Category Archives: Vancouver Area Adventures

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

Fantastic
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

 

To
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
Street.

 
 
 
 

To
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
Street.

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.

Samuels,
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.

“Most
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.”

In
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.

“But
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.”

At
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.

Lam
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.

Oddly,
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?

pmcmartin@vancouversun.com

HAPPY 125th BIRTHDAY VANCOUVER

HAPPY
125th BIRTHDAY VANCOUVER  
I am part of the Vancouver 125 team.  I was
down at Jack Poole Plaza from 1:30-5:30, helping out with the ball
hockey tournaments. The 6pm Happy Birthday ceremonies included: birthday singalong by Vancouver Bach Choir + cake +
cauldron lighting at 6:45pm!
   www.celebratevancouver125.ca
photo
-photo T.Wong

The sky turned blue with occasional clouds, with lots of sunshine for the Vancouver 125 Celebrations, marking the 125th birthday of the City of Vancouver.  Fresh snow decorated the local mountains, yet the Jack Poole Plaza was a warmish 9 degrees in the sunshine.  The concert stage opened at 4pm with Uzume Taiko, followed by Mmm-HoP, and Leela Gilday.  The 6pm ceremonies featured a birthday singalong by the Vancouver Bach Choir, of which city councilor Heather Deal is a singer.

photo – photo Deb Martin
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson with Vancouver 125 Team city employees Kathy Bengston and Todd Wong.  The Mayor was dressed for ball hockey and he played with some of the teams, then later posed for pictures with the youth teams.  Wong works for the Vancouver Public Library and wore the Fraser Hunting Tartan kilt, because April 6th is also Tartan Day throughout Canada, and because the Fraser Hunting Tartan has the similar blues and greens of the Vancouver Tartan.  Bengston was part of the City of Vancouver Host team and was stationed at the Downtown Live City venue during the Olympics.

My role for the Vancouver 125 Team was to help out with the ball hockey games.  During my breaks, I walked around the Jack Poole Plaza and saw the music performances that featured some of my friends.  Bonnie Mah is part of Uzume Taiko.  Ndidi Cascade was one of the performers of Mm-HoP: Hop Jump Jive.

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Uzume Taiko blends the traditonal and contemporaryarts into a great cultural fusion using Taiko drums, traditional Japanese masks…. and bagpipes!

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Here is the bagpiper for Uzume Taiko wearing Japanese styled outfit.

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A large screen projected rap singer Ndidi Cascade into a large image for the crowd, as she performed with Mm-HoP: Hop Jump Jive

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It was a picturesque day with fresh snow on the mountains, and all the people creating a happy crowd.

Gung Haggis Fat Seattle V – a great success in new venue

Gung Haggis Fat Choy Seattle V was amazing!

Feb 20th @ China Harbour Restaurant
Lake Union
Seattle Washington

IMG_0106 by Toddish McWong

The Seattle version of Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner has an edgy feel, which pushes the boundaries of both traditional Robbie Burns and Chinese New Year dinners.  Scotland's favorite son Robbie Burns is compared to China's most famous poet Lao Tzu.

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Children of all ages enjoy this multicultural, intercultural event, which has featured the Washington Chinese Youth Ensemble in past years, and was a fundraiser this year for the North West Junior Pipe Band.

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A young drummer keeps up with the older drummers around him.  This cultural fusion event opened with the North West Junior Pipe Band.

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Pipe Major gives signals to the band, and demonstrates good poise.
  The band is a mix of male and female, older and younger, and often comes up to Vancouver area, to compete at the BC Highland Games in Coquitlam.

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The dance floor was soon invaded by 6 Chinese lions – two were lion cubs.

Belltown Marshall Arts

Bell Town Martial Arts is led by Sifu David Leung, who once studied with Bruce Lee.

The haggis, with sweet & sour sauce & plum suace.
Haggis is served out of their casings… and heated in aluminum
casserole plates.  But thankfully, a traditional haggis in it's casing
was used for my Address To The Haggis.

Jamie Foster
Jamie Foster sings the Burns song, “Ae Fond Kiss”, then helped lead a singalong of Loch Lomand, with musicians Todd Wong on accordion, Red McWilliams on guitar and Susan Burke on fiddle.

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Todd Wong and Red McWilliams, hosting and singing + comic relief.  We led an interesting diversion of kilt tartan identification.

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Lauren Black, premier Highland Dancer, from Toronto.  What was she doing in Seattle?  She specifically came out to perform at the Seattle Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner because her mother is 2nd generation Chinese-Canadian, and her Scottish-Canadian father plays bagpipes, and it was a good excuse to come visit relatives.  Last year she found out some of her friends, who live in Seattle had danced, and she decided she wanted to, too!

IMG_0108 by Toddish McWong

Rock & Roll bagpipes from Don Scobie's band “Nae Regrets”

IMG_0144 by Toddish McWong
Todd Wong presents a kilt wearing Quatchi to Gung Haggis Seattle organizer Bill McFadden.

IMG_0142 by Toddish McWong

Seattle Met magazine discovers Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner in Seattle!

Seattle Met magazine features a story
about Toddish McWong
and Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner in Seattle!

Check out this story in the Seattle Met magazine, about Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner history, Toddish McWong origins and the upcoming Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year dinner in Seattle.

http://www.seattlemet.com/arts-and-entertainment/category/special-events/articles/gung-haggis-fat-choy-0211/



Adventures in Multiculturalism

A Vancouverite brings his Chinese and Scottish mash-up to Rain City.

By Hilary Meyerson

Seattlemetmcwongf

Illustration:
Meg Hunt

WHAT DO ROBERT BURNS,
haggis, lion dancers, and the Chinese New Year have in common? That
would be Toddish McWong, aka Todd Wong, a fifth-generation Chinese
Canadian. Wong created Gung Haggis Fat Choy, a Scottish and Chinese
cross-cultural holiday that has spread from Canada to China and
Scotland, and earned him an introduction to the Scottish First Minister.
In 1993, as a student at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia,
Wong was asked to slip on a kilt and help out with a campus Robert Burns
supper, a nod to the eighteenth-century Scottish poet.

Wong took a shine to the poetry recitations—including Burns’s
“Address to a Haggis”—but not to the music (bagpipes) or the food
(haggis: sheep innards minced with oatmeal and simmered in the animal’s
stomach). He donned the tartan, but complemented his costume with
elements of the Lunar Chinese New Year—he covered his face with a lion
mask and carried Chinese food instead of haggis. “I thought, This is a
really interesting way to look at multiculturalism—to flip stereotypes.
So I called myself Toddish McWong.”

He hosted the first public Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner in Vancouver,
BC, in 1999, celebrating Scottish and Chinese cultures. And people from
all over the region have flocked to it, including Bill McFadden of
Seattle’s Caledonian and St. Andrew’s Society (he’s Clan MacLaren).
McFadden convinced Wong to bring the event to Western Washington in
2007. Since then hundreds of Seattleites have showed up to devour
deep-fried haggis wontons, sing along to “My Haggis-Chow Mein Lies Over
the Ocean,” and hear McWong perform his “Address to a Haggis” rap,
surely the way the Scottish bard intended.

Thanks for reading!

restaurant review: East Is East – Chai Gallery on Main St.

I had the Silk Road Feast at East Is East Restaurant on Main Street.

I was walking down Main St. looking for a “Main Streetish” place to eat lunch.  It was my last day for working part-time at the Riley Park Branch Library @ Main & 23rd Ave.  On Wednesday, I had eaten at Splitz Grill for the $5 burger specias, which is delicious!  And great value, with your choice of sauces and basic add ons.

But on Friday Feb 11th, I was looking for something different.  I walked past the Hawker's Delight, where I had previously eaten.  The Italian Deli, that I liked for pasta was closed.  I walked past Saltspring Island coffee.  I stood across the street from the Honolulu Cafe, and a Thai Restaurant.  But soon, I found myself outside the East is East Chai Gallery Restaurant where a woman offered food samples from a plate.

http://www.eastiseast.ca/

These are the roti pancakes that are offered as appetizers…  The host was friendly, and I knew I had found the right place for lunch.  She explained to me that the owners were Afghans who had lived in India, and that their food was a blending of the two cultures.  They are also involved in the Main St. Community, and host evenings of music and other events.

Here was the first course of the Silk Road Feast:  Wild Salmon, Lamb with the basics of rice and the spice dishes…  My next order included the butternut squash, deep-fried tofu,  chicken masala, whipped spinich and Indian cheese.


Chicken Masala, eggplant, butternut squash are on the main plate – beside is the whipped spinich with Indian cheese, and more roti roll.

photo

Here is the menu selection for the Silk Road Feast- a sampling of many flavours – for only $16.

Chinese Lunar New Year parade in Vancouver Chinatown

Great pictures of rabbits in the Chinese Lunar New Year Parade in Vancouver Chinatown

It is always a wonderful photographic exercise at the Chinese Lunar New Year Parade in Vancouver Chinatown.  While the rain scared many people away, it wasn't more than a light drizzle.  I always like to walk around the marshalling area and photograph the groups getting ready for the parade. 

It is always most crowded along Pender St.  So this year, I went to stand along Keefer St, opposite the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Park , along the street.  Some people stood behind us along the rise of the Andy Livingston Park, just East of Columbia St.  I bumped into my friends Sonny and Ernesto, who had cycled down to avoid parking hassles.  It was good to catch up on chatting, as well as talk about the parade.  Sonny's niece was dancing with the Vancouver Academy of Dance, and we also waved to his sister-in-law.  I knew many people in the parade, and it was nice to wave, greet them, and take their pictures as they walked by.

Click on the pictures below to enlarge.

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Toy stuffed rabbits decorate the hood of a car for the Vietnamese community entry. – photo T. Wong

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V3 – Community youth group gather to relax and eat before the start of the parade.  – photo T. Wong


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Miss Vietnam Friendship

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Chinatown Revitalization Committee + BOB.  My friends Bob Sung and Shirley Chan are in this group. photo T.Wong

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Seymour Taiko is a children's Taiko drumming group for Japanese drumming. – photo T.Wong

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V3 and Miss Vietnam all take a picture together – photo T.Wong

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The Easter Bunny arrives early and takes pictures with children! – photo T.Wong

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The Fortune God waves to the audience. – photo T. Wong

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The Fortune God, waves a Canadian flag. – photo T. Wong

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The Chinese Canadian veterans of Pacific Unit 280.  Frank Wong, who landed at Normandy Beaches on D.Day walks behind the flag. Following behind on the right is Col. How Lee, who helped found the Chinese Canadian Military Museum.  This is the 2nd year that my grand-uncle Daniel Lee hasn't been in the parade, as he passed away last year.  I am glad to have met all his friends in Pacific Unit 280, and now count them as my own. photo T. Wong

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The City of Vancouver Police Pipe Band – the only Pipe Band in the parade. – photo T.Wong

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The best dragon in the entire parade – photo T.Wong

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The dragon head is carried by a non-Chinese person, as many of the martial arts clubs have a diversity of membership – photo T.Wong.

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Some of the parade organizers walk with VIPs.  Here is Ida Chong, MLA for Oak Bay/Gordon Head, and Minister of Sciences and Universities, walking with some of the leaders of the Chinatown organizations that organize the parade. photo T.Wong

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Here is a God of Fortune, portrayed by Caucasian-Canadian, demonstrating that the festival is multicultural – photo T.Wong

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Federal Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff wore red for the Vancouver Chinatown parade, photo T.Wong

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CBC Radio One host/producer Sheryl MacKay of North By Northwest, came over to say hello. photo T.Wong

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The Carnival Band always dresses up as the animal of the Chinese Zodiac year.  This year it is the year of the Rabbit. – photo T.Wong.

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Vancity decorated two Smart cars as rabbits. – photo T.Wong

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Even the car had a rabbit tail to go along with its ears – photo T.Wong.

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Another Fortune God, who walked along with the dancers from the Vancouver Academy of Dance – photo T.Wong

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The Vancouver Academy of Dance featured my friend's niece in the front row. – photo T.Wong

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Young dancers from Vancouver Academy of Dance – photo T.Wong

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A flag dancer from Vancouver Academy of Dance – photo T.Wong

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Lion dancers were everywhere – photo T.Wong

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Rabbit masks from the Community Arts Council of Vancouver – photo T.Wong

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Big huge puppet of the Fortune God – photo T.Wong

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My friends who support the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden, My cousin Hayne, Allan Cho, and Chris Lee. – photo T.Wong

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The Chinese Revitalization Committe: my friends Glenn Wong, Bob Sung and Rick wave back at me – photo T.Wong

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First Nations drummers lead the Canadians for Reconciliation, marching in solidarity for First Nations peoples – photo T.Wong

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Bill Chu, of the Canadians for Reconciliation waves back – photo T. Wong

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Shane Simpson MLA for Vancouver Hastings, shows the red envelops that he was handing out along the parade route – photo T.Wong

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Vancouver City Councilor Kerry Jang and his two children give out lucky red envelopes – photo T.Wong

Here are all my photos from the parade on my Flickr account:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/53803790@N00/sets/72157625993620790/

Vancouver Sun story:
http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Crowd+greets+soggy+Year+with+high+spirits/4233477/story.html

2011 Gung Haggis Fat Choy is a big success… or was it Gung HAPA Fat Choy?

GUNG HAGGIS FAT CHOY VANCOUVER!

We celebrated the 14th Annual Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner on January 30th, 2011.
Our 2011 theme featured so many performers of Asian-Celtic-Gaelic heritage that we could have called it
Gung HAPA Fat Choy!

Co-hosts were actor Patrick Gallagher (Glee, Men of a Certain Age, Night at the Museum), Jenna Choy (CBC Radio), writer/comedian Tetsuro Shigematsu, and creator of the event Todd Wong aka “Toddish McWong”Featured performers were: Jocelyn Pettit and her band – Siew & Joel Pettit + Bob Collins
Joe McDonald on pipes, accordion, Address to the Haggis, and Highland Fling.
Jay MacDonald, performing Loch Lomand and “Ring of Burns”
Jaime Foster singing Ae Fond Kiss
Vancouver Poet Laureate: Brad Cran
Dr. Leith Davis: Immortal Memory
Gung Haggis Pipes & Drums: led by Pipe Major Bob Wilkins with: Allan McMordie, Trish McMoride, Brenda McNair, Don Scobie, Danny Graham, drummers were: Casandra Lihn, Bill Burr and Tracey Morris

All photos below from our official photographer Lydia Nagai.
www.lydianagai.com

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Creator and co-host Todd Wong aka Toddish McWong with Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, try out the haggis won ton with chop sticks. – photo Lydia Nagai
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Fiddler Jocelyn Pettit with her French-Celtic-Canadian father and the Chinese-Canadian mother – the Jocelyn Pettit Band! – photo Lydia Nagai
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CNN reporter Percy Von Lipinski and his cameraman film Jocelyn Pettit as she performs! – photo Lydia Nagai

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Actor Patrick Gallagher was our co-host, while our Bearded Scottish Lady roamed, and all posed for a picture with Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and host and Gung Haggis creator Todd Wong – photo Lydia Nagai

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Co-hosts 3 =  2 1/2 Asians…. Todd Wong, writer/comedian Tetsuro Shigematsu and Jenna Chow (CBC Radio). – photo Lydia Nagai

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Todd Wong and Jenna Chow read the poem “Recipe For Tea”, written by Jim Wong-Chu, which describes how tea first traveled from China to the UK, via Scottish traders. – photo Lydia Nagai

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Floata manager Antonio Hung carries the haggis during the Piping of the Haggis – photo Lydia Nagai

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Dr. Leith Davis, director of the Centre for Scottish Studies at Simon Fraser University, cuts the haggis, as she read the 3rd verse of Robert Burns immortal poem “Address To A Haggis” as CNN reporter Percy Von Lipinski, films Leith close up. – photo Lydia Nagai

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Film maker Jeff Chiba Stearns explains the meaning of “Hapa” as a word to describe people of Mixed ancestry with Asian heritage.  His film “One Big Hapa Family” was featured at the 2011 Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner.  Co-host Patrick Gallagher, of Irish and Chinese Ancestry, looks on. – photo Lydia Nagai

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The Head Table with MLA Shane Simpson, co-host Jenna Chow and friend Mattias, Meeka, Bahareh (partner of co-host Tetsuro Shigematsu),  co-host and founder Todd Wong, Jeff Chiba Stearns and partner Jen Kato. – photo Lydia Nagai

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Musician Joe McDonald, sans bagpipes, flute or accordion – dances a jig, with bagpiper Don Scobie. – photo Lydia Nagai

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Dr. Leith Davis, gives the Immortal Memory – talking about the “Life of Robbie Burns” and the connections of Todd Wong – photo Lydia Nagai

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Trish & Allan McMordie, with guitarists Jay MacDonald and Bob Collins, join in the singing of “I Went to a Robbie Burns Dinner” – Burns lyrics set to the tune of Johnny Cash’s famous song – “Ring of Fire” – photo Lydia Nagai

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During the singing of Auld Lang Syne, people joined hands to sing…. as the Chinese Dragon weaved through the crowd. – photo Lydia Nagai

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Members of the audience joined performers on stage to sing Auld Lang Syne for the closing song.
(l-r Siew Pettit, Jocelyn Pettit, Todd Wong, Trish McMordie, Allan McMordie + 3 members of the audience) – photo Lydia Nagai

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After the singing was over, a posed picture of kilts and legs, was taken!
(l-r: bearded Scots Lady, Bruce Clark, Todd Wong, Adam Todd, Don Harder and Allan McMordie – photo Lydia Nagai

Gung Haggis Fat Choy Pow Wow Dinner in Nanaimo with Shelagh Rogers

What happens when you combine
Scottish, Chinese & First Nations
BC heritage together?
  
Gung Haggis Fat Choy Pow Wow Dinner!


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Shelagh Rogers has impecable timing.  Here CBC Radio flagship show moved to Vancouver in 2004 and asked if I could present a gift for Shelagh.  I created haggis won ton to represent the youngest generations of my family who are of mixed race heritage.  In 2005, Shelagh came to co-host Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner.  

Recently, Shelagh has been hosting Reconciliation pot luck dinners between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.  We hosted a fireside chat at Kogawa House with members of the Japanese, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal community.  In a conversation, we came up with the idea that could include the three pioneer cultures of First Nations, Scottish and Chinese.  I called it Gung Haggis Fat Choy Pow Wow Dinner.  Shelagh loved it.

On January 23, 2011 – It became a reality at Iron Wok Restaurant in Victoria.


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Here is a new twist on our famed haggis & shrimp won ton appetizer dish.  It is served with a special sweet sauce flavored with orange.

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This appetizer plate of BBQ pork and jelly fish, included spoons filled with smoked salmon marinated with citrus flavors.

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Lynette shared her Lebanese-Celtic-Canadian heritage by doing a celtic sword dance after a performance of belly dancing, with the sword balanced on her head.  She is wearing a vest featuring the Maple Leaf tartan.

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We called this dish Gung Pow Wow chicken – very tender!

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Here I am making up my haggis lettuce wrap.

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Wild sockeye salmon seared with hot oil, ginger, green onions and soy sauce – yummy!

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Neeps and tatties and sliced beef in a classic Cantonese dish

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Mongolian gold coin beef

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The Jim family shares an offering of thanks for the food and friendship.

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Bagpiper Allan McMordie and my 95 year old Grand-Auntie Helen, who lived in Nanaimo as a child with her grandparents Rev. and Mrs. Chan Yu Tan.  Rev. Chan ministered at the Chinese United Church in Nanaimo, as well as Victoria, Vancouver and New Westminster.  In Nanaimo, he also looked after the miners in Cumberland.

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The Shelagh Rogers dessert – a fusion of Scottish, Chinese and First Nations flavors.  Blueberry sauce on sliced mango and bannock, served with mango and green tea ice cream.


See more pictures in my Flickr set:

Nanaimo Gung Haggis Pow Wow Dinner

Nanaimo Gung Haggis Pow Wow…

Burns Ceremony at Craigdarroch Castle in Victoria

Victoria's Craigdarroch Castle celebrates Robert Burns with a haggis ceremony each year in splendid form

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Craigdarroch Castle in Victoria BC was built by coal baron Robert Dunsmuir, but unfortunately he died before it was completed.  During his lifetime, Dunsmuir became one of the richest men in North America, as well as premier of BC.  His son James also became premier.  While many cite them for using Chinese miners in their coal mines as strike breakers – it was also the Dunsmuirs who argued against higher Chinese head taxes, and the Exclusion Act – if only so they could have cheap labour.

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“His knife see rustic Labour dight, an' cut ye up wi' ready sleight
Trenching your gushing entrails bright”

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Ye Pow'rs, wha make mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o'fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies
But, if ye wish her gratefu' prayer
Gie her a haggis!

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All photos by Deb Martin
See more here on my flickr site

Gung Haggis Vancouver dinner joined by new dinners in Victoria and Nanaimo

Toddish McWong's Gung Haggis Fat Choy
Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinners
come to Victoria and Nanaimo!


I have long wanted to do a Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner in Victoria and Nanaimo.  These are both significant cities in BC history for Scottish and Chinese pioneers.

Victoria Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner – January 22nd, Golden City Restaurant
Nanaimo Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner – January 23rd, Iron Wok Restaurant
Seating is limited, and by invitation only.

I want to create small intimate dinners that were like the first restaurant Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner of 40 people, which followed the initial dinner of 16 people in a living room.  At the very first dinner, I invited friends – many of whom had Chinese or Scottish ancestry.  Each guest was asked to bring a song or a poem from Chinese or Scottish culture, or help present a Robbie Burns Supper tradition.  I cooked most of the Chinese dishes that were served.  I made a lemon grass winter melon soup, stir-fried snow peas with scallops, steamed salmon with garlic and hot oil, sticky rice.  Fiona brought the haggis.  Rod picked up the lettuce wrap from Chinese take out.  Gina made a noodle dish. 

