January 9, 2013 | Mandarin
What I Did Over My Christmas Vacation
I visited a museum in Chinatown.
Among other things, over my Christmas vacation I went to the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA), located at 215 Centre Street in Chinatown.
If you haven’t been there, I recommend it. I spent my time there in an exhibit called “With a Single Step: Stories in the Making of America,” on the Chinese American experience from 1784 to the present. That experience was often a difficult one, thanks to hostile immigration policies and racism.
The exhibit was multimedia, with video, photographs, documents, books, and other objects bringing the past to life. There were numerous pictures and bios of accomplished Chinese immigrants and Chinese-Americans.
Faith Sai So Leong, shown below left, was the first female Chinese dentist in the United States.
Faith Sai So Leong, Dentist
T.D. Lee and Chen Ning Yang, Scientists
In 1957 T.D. Lee and Chen Ning Yang (above right) were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for, according to www.nobelprize.org, “their penetrating investigation of the so-called parity laws which has led to important discoveries regarding the elementary particles.”
I will not be able to translate that.
Margaret Jessie Chung, Physician
Born in 1889, Margaret Jessie Chung was, according to the posted information, the first American-born Chinese female physician. She became known for her patriotism during World War II, when she “adopted” over 1,000 U.S. servicemen, who subsequently called her “Mom Chung.”
In addition, the exhibit noted, she was “a pioneer in both her professional and personal life” who “adopted masculine dress and dated other notable women, such as writer Elsa Gidlow and entertainer Sophie Tucker.”
Included in the exhibit was this Chinese directory of Eastern cities.
Chinese Directory of Eastern Cities
I would guess this type of thing is something most non-Chinese were never aware existed. Repeatedly over the course of this language project, I have been amazed when I go into certain neighborhoods by the stunning number of publications I have never seen before in other languages.
Many worlds of publishing go on simultaneously in a city like New York.
The exhibit also contained phrasebooks that were remarkable in their content.
The one below right offers English translations from Chinese such as:
- He assaulted me without provocation.
- The men are striking for wages.
- I am content with my situation.
- He feigned to be sick.
1897 Chinese Phrase Book
Excerpts from Another Phrase Book
A rather practically minded and telling guide, no?
Old menus offered insight into the gastronomical and cultural past. According to the menu shown below left, this “Oriental Restaurant” on Pell Street was “the largest, most famous and richly furnished Chinese restaurant in the city.”
Menu, Chinese Restaurant on Pell Street
How to Please Your Husband: Chow Mein
An old advertisement (above right) for the company La Choy instructed American women in the art of pleasing their husbands. Apparently the key was to open a can of La Choy chow mein and serve it to them.
(As an aside, if you want real Chinese food, I do not recommend seeking it in a can. I just looked up La Choy chow mein. La Choy was at one point bought by ConAgra, but you can still purchase La Choy chow mein in a can. A one-cup serving of it—and I do not find that many Americans limit themselves to one cup of anything—contains 1,240 milligrams of sodium, so perhaps the advertising today could more appropriately be titled, “How to Kill Your Husband.”)
There was another exhibit entitled “Marvels and Monsters: Unmasking Asian Images in U.S. Comics, 1942-1986 and Alt.Comics: Asian American Artists Reinvent the Comic.”
I am not a comics person, so I skipped that one for now. Maybe another time.
The Exhibits Were Not Optimized for Brandt
One observation: the exhibits are not optimized for people of a certain height. Those panels hovering around my husband’s knees in the picture at left were not easy to read, even for people of more typical size such as me.
Another thing I did over my Christmas vacation: not a whole lot of Chinese. I took an actual holiday this time. However, I have picked up again, at a more moderate pace than in the past, as I am in the throes of editing my eternally-in-progress language-learning-resources directory and am also juggling work obligations with my company, Syntaxis.
I mention this in case my language comments in upcoming entries sound a little primitive. I am roughly a month behind where I would have liked to be by now.