Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation

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Chandra, Kanta : So Close But, So Far by Liana Belloni
Year of Arrival 1910

My grandmother Kanta Chandra was born in Delhi, India, in 1896, the oldest daughter and fourth child of six.  After the death of her parents and to avoid being sent to live with a dreadful uncle, five of the children decided to run away to America with what money their father had left them.  The only place they knew in the U.S. was San Francisco because their oldest brother had attended the University of California, Berkeley, a few years earlier.  To save money, they reported younger ages to secure tickets at children fare.  On a summer’s day in June 1910, they boarded a ship in Calcutta not knowing what they would find or where life would take them, just knowing that they wanted to stay together as a family.

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Chen, Joan : Actress, Director, and Immigrant by William Wong
Year of Arrival 1981

Internationally acclaimed actress/director Joan Chen (Chen Gong) immigrated to the U.S. at age 19 in 1981.  In this special article for AIISF, Joan Chen tells journalist William Wong about her years as a student in the U.S. and her early career as a Hollywood actress before her breakthrough in the Academy-award winning film, The Last Emperor.

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Chin, Shee : One Step Closer by Jack G, Fourth Grader
Year of Arrival 1920

Teacher's Note

This piece was written with the purpose of bringing to life and then preserving a family's immigration story, and it was written by a fourth grader.  Sitting at a table in my fourth grade classroom, Jack worked quietly and independently on this story for several weeks in December of 2013.  The whole class was given the task of investigating how their families came to California, which is a Palo Alto fourth grade tradition called the "California Passport Project."  Jack took the assignment very seriously, envisioning and revising his piece with patience and care that is exceptional for writers his age.  After poring over his drafts, covering sheets of looseleaf in blue and then red ink, Jack sat at one of our classroom computers, continuing to examine and reflect, improve and perfect his work.  The result was so beyond what other students wrote in its narrative quality that when I read it, I quickly called Jack over to express my admiration and amazement at what he had created.  He took bare facts that most kids regurgitated sequentially and crafted a story that is lively, engaging, and descriptive.  I believe this piece captures an important piece of American history, and it captures a powerful moment in the development of a fourth grade writer.  I hope you enjoy and value this story as much as I did.

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Chin, Young Dock : The Story of My Paper Brother, Chin Young Dock by Lincoln Chin
Year of Arrival 1930

Our family was so desperate during the Great Depression that my parents decided, with grandfather’s encouragement, that Mom would take three of her four children to Macao. Four family members leaving San Francisco would relieve the pressure on Pop to provide for his family.  In Macao we would be taken care of by Grandmother.  She had invested in a company in Shanghai and was living very well on the returns of her investment.  She had a two-story house at Ho Laun Yuen #3 Main Street in Macao.  She had servant girls working for her and she had a chef who cooked for the entire household.  This would not be just a temporary visit to China. The long-term plan was for us children to go to school and grow up in Macao.

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Chiu, Yook Lon : Minor Daughter of a Merchant: The Story of Chiu Yook Lon: A Paper Daughter on Angel Island by William Warrior
Year of Arrival 1926

Imagine for a moment…  It is the ides of February 1926.  You are Chiu Yook Lon, an eighteen-year-old woman and a passenger on the Pacific Mail Steamship President Pierce, bound for San Francisco from Hong Kong.  The seas are rough, and you are seasick the entire twenty-eight day voyage -- a voyage destined to end in a ferryboat ride to a minimum-security prison on an island in San Francisco Bay. You have left your mother in Guangdong on a mission to find your father, who has not written home since 1909.  You are traveling with your “paper mom” and family friend, Chiu Wong Shee.  Together you are studying everything about Chiu Wong Shee:  her husband, Chiu Ming, a pharmacist and merchant living in Butte, Montana, and their four sons, the youngest to whom you have been promised in an arranged marriage.  The study papers are demanding in their requirement for precise and complementary answers to dozens of questions about your imagined home and family.  From the place where your grandparents are buried, to the number of oil lamps in your house in the village, to the placement of skylights in the roof of your home, to the north-south alignment of the various dwellings in the village, to the names and occupations of the men who carried your bags from your house to the riverboat in China -- you study those pages and rehearse them with your paper mom, and then somewhere past Hawaii you cast your study papers out to sea, committing your adopted past to memory, and your uncertain future to dreams…

 

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Choi, Kyung Sik : A Night at the Immigration Station by Grant Din
Year of Arrival 1925

One hundred years after the Immigration Station opened, we are still uncovering bits and pieces of the Angel Island story.  The following poem, “A Night at the Immigration Station” by Choi Kyung Sik was found by researchers Charles Egan, a professor at San Francisco State University, and his assistant Jikyung Hwang as they went through back issues of the San Francisco-based Shinhan Minbo newspaper. Mr. Choi’s poem was published on April 25, 1925, and this English translation is by Jikyung Hwang and Charles Egan.

