Generations Rev. Chan Yu Tan:
Editing being done for the CBC documentary on Rev. Chan and descendants
The Rev. Chan Yu Tan family is being featured in the CBC documentary series Generations.
Editing has now been ongoing since November. The producer is
Halya Kuchmij, a multiple award winning veteran producer, who has worked
on past CBC
projects such as Man Alive and The Journal. She is now with the
Unit – where she produced Life and Times of Northern Dancer, Who's Lorne
Greene, Tom Jackson: The Big Guy, Chernobyl the Legacy, Mandela I &
II, and many many more.
It is part of a CBC series that focuses on the histories of families
through the generations. Past episodes of Generations include: 100 Years in
Alberta; 100 Years in Sasketchewan; A Century on the Siksika Reserve.
Halya is convinced this “our project” is going to rock! She is
amazed at the almost 120 year long family history that started when Mr.
Chan Sing Kai first came to Canada at the invitation of the Methodist
Church of Canada in November 1888. There are now 7 generations of
Chan descendants throughout North America, descended from eldest
brother Rev. Chan Sing Kai, who later moved to California, Rev. Chan Yu
Tan (my great-great-grandfather who retired in New Westminster), and
Aunt Naomi who had moved to Chicago. Aunt Phoebe is the 4th
sibling who stayed with the Chinese United Church in Vancouver, and
became affectionately known as “The Bible Lady” – she never married.
Brothers Chan Sing Kai and Chan Yu Tan, were born in Guangzhou China,
and raised to be scholars by their fathers. They helped to
organize the first Wesleyan Mission School among the Chinese in Hong
Kong. Their father was also a Christian missionary, having spent
many years as a Chinese Scholar with Rev. Piercy, the pioneer Wesleyan
missionary who contributed greatly to the Chinese translation of
Chan Sing Kai became the first Chinese to be ordained in Canada, and
was instrumental in the formation of the Chinese Mission which was
located on Carrall St. in Vanocuver – just blocks down the street from
Vancouver's historical centre of Gastown.
In 1896, Chan Yu Tan arrived in Canada at 33 years of age, as a lay
preacher. He took on the role of pastor of the Chinese Methodist
Church and brought with him his wife Chan Sze Wong and six children: Solomon, Kate, Jack, Rose, Luke
and Millicent. Kate is my great-grandmother.
The 50th Anniversary of the Chinese United Church in Victoria. My
great-great-grandfather, Rev. Chan Yu Tan is 4th from left.
Beside him stands his elder brother Rev. Chan Sing Kai (5th from left).
photo courtesy of United Church Archives.
The Generations Rev. Chan Yu Tan project is not yet “officially titled”
– but the theme will be community service which was lived graciously by
Rev. Chan Yu Tan, and now shared by some of his descendants.
Interviews were done on Vancouver Island
by Halya with two of Rev. Chan Yu Tan's grandchildren: Victor Wong, son
of Rose (Chan) Wong; and Helen Lee daughter of Kate (Chan) Lee, my
grandmother's sister, who lived with Rev. and Mrs. Chan Yu Tan while
they lived in Nanaimo, serving the Chinese United Church there.
Uncle Victor Wong is a WW2 veteran and is currently president of the
Chinese Canadian veterans unit in Victoria.
Great-grandchildren interviewed by Halya were Janice Wong (grand-daughter of Rose Wong), Gary Lee and Rhonda Larrabee
(grandchildren of Kate Lee). Last year, Janice wrote a book
titled CHOW: From China to Canada: memories of food + family, which
shared not only recipes of her father Dennis Wong, but also stories of
Rev. Chan Yu Tan and his son Luke Chan, who became an actor in
Hollywood. Rhonda is the chief of the Qayqayt (New Westminster)
First Nations Band, which she resurrected from obscurity. Gary is
a a longtime community builder who has been involved with many
community organizations, as well as having been a child actor.
Also interviewed were Rev. Chan Yu Tan's great-great-grandchildren Tracey Hinder
and myself. Tracey was the BC regional winner of the inaugural
Canspell spelling bee contest, and is a great example of our family's