As I wrote in my last column, I had a delightful time examining a photograph taken inside Great-grandfather’s noodle house, Mee Jan Low. Louis M. Powell of Hanford took the photograph in January 1915, and Mike Semas shared that picture from his amazing collection of antique images.
That exploration prompted me to examine a couple of items from Mee Jan Low. There are two business cards hanging in a display in the Taoist Temple Museum that belonged to the noodle house. Unfortunately, I don’t know the age of these cherished gems. Great-grandfather opened Mee Jan Low in 1883 and it closed in 1937, when my family expanded the noodle house and opened the Chinese Pagoda.
One card is bright pink and appears to be a Chinese New Year greeting card. I recognized the calligraphy noting Mee Jan Low, but I couldn’t make out the remaining characters. With Dad, my trustworthy and loving translator, no longer here, I was at a loss. I reached out asking eight people for help, including my friend, Chinese American historian, Sonia Ng, the vice-president of the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California, and numerous friends. I received my translations, which provided me an incentive to delve into more.
There are two flags on top of the card. The calligraphy on the left reads “Chinese New Year,” the characters on the right, “Celebrating.” Together, the sentiment is “May your New Year be lucky and happy.”
The flag on the right is the flag of the Republic of China and is known as the Blue Sky, White Sun, and a Wholly Red Earth. The flag was designed by Lu Haodong, a Chinese revolutionary who lived during the late Qing Dynasty, and Dr. Sun Yat Sen, the first President of the Republic of China and the first leader of the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party of China).
The flag on the left was the flag for the Chinese Revolution, which was successful in 1911, and became the flag for the Nationalist Party.
On a side note, from 1912 – 1924, there was another flag for the Nationalist Party, The Five Color Flag of the Republic. The flag’s principle symbolic thrust was to emphasize harmony among what were considered the five major ethnic groups in China: The Han (red), the Manchus (yellow), the Mongols (blue), the Tibetans (black), and the Hui (white). This flag is on display in the Taoist Temple Museum.
The banner on the card below the flags reads from right to left, Dr. Sun Yat Sen’s philosophy for the creation of a democratic country: Liberty. Equality. Fraternity (universal love).
I sense the second Mee Jan Low card is from a later time than the first one. There is a picture of a woman using a candlestick phone. The eatery’s open hours seem daunting and demanding. “Open Every Day Till 12 O’clock, Saturdays Till 2 A. M.” The phone number on the card, 784-W. Hopefully that will help me learn the time frame of this card.
I enjoyed my adventure with the Mee Jan Low cards. It’s always exciting and deeply meaningful for me to reach into the past and record its stories with pen and paper for the present understanding and for their protection into the future.
Our garden is fading considerably and Steve’s beloved fig tree is giving up its production. With the last of the figs, I made fig ravioli with a blue cheese sauce. Figs and blue cheese couple delightfully, and this recipe prompted just the right meal to bid the summer garden adieu.
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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