Thursday, May 3, 2018

Yunte Huang

Yunte Huang's new book is Inseparable: The Original Siamese Twins and Their Rendezvous with American History. From the transcript of his Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross:

GROSS: Yunte Huang, welcome to FRESH AIR. Describe for us how Chang and Eng were physically joined.

YUNTE HUANG: Well, there was a band of flesh, which was about 4 inches long, that tied them at the bases of their chests. So it's the - where the livers are. And so it was, you know - it was 4 inches long, but over the years, you know, through wear and tear, it was stretched to about 5 1/2 inches in length.

GROSS: So they were called Siamese twins because they were from Siam, which is now Thailand.

HUANG: Right.

GROSS: But they were part of the Chinese community in Siam. They were 17 when they were taken to America. Who took them, and why?

HUANG: Well, they were born of a Chinese father and a Siamese and Chinese mother. To their neighbors in Thailand at the time, they were actually called Chinese twins, not Siamese twins. So Siamese twins was a more kind of American brand when they came to the United States. So they were growing up in Siam in this kind of fishing village. And one day, they were swimming in the river in the canal, and they were discovered by this traveling Scottish businessman by the name of Robert Hunter. And he thought he saw something kind of mysterious, kind of creature literally walking out of Greek mythology, almost. And when he got closer, he realized it was actually two boys joined together. And so he immediately realized it was a business opportunity. And so he tried to talk to the boys, but also to the mother - and trying to convince them that he would take them back to England or United States, you know, for a touring exhibition.

But the Siamese king, actually, did not approve. Everything in the kingdom at the time belonged to the king. A few years later, Robert Hunter...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue