Hi, I'm writing my master's thesis about the decadence of the Chinese elite at the time of the new republic, with research partly based on my Shanghainese heritage, but all I know of my family's history are from bits and pieces of passing conversations with my now deceased relatives. Everytime I ask my mom for more specific information or even names of people, she tells me I'm too young to know, which is the reason why I chose to write on this subject, because there seems to be so much mystery and allure clouding my family history. Here is everything I know of my mom's history, and I'm specifically interested in her maternal great-grandfather:
Basically, my mom's mom is a Yu from Shanghai. Her dad's dad is the Yu I'm looking for. Let's call him G-father Yu. I think was born in Soochow sometime in the mid-late 1800s, probably migrated to Shanghai for better work opportunities, somehow struck in his 30's (I'm guessing), and started a pretty successful shipping company in Shanghai that lasted until the 1940's (I think) at which time it either liquidised because of political instability, or perhaps it was confiscated by the Communist government. Whether or not he was still living at that time, I have no clue. My mom sometimes refers to him as one of the first modern capitalists of modern China, but that might be an exaggeration. She also tells me that he was good friends with Sun Yat Sen and had funded much of the Nationalist movement, and that Chiang Kai Shek was either his godson, or one of his son's godson (I'm not sure which part of that might actually be true, since I've never been able to find anything on the internet...). What I do know for a fact is that he was definitey a fairly wealthy and prominent figure in Shanghai around the turn of the century, because I remember visiting the Peace Hotel gift shop in Shanghai when I was young, and we flipped through this coffee-table book about old Shanghai which had a photograph of him.
That's all I know of him, and I hope someone out there will be able to help me. I'm interested in knowing who he was, how he made his first pot of gold, whether or not he made his money through illegal dealings, who were/are his assorted wives, children and decendants.. Information of any kind would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.