. We broke new barriers, especially for the women in our family.

And now, it is my children’s turn to find their passions in life and make history for our family. Every time they do something special, they understand its relevance to the generations before them and how proud we are for them.

Life is short, but history is long. Understanding our family’s past may help us see a larger picture of ourselves and our past than just our genetic and geographical background. For a few score years in our short lives here on Earth, we can weave new threads into our families’ histories to honor our ancestors and inspire future generations.

Reflections From The East Column

By Qin Sun Stubis

You can always reach me at, or please visit me at You can purchase a copy of my book, “Once Our Lives,” online at

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