And in between each dinner course, we read a poem or sang a song.  I read Recipe for Tea, from the Chinese-Canadian anthology “Swallowing Clouds,” written by my friend Jim Wong-Chu, which described how tea first came to the UK from China via Scottish traders.”  Gloria read the Burns poem “To A Mouse”.  Her friend gave a Toast to the Laddies.  Gloria even hired a bagpiper!  It was a wonderful evening…  the first Burns Supper I ever attended.  And I only learned about the elements of a Burns Supper, by going to the Vancouver Library where I worked, and asking for details at the reference desk.

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Rev. Chan Yu Tan is 4th from the left, standing beside his elder brother Rev. Chan Sing Kai, at the 50th Anniversary of the Chinese United Church in Victoria.

Victoria was the first port of entry for all the Chinese immigrants coming across the Pacific Ocean by boat.  It once was one of the largest Chinatowns in North America, and the oldest in Canada.  My great-great-grandfather Rev. Chan Yu Tan arrived in Victoria in 1896, following his elder brother Rev. Chan Sing Kai, who came in 1891 to help found the Chinese Methodist Church, which later became the Chinese United Church. This has now been told in the CBC documentary Generations: The Chan Legacy.

Meanwhile, on my paternal grandfather, Wong Wah, also came to Victoria, as a sixteen year old in 1882.  He worked in a Chinese dry goods store for his uncle, and later managed the store as it became one of Victoria's largest Chinese merchant stores.

Scottish influence is found throughout Victoria.  It is as easy as the street names of Caledonia, Balmoral and Craigflower.  The first governor of British Columbia James Douglas was schooled in Scotland, due to his Scottish father's influence, even though his mother was a creole free black.  It was Robert Dunsmuir, born in Hurlford Scotland near the town of Kilmarnock, that became one of the richest men in North America by being a coal baron.  Dunsmuir served as premier of BC, as did his son. Craigdarroch Castle in Victoria, was built by Dunsmuir as a gift to his wife, but he died a year before it was completed.

Rev. Chan Yu Tan also ministered at the Chinese United Church in Nanaimo. From there, he would often travel to the mining town of Cumberland to also minister to the Chinese labourers there.  It was coal baron Robert Dunsmuir that owned the coal mines around Cumberland and Nanaimo.  During a general strike at the mines, Dunsmuir used Chinese labourers as strike breakers.  Although it is now little more than a ghost town of a few remaining buildings, Cumberland was once one of Canada's largest Chinatowns – so big that it could sustain two Chinese opera houses.  Author Paul Yee's new play Jade in Coal was set in Cumberland.

I am looking forward to creating inaugural Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinners
in both Victoria and Nanaimo, as I have so much family history in both cities.  The Victoria dinner will follow the board meeting for The
Land Conservancy of BC
.  TLC executive director Bill Turner has attended
many Gung Haggis dinners in Vancouver, and our TLC Board Chair Alistair Craighead was born near Glasgow Scotland.  Vice-Chair Briony Penn worked for the National Trust of Scotland many years ago, and helped create “Tam O'Shanter Experience” that was featured at the Robert Burns National Heritage Park, that has now built the Robert Burns National Birthplace Museum to replace the “Tam O'Shanter Experience.”

The Nanaimo dinner will be a joint-venture with my friend Shelagh Rogers, CBC broadcaster, who now hosts The Next Chapter on CBC radio.  Shelagh has been organizing Reconciliation dinners between Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal people.  Awhile back, she asked me about creating something similar to a Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner, which she co-hosted with me in 2005.  I said, “How about a Gung Haggis Fat Choy Pow Wow Dinner” that could embrace all three pioneer cultures?  And that is exactly what we will have on January 23rd.  We are inviting friends with Chinese, Scottish and First Nations ancestry and culture and having a dinner.  We shall see what people bring to the table in songs and poetry that will reflect our desire for cultural harmony and fusion, as well as reverence for our shared but distinctive past.

See pictures and story from Nanaimo Gung Haggis Fat Choy Pow Wow Dinner
 http://www.gunghaggis.com/blog/_archives/2011/1/25/4737140.html

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A picture of Toddish McWong included in 150 of BC's historical and contemporary figures invited to “The Party” installation to help celebrated 150 years of BC History at the Royal BC Museum in 2008.