Document 49: Interview with Anne Chinn Wing

Ron Chew, editor. Reflections of Seattle's Chinese Americans: The First 100 Years
(Seattle: Wing Luke Asian Museum and the University of Washington Press, 1994), p. 10.

Return to Document Concordance

Anne Chinn Wing, b. March 9, 1919, Seattle

[Anne Chinn Wing's father, Chinn Kee, was one of the first Chinese employed by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Wing has a long history of community involvement, especially in the arena of human relations. She helped organize the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce Queen Pageant for over 30 years.]

I was born in the first Chinatown in Seattle. It was located at Second and Washington Street. At that time, most of the families-and a great deal of them were Chins-came to the Northwest and they would come through my father's store at 219 Washington Street.

We had our home at the back of the store. The store was a very busy place because at that time, there were so few families and mostly single men. Because they couldn't speak English and they were unable to get employment, that was the core of their everyday activities.

When I was young, I remember that one of the highlights of our life was preparing for the Chinese New Year. It was a big event. My mother would clean the house and she would get all the food in because she didn't believe you did any menial work during the Chinese New Year. And the broom was put away.

The house had elaborate hangings over the doorways, especially over the entry table. The hangings were bordered with tiny glass mirrors. The reason they had those little mirrors was in case anything unpleasant like the devil showed up, they would look in the mirror and it would be so bad that it would scare them away. Before every dinner, she would burn firecrackers, and we were taught to speak the sayings bringing good luck for the New Year. And we would jump for joy.

I can remember our living room. The wall had this long line of pictures of all the family, of my father, and the chairs were around the edge of the walls. We were taught when people came in that you greeted them, and you always told them to sit down and you always served a cup of tea and you always served it with two hands. It was a form of courtesy.

And if you were sitting on a chair and adult was standing, you would be tapped on the head to be reminded that you were to give your chair to the adults. When they punished you, they tapped you on the head. Chinese call it len gok tay, the tap on the head. And sometimes the tap wasn't a tap, it was a good hard knock. So I had a lot of len gok tay when I was growing up. We were taught to have manners. We were taught to respect the elders.

I am quite distressed because so many of the young people today, they live their own lives. They've forgotten about their culture. I'm very involved in the family association. And we find that so many of the young people can't be bothered with the family association. But we had the family associations because it was a point where all the different families who came here in the early years could come and congregate. And they could share family traditions and family holidays and problems. And you could help each other. But I can count on my fingers, sometimes not even that, the number of young people who come to the different functions. And they're forced to come. When I see young people I always say to them, "Try to speak and write your language because it's going to mean a lot to you."

I would like the future generation to be interested in their culture, interested in their traditions, because if you look in the mirror every day, you can see the color of your skin and the color of your hair and you should be very proud of it. And if you haven't become proud of it, you should see why. You probably haven't delved into it enough or participated in the many facets of your culture. I would like to instill that into the next generation and to their children—to be proud of their culture.

Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest