Oral History Archive - Projects
Journey Wall

The Journey Wall is a custom art installation created for MOCA's lobby by renowned artist/designer Maya Lin. The wall is composed of bronze tiles through which Chinese Americans can permanently honor and remember their family roots. Each tile bears the name of an individual or family, their ancestral home, and current place of residence in America. The complete wall will highlight the expansiveness of the Chinese American Diaspora and the diversity of immigration stories from across the country - from artists to businessmen. The interviews in this collection are the stories of the Chinese American families that are part of the Journey Wall installation.

Number of interviews: 6

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2015.048.001 Interview with Chester Lee & Michael Lee, September 30, 2015

Both Chester and Michael are extremely active in the Chinatown community. Michael heads the nonprofit group Apex and is a community leader in Chinatown. Chester has also worked with many nonprofits and believes it is important for people to share their gifts and help others. He views giving as a habit formed slowly over time that can have a large impact on various organizations. Michael attributes his inspiration in nonprofit work to witnessing his parents work in the community and his own experience on the Committee of 100. Chester advises Chinese Americans to remain grounded in the values they brought with them when they immigrated. He believes that staying true to their values will allow immigrants to succeed in a society that may not immediately accept them. Michael also hopes that the community will not be afraid to ask for help and will embrace other cultures and people to gain new information and become more prepared to succeed.

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2016.033.001 Interview with Ming Cho Lee March 18, 2016

For over forty-five years, Ming Cho Lee has served on the faculty at Yale School of Drama, including as the co-chair of the design department. As a recipient of the National Medal of Arts in 2002 and the Tony award for lifetime achievement in 2013, Ming Cho Lee is one of the most acclaimed living set designers in the U.S. He is originally from Shanghai but moved to Hong Kong during his childhood, and went to the United States to attend Occidental College in 1949. He then attended UCLA and moved to New York City to pursue his career. In this interview, Lee discusses the impact of his childhood experiences, especially those of his mother taking him to theater performances and movies, his time attending Occidental College, and his determination to become a major theater set designer. He credits Jo Mielziner and Boris Aronson as his teachers who both deeply influenced his career.

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2016.033.002 Interview with Alice Mong August 4, 2016

Alice Mong is Executive Director of Asia Society Hong Kong Center (ASHK). Prior to joining the Asia Society HK, Ms Mong worked for almost a decade in New York, where as Director of the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) she was responsible for transforming MOCA from a New York Chinatown institution to a leading national museum. Prior to MOCA, Ms. Mong headed up “The Committee of 100”, a non-profit membership organization founded by world-class architect I.M Pei and renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Under Ms. Mong’s leadership at the Committee of 100, the organization increased its presence in Greater China and significantly expanded its influence on U.S.-China relations and advanced the full participation of Chinese Americans in all areas of life. As Executive Director of Asia Society in Hong Kong, Ms Mong has overseen Asia Society Hong Kong’s presentation of No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia, the inaugural exhibition in Asia of the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative.

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2016.033.003 Interview with Curtis Chin August 16, 2016

Ambassador Curtis S. Chin has been in public service for a number of years and comes from a military family. He has served as ambassador of the Asian Development Bank under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama. He spent his formative years in Virginia, Washington and went to Northwestern for under grad and earned a masters of MPPM at Yale School of management. Both his father and mother families come from Toishan, in Southern China.

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2016.033.004 Interview with Lui Family August 26, 2016

In this interview with MOCA, four siblings from the Lui Family sit down to discuss their childhood in early 20th century Chinatown. Sisters, Effie and Fannie, begin with a description of their family members and their life in a tenement apartment. They also explain the root of their Christian faith and the role of ministers as community social workers. The sisters then examine the tensions between the Chinese and Italians in the neighborhood and the development of their Chinese American identity. Brothers, Harold and Ronald, then describe their parents’ immigration experience and their siblings’ educations. They also further discuss the importance of the Church in their lives and the challenge of paper son identities. The four siblings ultimately join to discuss the effect on World War II on their family and the conflicts between their Chinese identity and strong Christian faith. They close the interview with a discussion of the importance of family and faith in leaving behind value and a legacy.

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2016.033.007 Interview with The Yao Family October 7, 2016

Tina Yao & William Yao talk about their immigration life experience, their family tradition and the cultural legacy they want to leave to their offspring. William Yao talks about his childhood in Shanghai, his father who worked in the silk business died of a stroke when he was young. Although three of her five children lived with her brother it was still hard for William mother to raise her children, financially. After WWII William went to the Shanghai provincial State High School, later he left Shanghai to look for a job. His mother’s brother asked him if wanted to come to New York through his newspaper company. His first job had bad pay and that’s when he applied to Pan Am, where he stayed. Later on when his children were growing up they went and lived in Flushing, which was convenient, had mahjong and Chinese food places. His wife Tina Yao lately joins his oral history.

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