Category Archives: Chinese Canadian History

Strombo wades in on the plagiarism issue of Ling Zhang’s “Gold Mountain Blues”

and the Arts
George Stromboulopoulos comments on the current lawsuit
by authors Wayson Choy, Sky Lee and Paul Yee against Chinese born author Ling Zhang – and points out some infamous examples of plagiarism including George Harrison’s song My Sweet Lord vs He’s So Fine by The Chiffons. 


Here are some of the highlight’s from the article

Cold Play’s “Viva la Vida” VS Joe Satriani’s “If I Could Fly”

Strombo points out that unintentional plagiarism still gets you in trouble.  There are videos comparisons of Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” and “He’s So Fine”, as well as Cold Play’s “Viva la Vida” vs Joe Striani’s “If I Could Fly” which was was settled out of court in September, 2009.  Strombo also points out the successful lawsuit by the Isley Brothers against Michael Bolton, who had both released songs titled ‘Love is a Wonderful Thing’, only Bolton did it 25 years later.

More interesting are the literary references:

Teenager Kaavya Viswanthan, wrote a hit debut novel, ‘How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life’ which was found to contain different portions of two young adult novels by Megan McCafferty.

Stephen Ambrose’s book ‘The Wild Blue: The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s Over Germany 1944-45’ was found to have copied full passages from six different books that had not been listed as sources.

The Terminator Movie VS Outer Limits segments

If story “ideas” are proprietary, then Ling Zhang may be in big trouble.  Strombo points out that James Cameron had admitted that the idea of the Terminator movie was based on ideas from “a couple of Outer Limits segments”.  Author of the segments was author Harlan Ellison who settled out of court and had his name added to the end credits of the film.

Disappearing Moon Cafe

Can it also be a coincidence that Paul Yee’s Saltwater City, Sky Lee’s Disappearing Moon Cafe, Denise Chong’s The Concubine’s Children, and Wayson Choy’s Jade Peony, were the 1989, 1990, 1994 and 1996 winners for the City of Vancouver Book Awards
The Jade Peony by Wayson Choy

Check out the listed examples of plot and character similarities that have been printed in news stories, from the Federal Court Statement of Claim

Sky Lee’s Disappearing Moon Cafe (1990), pg. 3

In grave danger, a young Chinese man is rescued and then cared for by a
beautiful girl, Kelora, of rare Chinese/ Native heritage.

Zhang Ling’s Gold Mountain Blues(2011), pp. 256-285

In grave danger, a young Chinese man is rescued and then cared for by a
beautiful girl, Sundance, of rare Chinese/Native heritage.

Sky Lee’s Disappearing Moon Cafe (1990), pg. 237

The Chinese man is old now. Full of regret for his long lost love, Kelora, he dies after a visit from her.

Zhang Ling’s Gold Mountain Blues (2011), pp. 511-513

The Chinese man is old now. Full of regret for his long lost love, Sundance, he dies after a visit from her.

Wayson Choy’s The Jade Peony (1995), pp. 52-56

Wong Suk is disfigured after working on the railway. He rescues a white
foreman who becomes gratefully indebted as well as a good friend. When
the foreman dies, his son passes along a precious piece of gold.

Zhang Ling’s Gold Mountain Blues (2011), pp. 70-72, 145-147, 377

Ah Fat is disfigured in a fight while working on the railway. He saves the
life of his white foreman. They become good friends over the years.
When the foreman’s wife dies, her will leaves money to Ah Fat’s son.

Paul Yee’s The Bone Collector’s Son (2003), pp. 62, 72-73, 79-80, 140-141

Fourteen-year-old Bing works as a houseboy for a white couple in Vancouver. He becomes a
target of white bullies, but his employer Mrs. Bentley rescues him.

Zhang Ling’s Gold Mountain Blues (2011), pp. 309-326

Fifteen-year-old Kam Ho works as a houseboy for a white couple in Vancouver. He becomes a target of white bullies, but his employer Mrs. Henderson rescues him.

Paul Yee’s Dead Man’s Gold and Other Stories (2002), pp. 73-78

Hard-working Shek buys a farm while younger brother Ping hates farm work and goes to the city to gamble. Shek pays everyone but Ping. Ping is unhappy. Ping kills Shek.

Zhang Ling’s Gold Mountain Blues (2011), pp. 235-236, 241, 243, 246, 247, 249, 328

Hard-working Ah Fat buys a farm while his son Kam Shan hates farm work and goes to
the city to gamble. Ah Fat pays others but not Kam Shan. Kam Shan is
unhappy. He disappears.

