Consul General visits Chinatown legacy show
The general store looks like an old New York storefront, complete with tin ceilings, built-in wooden cabinets and red brick walls.
The location for the store is supposed to be New York’s Chinatown. It’s actually a gallery at the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) in New York, and the exhibit — The Lee Family of New York Chinatown Since 1888 — tells of the immigration and entrepreneurship.of one of Chinatown’s most historic and influential families.
It details the Lee family’s diverse business interests, from a foreign-exchange business providing pawnbroker and financial services to an insurance company and travel agency focused on the development of New York’s Chinatown. It has been on display at MOCA since Oct 23 and runs until April 13.
On Thursday, members of the Consulate General of China in New York, including Consul General Sun Guoxiang, visited MOCA to see the exhibit.
“I found out a variety of things about the Lee family,” Sun said in an interview with China Daily. “I think the Lee family is representative of overseas Chinese. They’re hard working and they’re great contributors to American society, as well as the Chinese community.”
Sun, who was making his first trip to the museum, said MOCA’s various installations give people an opportunity to learn more about the history of the Chinese community in New York and the rest of the country.
“The Chinese museum here can bring New Yorkers more history about what kind of contributions overseas Chinese have made in the US,” Sun said. “Different people have different roles and different positions, but they all make contributions to society and America as a country.”
Sun said he hoped the younger generation will learn from MOCA, “but today is a chance for me to start to learn more about New York’s Chinese community.”
Sandra K. Lee, CEO and chairperson of Harold L Lee & Sons Inc Insurance Services, played an integral role in coordination of the exhibit. She said the visit to MOCA by the Consul General was “special” for the museum and her family.
“It was really an exciting thing for MOCA as well as our family because he has not visited MOCA,” Lee said. “There are so many families that have a story like ours, and he was quite taken by the fact that we have documented all this. Our family, in particular, has such a long history that it is still carrying on.”
Stephen Boon, president of Lee & Sons, said the significance of the Consul General’s visit emphasizes MOCA’s “global reach”.
“It’s important to have someone of his stature make the effort to come down here and recognize something like this,” Boon said. “He can also promote what he sees here.”
Founded in 1888, the Lee company still operates its daily business from the original building at 31 Pell St. The focus of the family business changed to insurance in the 1930s, and the Lee family celebrated the 125th anniversary of the company in 2013.
Consul General Sun Guoxiang (right) listens to curator Herb Tam introduce about photo exhibition of the Lee family at MOCA on Thursday.