An old restaurant sign. Parsnips. Thoughts of these two things keep swirling through my head. Perhaps they are not so much to write about and yet it seems they are part of family conversation and broader history, which I see so much more clearly now than in years past. They are also reminders of the great joy of just being able to talk to my father, the camaraderie I feel with my mother when working on China Alley projects, the gift of belonging to a tribe with well-remembered, deep roots and strong connection to our community, and to ethnic and world history — social and historic acts in China and here in China Alley.
Certain artifacts belonging to the Taoist Temple Museum were shipped to Hong Kong late September. I knew it was important, meaningful to our community and to China Alley. But while it was happening, I was, unfortunately, half-focused on the project. The Moon Festival was just around the corner. My thoughts often shifted to Dad’s rehabilitation after his stroke and Mom’s adjustment. And, well, the rest of life.
Last week the items were returned from Hong Kong where they were part of an exhibit in Hong Kong’s Museum of History commemorating the 150th anniversary of Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s birthday. I hadn’t paid attention to, nor appreciated, the enormous significance our China Alley artifacts had in the Hong Kong exhibit. There were several items that specifically showed how the early California Chinese communities supported Dr. Sun Yat-sen.
The curator of the Hong Kong Museum of History was very impressed with the documents the Taoist Temple Preservation Society has in its archives. I previously wrote about the Chee Kung Tong plaque that currently hangs in the Tea Room, but also among the dozen precious relics that traveled to Hong Kong were:
A donation receipt to the Sue Chung Kee Company issued by the Chinese Revolutionary Bureau in 1911; numerous donation receipts dated 1910 to Sue Chung Kee Company issued by Tai Tung Yat Bo of Chee Kung Tong headquarters in San Francisco; a 1911 revolutionary publication; a 1912 portrait of Lei Yung Yew, a Chinese consul general to San Francisco; and the five-color flag of the Republic of China used by the Sue Chung Kee Company.
There was also a signboard that belonged to my great-grandfather’s noodle house. The calligraphy at the top of the sign denotes the eatery’s name, Mee Jan Low, which is translated as Beautiful and Precious Restaurant. The translation of calligraphy on the right of the signboard is: “Wine (could also be translated as banquet), lunch and great tea.” On the left, “Dim sum and varieties of noodles.”
Although the signboard has nothing to do with Dr. Sun Yat-sen, it was an important part of the exhibition because my great-grandfather was known for his support of the revolution. Although I’ve written about this before, it’s worth mentioning again that when Dr. Sun Yat–sen was in the Kings County area procuring support, he stayed in the loft above my great-grandfather’s noodle house. Today we can point to the China Alley structure and proclaim: Sun Yat-sen slept here.
I don’t know if it’s because I’m still on my root vegetable kick or because I’ve been thinking of family roots, but last week I made another root vegetable soup. This time I used parsnips and in a cozy winter soup. Although this simple creamy soup is easy to prepare, it has elegant overtones. With some crusty bread and a winter salad on the side, this soup is dinner on its own.
I enjoyed sipping on this tasty root vegetable soup while thinking of my own roots, and China Alley’s and appreciated each of them. I wondered if a spirit ghost had wandered around the Alley when we dubbed our Tea Room the “oldest and newest.” I wondered if it was coincidence or fate that we are continuing the same “great tea” tradition my great-grandfather began. Perfect wonderings. Mind wanderings. The perfect note to end what has been a rather interesting year.
Happy New Year to you all, dear readers.