Vancouver Asian Film Fest plays this weekend

The Vancouver Asian Film Festival is now 15 years old.

I started attending VAFF around 2000, when festival founder Barb Lee came to a dinner event for Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop, trying to promote VAFF.  Many years later, VAFF is now one of the biggest and best events in the Asian Canadian cultural scene.  It has grown from a one day event to a four day event.

Back in 2000, there were few movies that were made or set in North America, and made by North American Asians.  A lot of films shown at early VAFF events still came from Asia, while some came from the US. 

In recent years, VAFF has really matured into its own.  The Mighty Asiam Movie Making Marathon has helped to develop more local talent and films.  VAFF events now regularly feature Canadian directors and film makers, as well as actors.

Here are some of the 2011 VAFF 15 events that have caught my eye… that I wish I could attend – if I wasn't already committed to performing my accordion in the Heart of the City Festival this weekend.

PROGRAM 1 – Opening Night Presentation: Almost Perfect

Thursday November 3, 2011 at 7:00 PM
Love Letter to Vancouver by director Joanna Wong
PROGRAM 5 – Canadian Asian Stories
Saturday November 5, 2011 at 11:00 AM

PROGRAM 7 – Chicks on Flicks – Women in Hollywood: Then & Now
Saturday November 5, 2011 at 4:00 PM

PROGRAM 10 – Vancity Shorts

Sunday November 6, 2011 at 1:00 PM

Bamboo Lettering at Writers Festival with Jen Sookfong Lee, Kevin Chong and Ling Zhang

To Be Or Not To Be… a Chinese-Canadian Writer…

Bamboo Lettering
– event #55 at the Vancouver International Writers Festival
Saturday Oct 22nd, Arts Club Revue Theatre, Vancouver

photo photo T.Wong
This is my favorite photo of the three writers Jen Sookfong Lee, Ling Zhang and Kevin Chong. They each displayed wonderful humour.  Jen is of course the most expressive with subtlely outrageous statements about her mother, food, and her writing habits.  Ling Zhang is the most melodramatic, in a classic Chinese self-denying sort of way, while she claims she doesn't want her writing to be so melodramatic.  Kevin Chong is straight-ahead deadpan humour with insightful observations.

Festival organizer Hal Wake titled this event “Bamboo Letters” because author Kevin Chong is reported to have said he would never want to have “bamboo lettering” on the cover of one of his books.  And so this is the situation posed by moderator Catherine Gretzinger: “Three authors, who could be labelled “Chinese Canadian” if you were keen
to apply labels, talk about the tension between avoiding your heritage
and embracing your heritage.”

Chong admitted that he never really wanted to originally be a classic style “Asian-Canadian writer”, since he came to Canada in the late '60s from Hong Kong with his parents.  And to some extent he has avoided the familiar storylines of head-tax survivors toiling in Chinatown for meagre salaries, and triumphantly integrating into Canadian society (or not) in spite of racism.  Chong instead has opted to write a different kind of Asian Canadian character for his new novel “Beauty and Pity” that is about a post-1967 post-modern immigrant-slacker.  But it is still an update of the clash of generations and how the character must reconcile an Asian-Canadian identity for himself.  I bought “Beauty Plus Pity” at the Word On The Street Festival, because I arrived late (due to a previous engagement) at Chong's book launch held at The Penthouse Nightclub, because I was too busy chatting with others when they packed up the books for sale.

Jen Sookfong Lee is a familiar voice on CBC Radio with her “West Coast Words” segment for “On The Coast”.  She has revealed previously little known characters from Asian Vancouver for her latest novel “The Better Mother”.  Set during the 1980's, Danny is a gay Asian, who recalls meeting characters from Chinatown's burlesque era in the late 1950's.  It is a rich juicy setting that juxtaposes taboo subjects for conservative immigrant families, and Lee's attention to details makes for a colourful read.  I really like this book – but I keep borrowing it repeatedly from the library, because I have been too busy to sit down and read anything… so I keep renewing it and renewing it…and re-reading the beginning chapters because they are so re-readable!

Ling Zhang is an unknown quality.  She has written 5 books, but nobody in Canada has really read any of them, because they were all published in China and only available in Chinese…. until now.  Zhang's newest novel is Gold Mountain Blues, translated from the Chinese publication because Zhang writes in Chinese.  She has written an epic novel spanning 150 years of Chinese Canadian history, 5 generations of a family, detailing the struggles of early Chinese pioneers coming to Canada to work on the the Canadian Pacific Railroad and integrated into the Canadian cultural mosaic.  It is interesting that Zhang is in some sense a recent immigrant, arriving in Canada in 1986 – part of the most recent wave of Mandarin speaking Chinese immigrants whose growing numbers now outnumber the Cantonese speakers of earlier immigration periods.  It is yet a new kind of Chinese-Canadian identity, that has arrived prosperous and assured, without the burden of decades of negative self-identity imposed by decades of systemic racism in Canada caused by Colonial racist superiority, head tax policies (1885-1923), The Chinese Exclusion Act (1923-1947), and limited immigration policies (1947-1967).

Unfamiliar with Zhang's work, and unavailable at the Vancouver Public Library, I googled her name and was surprise to discover that there were numerous news articles concerning the possible plagiarism of her new book, from the works of Asian Canadian literary icons Paul Yee, SKY Lee and Wayson Choy.  In her defense, she stated in The National PostGold Mountain Blues is the result of years of research and
several field trips to China and Western Canada. The research data
obtained over the years is voluminous enough to allow me to write
another complete novel if I chose to. A hundred and fifty years of
Chinese Canadian history is a “common wealth” for all of us to share and
discover. I have not read The Jade Peony, Disappearing Moon Cafe, The Bone Collector’s Son or Tales from Gold Mountain.  Zhang has also said in the Calgary Herald that “I am quite ignorant about what’s going on in the Canadian literary circles,” she says. “This is why it’s so outrageous . . . ‘Excuse me, no
offence to you, but I haven’t read your book. Not because you’re not
great, but because I have been writing in Chinese all the last 13

Maybe these issues of different conceptualizations of Chinese Canadian identity is reflected in the author's own experiences of being Chinese Canadian. Over 150 years of immigration, under different circumstances has produced different experiences.  Lee's ancestors probably left China when it was still the Qing Empire of the Last Emperor Pu-Yi, Chong's family possibly left Mainland China for Hong Kong while it was a Republic under Chiang Kai Shek or soon after, and Zhang came to Canada long after Mao had led the Communist Party to power.

Is it therefore possible to consider that there is a common Chinese Canadian literary identity? Is Zhang appropriating the pioneer Chinese Canadian culture and history to tell a universal story, similar to how WP Kinsella told the stories of his First Nations characters from a Reserve in Central Alberta?  Are Lee and Chong broadening the pantheon of Chinese-Canadian characters with their stories?  Or are they still all writing the universal story of identity struggle and reconciliation – but with new settings and and characters.

Unfortunately these questions never really came up.  Discussion topics dwelled on the joys and pitfalls of dealing with editors, agents and publishers, as well as finding their characters. Jen emphasized that the burlesque dancers of Chinatown have never been written about before.  Zhang said that she found her inspiration for her novel by visiting a grave site for Chinese pioneer workers outside of Calgary.   

But the audience had great fun in hearing that the one major common element in each of the passages read by the authors was “food”.   Maybe the moral of this literary question is simply that EVERYBODY LIKES CHINESE FOOD!

See my pictures from the event:


Read more:

National Post: Ling Zhang addresses Gold Mountain Blues plagiarism allegations

Calgary Herarld: The hard road to Zhang's Gold Mountain

Word On The Street Fair features most Asian-Canadian authors yet!

WOTS is featuring the largest number of
Asian-Canadian authors
I have ever seen at this event

Word On The Street – book and magazine Fair

Friday – come to Kogawa House and meet author Susan Crean
Sunday – join us for Ricepaper booth @ Word On the Street

I always attend WOTS – and can sometimes be found:
1) staffing the ACWW Ricepaper Magazine booth
2) staffing the Historic Joy Kogawa House booth
3) hosting an event
4) listening at an event
5) searching for good book deals
6) searching for good silent auction deals
7) visiting my fellow library co-workers at CUPE 391 and VPL booths
8) one year I played accordion at CUPE 391 booth

is a list of Asian-Canadian writers – + First Nations and Afro-Saxon
(as Wayde Compton describes himself). 
I know each of them – except
Sachiko and Richard.  I have made the list in chronological order, so you can start at 11am with Kevin Chong, and finish at 4:10 with Wayde Compton.

author headshot

Kevin Chong was born in Hong Kong in 1975. He is the author of Baroque-a-Nova, Neil Young Nation, and a forthcoming memoir on horseracing. Beauty Plus Pity is his first novel in ten years.

Kevin Chong is at the Canada Writes at 11:00

author headshot

JJ Lee is the menswear columnist for the Vancouver Sun
and broadcasts a weekly fashion column for CBC Radio in Vancouver. For
years, journalist and amateur tailor JJ Lee tried to ignore the navy
suit that hung at the back of his closet—his late father’s last suit. JJ
Lee will read from The Measure of a Man and…

JJ Lee is at the Authors Tent at 11:30

author headshot

Richard Wagamese is Ojibway but was separated from
his people for 20 years. When they reconnected, elders told him that he
was to be a storyteller. This has led to an award-winning career as a
writer and a journalist.

Richard Wagamese is at the Poetry Tent at 11:30

author headshot

Sachiko Murakami’s first poetry collection, The Invisibility Exhibit,
was a finalist for the Governer General’s Award for Poetry and the
Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. She is a past member of Vancouver’s
Kootenay School of Writing collective and now co-hosts the Pivot Reading

Sachiko Murakami is at the Poetry Tent at 11:45

author headshot

C. E. Gatchalian is the author of three books of
drama and one book of poetry. His plays have appeared on stages
nationally and internationally, as well as on radio and television. His
most recent undertaking, Crossing and Other Plays contains three plays: Crossing, Diamond and Ticks, that explore themes of sexuality…

C. E. Gatchalian is at the Authors Tent at 12:00

author headshot

Jen Sookfong Lee was born and raised in
Vancouver’s Eastside and is now the voice behind “Westcoast Words,” a
weekly writing column featured on CBC Radio One’s On the Coast and All Points West.

Jen Sookfong Lee is at the Canada Writes at 12:20

author headshot

Evelyn Lau is the author of four volumes of poetry, two works of non-fiction, two short story collections and a novel. Runaway: Diary of a Street Kid was a Canadian bestseller and was made into a CBC movie starring Sandra Oh in her first major role. Living Under Plastic won the 2011 Pat Lowther Memorial Award for Poetry.

Evelyn Lau is at the Carnegie Centre at 1:45

author headshot

Wayde Compton is a Vancouver writer whose books include After Canaan: Essays on Race, Writing, and Region, Performance Bond, Bluesprint: Black British Columbian Literature and Orature and 49th Parallel Psalm. Compton is also a co-founding member of the Hogan’s Alley Memorial Project, an organization…

Wayde Compton is at the Authors Tent at 4:10

The Wong family crest approved and recognized by the Canadian Government: maybe now I will have to design a McWong family crest

The Wong family crest approved and recognized by the Canadian Government: maybe now I will have to design a McWong family crest
The Wong or Huang family crest approved and recognized by the Canadian Government
The Wong or Huang family crest approved and recognized by the Canadian goverment, the project was started by the Wong Association of Ontario.

I can understand that a panda bear is from China
– but why a white polar bear? The Chinese Wong pioneers came to “Gold
Mountain”, and “Wong” means “yellow” – it should be a “yellow bear” or a
Grizzly Bear!!!

I do like that both bears are standing on a “gold mountain” since “gum san” was what the Chinese referred to America, since the early pioneers came for the California and BC gold rushes.

The panda bear is holding a pick axe, to signify that the Chinese pioneers came over in search of gold.  The polar bear is holding a sledge hammer to signify that Chinese pioneers also came to Canada to help build the Canadian Pacific Railway.

My own grandfather Wong Wah, arrived in Victoria BC in 1882, at age 16.  He helped his uncle's dry goods store in Victoria and was soon managing “the largest Chinese dry goods store in Victoria” according to my father.  Wong Wah had 6 wives. 3 were in China, 3 came to Canada.  My own grandmother was wife #5, and my father was known as #8 son – even though from wife #5, he only had 3 older brothers and 2 older sisters.

My great-great-grandmother Wong Sze was the wife of Rev. Chan Yu Tan.  Rev. Chan arrived in 1896, following his elder brother's missionary footsteps.  Rev. Chan Sing Kai had arrived in 1891 to help found the Chinese Methodist Church.  Wong Sze arrived around 1899 bringing their children, including my great-grandmother Kate.  The Chan family history is documented and told in the CBC film Generations: The Chan Legacy

My friend David Wong, is also a 5th generation Canadian, who was interviewed on CBC Radio One's “Early Edition” program by host Rick Cluff, on Friday morning.

Here are some quotes from the Toronto Star article
“So far no equivalent of the Highland Games are on the agenda.
“I don’t think you’re going to get Mah-Jong replacing caber tossing,” says Bonnie Wong.
Ontario Wongs meanwhile, will be extending an invitation for all Wongs
to use the crest as their own symbol, said Caroline Wong.
“This is for all the Wongs in Canada.”
And the good news is, you don’t have to wear a kilt. “

Here are my comments about the article…

“The first Chinese Canadian baby born in 1861 was by a Wong.”
is usually listed as Alexander Won Cumyow – it is acknowledged by the
Cumyow descendants that the name is actually the first name, and was
written down wrong by the immigrant officials.

Jean Lumb was the first Chinese Canadian to receive the Order of Canada, in 1976. She was the best friend of my grand-Aunt Helen.  I know 2 of Jean Lumb's daughters: Arlene Chan is a Toronto librarian and author of the dragon boat book: Paddles Up!, while Janet Lumb is the artistic director and founder of Acess Asie (the Montreal equivalent of the Asian Heritage Month Festival).

The first MALE Chinese-Canadian was Ernest Chan, in 1984 – His daughter
Betty Chan became a national highland dance champion of Canada, and a
McChan plaid, was created for her. 

Now for my own friends and family starting with me:

Todd Wong aka Toddish McWong, has yet to create a McWong tartan, but
often wears the Macleod Tartan – because it is the “most yellow kilt I
could find”.  Todd has received the BC Community Achievement Award in 2008, and was featured by the BC Royal Museum in their 150th Anniversary of BC display – “The Party”.  He is founder of Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year
Dinner, turned into a CBC television performance special in 2004.

Also some more Wongs:

Adrienne Wong is of Chinese-Canadian and French ancestry.  She is an accomplished actor and founding director of Neworld Theatre.

Bill Wong is the energy behind Modernize Tailors,
the last remaining tailor shop in Vancouver's Chinatown.  The shop made
the majority of zoot suits during the hey-day of the 1930's and
1940's.  A recent documentary titled Tailor Made: The Last Tailor in Chinatown.

Janice Wong
, artist and author.  Janice wrote the book Chow: From China to Canada, Memories of Food + Family. She was featured in the CBC documentary “Lotus Land Sasketchewan” and Generations: The Chan Legacy.  She is my 2nd cousin, as we are both descended from Rev. Chan Yu Tan.

Jim Wong-Chu
is a Vancouver Chinatown historian, poet and cultural engineer.  He edited Many Mouthed Birds, the first book of Chinese Canadian prose and fiction.  He is the creator of the North American Asian-Canadian Historical Timeline.  He has been the driving force behind the Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop and the Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society.

Milton Wong
is former Chancellor of Simon Fraser University, known as the father of
dragon boating in Vancouver, and is also a well-known businessman, and
philanthropist. He received the Order of Canada in 1997, and the Order of BC in 200

Paul Wong
is the accomplished video artist pioneer.

Rita Wong
is author of Forage,
which won the 2008 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize at the BC Book Prizes. 
Her first collection Monkey Puzzle, won the Asian Canadian Writers'
Workshop Emerging Writer Award.

Vicki Wong
is the author/illustrator of Octonauts, and the creator of Meomi Productions which created the mascots for the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games.


Joe Wai
, architect, my cousin.  His mother was a Wong.  Joe is the architect of many projects in Vancouver Chinatown including: Dr. Sun Yat Sen Gardents, Chinatown Millenium Gateway, Chinese Cultural Centre Museum and Archives.

Vancouver Sun story about architect Joe Wai and Dr. Sun Yat Sen Gardens

recognition for my role model and “biu-goh” (older cousin) – architect Joe Wai.
Now you can see where I get all this East West fusion stuff – It's in
the family. Our grandfather Wong Wah came to Canada in 1882, at age 16, in Victoria.

East is East and West is West, and 25 years ago the twain met


celebrate its 25th anniversary, the Dr. Sun Yatsen Classical Chinese
Garden held a Founders reception Friday afternoon, and in attendance
were old friends Joe Wai and Marwyn Samuels. Samuels flew in from his
home in China for the event. Wai flew in from his office on Homer


celebrate its 25th anniversary, the Dr. Sun Yatsen Classical Chinese
Garden held a Founders reception Friday afternoon, and in attendance
were old friends Joe Wai and Marwyn Samuels. Samuels flew in from his
home in China for the event. Wai flew in from his office on Homer

Two people could not be less alike. Wai is an architect.
Samuels, at present, is a movie producer. Wai was born in Hong Kong and
grew up in Vancouver. Samuels, a Jew who was born in New York, got his
PhD in Chinese Studies at the U. of Washington and came to Vancouver as a
UBC professor in 1974. Wai speaks Cantonese. Samuels speaks Mandarin.
Wai's wife is white. Samuels, in his two marriages, married a Filipina
and a Chinese national. They appear to inhabit two different sides of a
cultural divide, but what those sides are is difficult to say. East and
West are not as twain as they used to be.

In the late 1970s,
events brought Wai and Samuels together. The City of Vancouver had
vacant land at the edge of Chinatown, and wanted to build a park for the
Chinese community. Complicating matters was a bitter political divide
within the Chinese community itself -between a pro-Taiwanese faction and
a pro-mainland China faction.

Samuels was thrust in between the
two. The idea of building a Chinese garden had been suggested, so the
City appointed a three-man advisory committee with one representative
from each faction, and Samuels, who acted as intermediary.

as it turned out, may have been the only person in town to have seen a
classical Chinese garden in situ. He had visited China in 1973 and 1975
on study grants, just as the country was beginning to open up to North
Americans. He made important political contacts while he was there -he
met Premier Zhou Enlai, for one -and it was his idea to have Chinese
artisans build a replica of a Ming Dynasty-era garden here.

of the existing classical gardens [in China] were built in the 16th
century,” Samuels said, “when China was then part of the global economy.
And most of the gardens were built by very wealthy merchants.”

time, Wai, who was vicechairman of the Chinese Cultural Centre, would
be brought on as architect for the park surrounding the garden, and
would also be responsible for adapting the garden's ancient techniques
to modern building codes.

But first they had to get the money to
build it. And it would be built as a symbol between the city's two
communities. “Joe and I,” Samuels said, “decided that this should not be
a Chinese community project, but that it should be a whole community
project, that the Chinese community and non-Chinese community should act
together for the first time on a major project like this, and also that
the city's corporate elite get involved.

“I was always conscious of this cultural mix.”

They needed about $6.7 million. A garden society was formed and a fundraising drive was started.

Then the recession of 1981 hit. The donations dried up.

we weren't about to give up,” Samuels said, “and Joe and I became
allies in this. You know the Yiddish word 'macher'? It's like a fixer.
Essentially, Joe, who had good political connections to the city
government and elite, was the local macher, and I was the China macher.”

one point, money was so tight that Li Ka-shing, who was developing land
around the garden, offered to buy it as a centrepiece to his
development. The offer was turned down. At another point, they had to
resort to barter. One corporate donor, a forestry company, sent off a
shipment of raw logs and pulp to China as payment.

They needed
more than just donations from the Chinese community, so Wai worked his
contacts within the non-Chinese community, among them Anne Cherniavsky,
wife of Peter Cherniavsky, head of BC Sugar. Wai and Samuels showed her a
design of the garden, and she brought her friends on board. And Wai won
an important donor in David Lam, former B.C. lieutenant-governor.

donated $1 million, but only on the condition that it would be the last
million donated. Wai and Samuels first had to prove they could get the
garden built.

“We were really desperate for money at the time,”
Samuels said, “and Joe set up two meetings with Lam. When Lam donated
his own money, his commitment to do that was sufficient to get other
people to come in.”

The society -and both Samuels and Wai stressed
that the garden was due to the hard work of many people -finally raised
most of the money. Fiftythree Chinese master craftsmen flew to
Vancouver and built the garden using traditional methods -no glue, no
screws, no power tools.

Wai would resume his architectural work.
Samuels would move to China in 1994 and marry his second wife, a former
movie actress. They now finance and produce movies together.

both men made a similar observation about the garden and its
relationship to Vancouver's Chinese community. It was the first major
cross-cultural project that the Chinese and non-Chinese communities
endeavoured to build, and as such, had a potent symbolism attached to
it. But in the intervening years, the Chinese community has grown so
different and so quickly that Wai and Samuels wondered at the garden's
relevance to it.

“It seems to me,” Wai said, “that the newer
members of the Chinese community aren't as involved in the garden. As a
community, I don't think we know where we're going.”

“That issue
is quite common in China,” Samuels said. “So much has changed so quickly
there that there is this crisis of identity -who are we and where are
we?” It was wealthy Chinese merchants that built the last classical
Chinese gardens in the 16th century. Now, the wealthy Chinese merchants
of the 21st century were moving here.

A classical Chinese garden
to them, Samuels said, was ancient history. Why, having left it behind,
would they necessarily be interested in it when they came here?

