Lately I’ve received numerous requests and suggestions that Steve and I offer tours through the building that once housed my family’s Chinese Pagoda and Imperial Dynasty restaurants. This is truly a great idea, but unfortunately, that can’t happen.


Until it is possible, I can offer brief glimpses here in this column.

These days as I walk through the building in solitude, reflecting on all that once was and what is to come, I am continually impressed, awestruck really, by some of the thought and design that went into planning the restaurants. Although Uncle Richard received his degrees from the University of Southern California in International Relations as well as in Architecture, he also had studied Chinese mythology, philosophy and feng shui. In creating the designs for the Imperial Dynasty, he applied coherently the knowledge he accrued from all of these studies

In addition to being educated in so many fields, Uncle Richard also had a quirky, often playful, sense of humor, demonstrated in the rooms I’m writing about for this “tour.”

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First stop on the tour is the ladies restroom located on the ground floor. Uncle Richard had placed fan shaped plaques on the two women’s restroom stalls naming them Princess Pei Pei and Princess Wei Wei.

Second stop is at the second ladies restroom, which was over the top. Located above the Imperial Dynasty bar, it became a “must see” for every new patron. Uncle Richard’s design for the restroom came from a dream. In his dream he saw two pagodas, each hiding a toilet. The dream stayed with him, and he and his contractors had great fun creating his “dream” bathroom. One half of the room was carpeted and the other laid with artificial turf to give that part of the floor and grass-like look. There was a formation of brickwork and stones in between the two sides, giving the impression one was stepping over a bridge to get to the grassy side where there were two “pagodas,” each enclosing a toilet. One was labeled Pavilion East, the other Pavilion West.

Aside from being a popular tourist spot, several press conferences were held in this restroom. In 1983 the Hanford Chamber of Commerce honored my family for the 100 years we had been in business. The public was invited to the “Wing Family Appreciation Day,” and nearly 500 people attended the event. At the end of the day, my clan and I gathered for a family portrait in the Imperial Dynasty’s famous ladies restroom.

The photographs of these restrooms have become priceless in their own right because when our building is re-opened these historical rooms will no longer exist. The bathrooms are deemed outdated, not up to code, not ADA compliant. But Uncle Richard’s creative twists and dreams will remain in memories prompted by photographic record.

Honoring family tradition, this week I’m sharing a bit of my own quirkiness. In my last column I wrote that I was obsessed with making various types of dumplings, experimenting with different fillings and types of dough. In an earlier column I mentioned that I had added matcha tea to my dough batter and made some lovely green dumplings. Tumeric was added to another batch, creating a lovely golden dough. My experiment with blue pea flowers was dismal, the dumplings turning out cement gray. Recently I harvested some beets out of the garden, so in this recipe I substituted beet juice for water in making the dough and made a spinach and tofu filling and wrapped them in beautiful pink dough. From grassy interior flooring to pretty pink dough, I conclude my first column building tour on a wing and a wink.

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Arianne Wing is the co-author of “Noodles Through Escargots,” and co-owner of the L.T. Sue Co. Tea Room and Emporium, benefiting the restoration and preservation of China Alley. She may be reached at ariannewing@gmail.com

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