One of the unexpected perquisites of marrying Fanfan was the huge and happy distaff side family I inherited. Fanfan's mom, pictured here top, third from right, is the third of seven siblings including six girls. Last night, the third day of the lunar New Year, we had a fantastic meal at the home of Fourth Aunt (四姨), who's usually regarded as the best-looking of the bunch. As you've doubtless guessed, she's the one with the pigtails and the Red Guard get-up. The whole family was or still is in the entertainment business: First Aunt （大姨）, who still lives in the family's native Shanghai, is an exec at Yang Guang TV, Second Aunt was a performer I think and lives in Nanjing, my mother-in-law teaches directing at the Central Drama Academy, Fourth Aunt was part of a drama troupe and is a talented pianist. And so on. They're all very good cooks--especially the three sisters just mentioned.
The family gets together pretty regularly, usually in Shanghai for the Nie family patriarch's birthday. Nie Yuehan is the stuff of legend. He was a Whampoa Military Academy (黄埔军校) graduate, an underground Party in Shanghai member during the War, and rode a bicycle from Shanghai to Wuhan while in his 70s. He just turned 90 last September and is still in fine health. We video-chatted with him on Skype last night from Fourth Aunt's house. Here he is with his great-grandson and namesake, my son John (Yuehan is usually how "John" is rendered in Chinese).
The highlight of the family gatherings is when the daughters, accompanied by the one son on accordion, all sing. They have a whole repertoire of stuff worked out in three-part harmony, and the "Six Phoenixes of the Nie Family" really do it up.
Fanfan definitely identifies with her Beijing roots and can't speak Shanghainese at all (except, strangely, for the word "nipple," and I really don't want to know why), but I'm mighty glad for that side of her family, and that Guenevere and John will have the chance to grow up with a clan like this.