Vancouver Sun: 10 Legendary Vancouverites

Do you know these 10 legendary Vancouverites?
Vancouver Sun article includes Yip Sang, Mary Lee Chan, Wong Foon Sien

Check it out at: Vancouver Sun: 10 Legendary Vancouverites

Here are my personal connections to Joe Fortes, Mary Lee Chan, Yip Sang, and Dal Richards.

I learned the story about Joe Fortes when I first worked at the Joe Fortes Library when I started as a teenager.  I can answer trivia questions that his baptized name was “Seraphim”, and he was one of Vancouver's most beloved life guards of English Bay.  Here's a great video of Joe Fortes by Global TV's Mike McCardell.

Mary Lee Chan
I am friends with the children of Mary Lee Chan, and descendants of Yip Sang.  Mary Lee Chan's story about saving Strathcona neighborhood from Free way Destruction is wonderfully captured in the film documentary “Mary Lee Chan Takes On City Hall“.   There is a current campaign to name the newly proposed library in Strathcona neighborhood after Mary Lee Chan:

Here's a link from historia Chuck Davis' Metropolitan Vancouver

Yip Sang was an important figure for the building of CPR Railroad, and Vancouver Chinatown development.  The Yip Sang family reunion is also legendary.  I contacted descendant Hoy Yip when I started organizing a family reunion for the Rev. Chan family descendants for 99 and 2000.  Descendant Steven Wong (on his mother's side) paddles on the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team. Vancouver Archives has the Yip Sang project online:

Wong Foon Sien was a pioneer in fighting for the repeal of the Chinese
Excusion Act in 1947, and asking for redress for the Chinese Head Tax. 
Here's a good story about Wong Foon Sien, by my friend Larry Wong

Dal Richards at the 2010 Canada Day celebrations at Kitsilano Showboat stage – photo T. Wong

I have known Vancouver-born Dal Richards for the past few years from our roles on Canadian Club Vancouver.  I had the honour of being included with Dal for the BC Royal Museum's “The Party”centrepiece display for the 150th anniversary
exhibition – titled Free Spirit: Stories of You, Me and BC – The Party featured 150 British Columbians who’ve helped shape the province.

Nobody born in Scotland?

Lachlan Hamilton, CPR surveyor and alderman might have been of Scottish ancestry, as were many of Vancouver's pioneers, but a google search isn't revealing anything so far.  Sam Greer is listed as born in Ireland.  Major Skitt Matthews, who started the Vancouver Archives, was born in Wales.

A google search on Alfred Larwill reveals more about the history of Larwill Park, formerly the Cambie street Grounds, and now a parking lot, and the proposed site of a new Vancouver Art Gallery, where the Olympics hosted the Live City Downtown site.

Interesting how 3 of the 10, were evicted (or almost) from their homes: Larwill from the Cambie Street Grounds, Greer from the CPR lands, and Fortes nearly from his shack on English Bay – if not for a blockade of 100 people.  His house was moved to the present location of the English Bay bandstand, where a plaque now commemorates Joe Fortes.

Marty Chan is coming to Kogawa House Wednesday – special price tickets for The Forbidden Phoenix

Special Marty Chan Reception at Historic Joy Kogawa House
on Wednesday March 30th

The Forbidden Phoenix

Playwright Marty Chan (Mom, Dad, I'm Living With A White Girl) is coming to Historic Joy Kogawa House.

This is a special reception, hosted by Kogawa House Society.  Marty is coming, and so is the costume designer.  They will talk about this new exciting play about the Chinese immigration to Canada, and how Monkey King is involved.

The evening is moderated by Todd Wong, creator of Gung Haggis Fat Choy, and who is active on the executive boards of Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop, Historic Joy Kogawa House Society and The Land Conservancy of BC.  Todd loves is a 5th generation Chinese Canadian, and loves Monkey King stories and Asian Canadian history.

Wednesday, March 30th.  7:30 to 9pm

Discount tickets to Marty Chan's
The Forbidden Phoenix

Marty Chan's The Forbidden
opens next month at the Gateway Theatre in Richmond. Become a
member of the Historic Joy Kogawa House Society and get the discount
ticket price.

Bonus: Meet the playwright this Wednesday, March 30, 7:30 to
at Historic Joy Kogawa House, 1450 West 64th Avenue, Vancouver.

$25 = Tax-deductible one-year membership in Historic Joy Kogawa House

$39 = One ticket to any production of The Forbidden Phoenix,
running April 7 to 23 at the Gateway Theatre in Richmond

$64 total

This event is a fundraiser for our writer-in-residence program at
Historic Joy Kogawa House, which September 15, 2011, to April 15, 2012.

For tickets, email email

About the play
The Forbidden Phoenix, combines adventure and martial arts to
present an eye-popping musical that tells the story of a father who
comes to Canada looking for a better life. High drama and visual
spectacle combine for a unique evening of family entertainment.
Performed in English with Chinese surtitles. The play runs April 7 to 23
at the Gateway Theatre in Richmond.

About the event
On Wednesday, March 30, please join us in the living room of Historic
Joy Kogawa House, childhood home of the author Joy Kogawa, for a rare
opportunity to sit with this master author, hear him read from the
playscript, and discuss the issues of history and mythology he raises in
his work.

About the playwright
Marty Chan explores the tensions between opposing forces of assimilation
and the search for heritage and cultural roots.

Marty Chan is an award-winning playwright. His Mom, Dad, I’m Living
with a White Girl
won the Sterling Award for Best New Play and Best
Sound Design, and Harvard University’s A.C.T. Award. The Forbidden
won the Alberta Literary Awards Gwen Pharis Ringwood Award
for Drama in 2004.

For tickets, email email

An Intimate Evening with playwright Marty Chan @ Kogawa House

30 March · 19:30 21:00

Historic Joy Kogawa House

Created by:

More info
his role as Canadian playwright, radio writer, television story editor,
and young adult author, Marty Chan explores the tensions between
opposing forces of assimilation and the search for heritage and cultural

His new play, The Forbidden Phoenix, combines adventure,
martial arts, and the coolest 10-piece orchestra you’ve ever seen, in an
eye-popping musical that tells the story of a father who comes to
Canada looking for a better life. High drama and visual spectacle
combine for a unique evening of family entertainment. Performed in
English with Chinese surtitles.

Please join us in the living room
of Historic Joy Kogawa House, childhood home of the author Joy Kogawa,
for a rare opportunity to sit with this master author and indulge in the
art of his smooth prose.

Ticket price $65
Includes admission to any production of The Forbidden Phoenix, running April 7 to 23, at Richmond’s Gateway Theatre.

To purchase tickets, email

will be brilliant…. Marty is entertaining and very funny. He is the
playwright of “Mom, Dad, I'm Living With a White Girl.” I have been
waiting years for a story about Monkey King comes to Canada…. this is
it! Tickets to Kogawa House exclusive event include tickets to the
Forbidden Phoenix play at Gateway Theatre…. I am honoured to moderate
and host, Cheers, Todd

Hogan's Alley Cafe: Best Coffee Shop to have a Christmas Eve snack at

Hogan's Alley Cafe coffee shop acknowledges Vancouver's Black History

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Hogan's Alley Cafe is a new coffee shop on the edge of Chinatown.  It's along the historic “Hogan's Alley” area  at the corner of Union and Gore, just at the East end of the block, down from the Jimi Hendrix Shrine @ Main & Union, off the lane.

I asked owner Jennifer Halley why she re-named the former Bean Around the World, as Hogan's Alley.  Her answer simply was to reflect the historical nature of Vancouver's heritage.  Eventually, she would like to add more artwork and artifacts to acknowledge the lost chapter of  Vancouver's only Black neighborhood, which was torn down to create the Georgia Viaduct connector to Prior St.

We chatted about the area, and asked if she knew about Black History Month in February.  Jennifer said that some of the organizers had just been in that morning and were looking to set something up in the new year, as one of them is Terry Hunter, creator of the Heart of the City Festival with his partner Savannah Walling.  I shared with Jennifer, that I had been featured in the recent Heart of the City Festival, when I moderated a showing of the CBC documentary Generations: The Chan Legacy.  My great-great-grandfather Rev. Chan Yu Tan, had ministered at the old Chinese United Church, which used to stand at the Northeast corner of Pender and Dunlevy St., before it was torn down in the 70's to make way for condominiums.  My grandmother and her siblings, as well as my parents all went to Strathcona Elementary School.  The houses they lived in still stand on Pender and Princess Streets.

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Food!  I asked Jennifer for the house specialties.  She made me an Americano coffee and served me up one of the pan-pressed eggwich with feta cheese and spinach.  Delicious!  But the favorite at the cafe is the eggwich with bacon!  Already sold out  🙁

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Jennifer takes a pose on top of the coffee maker, after she climbed onto the top of the counter.  And yes… she is 7 months pregnant.

It was a wonderful visit a a new-to-me coffee shop, and a great meeting with Jennifer and her husband Mike!

Check out the Hogan's Alley Memorial Project Blog

More later…  Merry Christmas.