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: 42

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2015.048.011 The Family Journey of Paula Madison

This oral history focuses on the history of Paula Madison grandfather, Lowe Ding Chow, and her journey to trace her ancestral roots to find and reconnect with her unknown relatives. Paula Madison, former NBC executive vice president of diversity, wanted to uncover her identity through her grandfather history, because she wanted to learn the background of her Jamaican-Chinese heritage. Madison has always had this inherent connection with Samuel Lowe, the grandfather that she had never met, and realized that Lowe also had this overarching connection and influence with her other relatives, specifically her Chinese relatives. Through tracing the steps of her grandfather journey, she was also able to create a family business. Researching Lowe history allowed Madison to come full circle, and reconnect her previously lost family.

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2015.048.012 The Family Journey of Savio Tung

Investment banker Savio Tung talks about his family life in China and their journey to the US. He talks about his father restaurant in Hong Kong, which went bankrupt and led to him crossing paths with American businessman Cornelius Vander Starr. He talks about how Starr was able to help his family in the US and provide valuable advice and guidance to him growing up. In the US, after going to school he gets a job working for Chase Manhattan bank and has a long time career in banking.

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2015.048.013 The Family Journey of Thomas and Edwin Wong

Edwin Wong and his father has been involved with community work in their personal and professional lives for almost four decades combined. Mr. Wong was born in Burma and has family roots in China, Hong Kong and Canada. When he arrived in New York City he became involved with the Department of Social Services, working as a case worker in neighborhoods in the Bronx and the Lower East Side. On his own time he became involved in local community boards in Queens and also spent his time in Manhattan Chinatown, joining the Wong Family Association as well as the Chinese Community Center. He credits his language skills, knowledge, personality and refusal to keep quiet as positives that helped him get to where he is today, although he also describes some experiences with discrimination and prejudice against Chinese and Chinese Americans, especially during the hiring and promoting process. While Mr. Wong is incredibly dedicated to community work, he makes sure to prioritize the wellbeing of the immediate family first, saying that personal and family needs have to be met before you get involved with the community. He transmits this value to his three sons. Edwin internalizes this lesson, saying that financial and overall stability is needed before community work can be done, although he is actively involved in community groups and boards around his neighborhood of Forest Hills.

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2015.048.014 The Family Journey of Kenneth Pai

Writer Kenneth Hsien-Yung Pai talks about his tumultuous childhood living in China during and after the Second Sino-Japanese war. He was diagnosed with Tuberculosis as a child and it affected his views on the world. He discusses his inspirations to become a writer and talks about writing the biography about his father Bai Chongxi, a Kuomintang general. His travels led him to the US at the age of 25 to pursue his studies and eventually becoming a professor at the University of California Santa Barbara. He later returns to China and begins to promote Kun opera and putting together a revival of the play “Peony Pavilion” in 2004.

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2015.048.015 The Family Journey of Theodore Chao

Theodore Chao, born in Shanghai, China, immigrated to Virginia and grew up in Hampton at a young age. He begins the interview by sharing his connection to the MOCA which he was first introduced to by his mother. He continues to speak of his mother colorful upbringing as a Virginia native of Toisan heritage and touches on her educational background in NYC where she met his father. He describes his father tumultuous journey, escaping reeducation camp in Guangdong, eventually reuniting with his family in America. he recounts his life growing up in Virginia. He talks about his uncle Ernest, who served in the US army and was in Nanjing during the end of WWII. Theodore and his family story ends with his reflection on his children experience growing up Chinese American in Summit, New Jersey. He finishes with several anecdotes about maintaining a connection with his Chinese roots, the language, and the tight knit personal relationships that have shaped his and his family experiences.

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2015.048.016 The Family Journey of Virginia Moy Burcher

Virginia Moy Burcher talks about her family journey to the US from Toisan. Her family then moves to New York and establishes a large series of businesses in Chinatown. She goes on to talk about growing up in the city and helping out at the various businesses before going to Hunter college to pursue education. She marries a man from Bermuda and talks about raising a biracial child and interracial marriage.

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2015.048.017 The Family Journey of William Louie

This interview follows the life and career of William Louie, an esteemed Chinese-American architect heading Kohn Pederson Fox Associates, a leading global urban architectural firm originally based in New York. A native of the city, he grew up between his family laundry in Southern Bronx and the Lee family association in Chinatown, during which he attended both public school and Chinese school from a young age. He went on to train at the Institute of Design and Construction, where he was recruited into an architectural firm as a draftsman, and met the group of esteemed fellows who would then found KPF several years later. Now a design architect, he has directed projects all over the world, from his hometown of New York, to Hong Kong, and to Brazil. Bill has spearheaded KPF entry into the Asia market, which as of today, totals 50% of the firm’s revenue. While he stays humble, attributing much of his success to his parents and his wife encouragement, Bill has made tremendous contributions to the urban architectural landscapes of major cities across the globe.

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2016.033.001 The Family Journey of Ming Cho Lee

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 The Family Journey of Alice Mong

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 The Family Journey of Curtis Chin

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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