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Chong, Gim Suey : Gim Suey Chong: Our Quiet Man by Raymond Douglas Chong with Michael George Chong
Year of Arrival 1932

HOYPING

on
Gim Suey Chong with Grandfather in Hoyping.

Our father, Gim Suey Chong, was our quiet man. He was a 4th generation sojourner to Gold Mountain, America. He and his forefathers were from Yung Lew Gong, Village of the Dragon, in the heart of Hoyping near the magnificent Pearl River Delta of Kwangtung Province of China, southwest of Hong Kong. Gim was born in the 9th gray brick house on the 6th narrow alley on December 26, 1922, Year of the Dog, to father, Moi Chung, and mother, Cun Chuen Wong.  He lived and studied in the poor farm village. Moi Chung was a 3rd generation sojourner who had arrived in San Francisco through Angel Island Immigration Station in 1912 as a student.  In 1923, after Gim’s birth, he left China for Boston. Gin's grandfather, Hoy Lun Chung was a 2nd generation sojourner and also the Village chief. He was an entrepreneur and had gambling hall and opium den in Boston Chinatown. Bein Yiu Chung, his great grandfather, the 1st generation sojourner, was the pioneer at Gold Mountain. In 1865, he arrived in San Francisco to help build the Transcontinental Railroad. Gim lived in the ancient village founded in 1466, with its ancestral hall for school and recreation and its Diaolou, Castle in the Sky, as sentinel. With other boys, he roamed the river glen of rice fields and banana groves at the foot of Mount of the Eight Immortals near Hill of the Flying Swan, ancestral tombs.

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Choy, Ben (Buck-tone) : Stories from a Paper Son  by Larisa Proulx
Year of Arrival 1930

Ben Choy (Choy Buck-tone) was born in China, in a little village called Wing Ho Wan in 1917. His father left for Australia soon after he was born.  There he worked as a cook and squandered all his earnings at the gambling table.  Ben remembers seeing his father only twice in his life—in 1927, when his father returned to China for a visit, and in 1963, after his father had retired in Macau.  The decision to bring Ben to America was made by his father in 1930.  “As a thirteen-year-old, I couldn’t refuse,” said Ben.  “When they say, you go, then I go!”

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Curgus, Sanja : Sanja's immigration story by Alice Cary
Year of Arrival 1987

Sanja Curgus was born in what is now known as Sarajevo, Bosnia. When she was born it was actually referred to as Yugoslavia, but due to a series of conflicts Yugoslavia was dismantled into several different independent countries. Her family came to this country in 1987. The plan was to only stay in the United States for one year. At the time Sanja was nine years old and her parents were in their early 30's. The family left what is now known as Bosnia and moved to Bellingham Washington because her farther was offered a visiting professorship at Western Washington University, but the family never moved back to Bosnia.

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Delevett, Kim : Finding My Way Home by Kim and Peter Delevett
Year of Arrival 1975

Phan Kim Phuong, who came to the U.S. as a child in April 1975 when Saigon fell to the Communists, recounts her journey back to Vietnam.  In an emotional turn of events, she revisits her home town and finds long-lost relatives who have kept her memory alive despite years of separation.

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Der, David : Dr. Der's Story of Immigration and Community Service by Grant Din
Year of Arrival 1939

AIISF supporter Dr. David Der has been named a Local Hero by the Federation of Chinese American and Chinese Canadian Medical Societies (FCMS) for his many years of service to the Asian immigrant community in the greater Oakland area. He left Kaiping, in Guangdong province, in 1939 to escape the war, and passed through Angel Island. Read his story about coming to America, growing up in Oakland, how he got into medicine, and the many community organizations he volunteered with and helped found at FCMS's website.

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Der, Gwing : Memories of Centenarian Gwing Der (aka Der Nea Yick & Nelson Der) by Nancy F. Fong, Dorothy Fong, and Sandra Tye
Year of Arrival 1926

The following narrative was culled from previous interviews conducted with Mr. Der (including two interviews by UC Davis Pacific Regional Humanities Center’s Phong Chau in November 2004, and Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation’s Executive Director Eddie Wong in June 2010).

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Din (Gong Bow Gwun), Hew : Not one, not two, but three paper names! by Grant Din
Year of Arrival 1912

Gong Bow Gwun, later known as Hew Din, came over from China as Ow Luen in 1912 on the SS Manchuria, which docked in San Francisco on August 15, 1912. He received his Certificate of Identity on September 7, 1912 after three weeks on Angel Island. Like many Chinese immigrants trying to come over during the Chinese Exclusion Acts, he came over as a son of a native born American citizen, which if true would mean he was immigrating legally. His paper father was from Namhoi, in Guangdong Province; in reality, he was from a village called Lok Cheung in the Fah Yuen district, now known as Huadu or Hua Xian.

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