Con­sul Gen­eral vis­its Chi­na­town legacy show

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By JACK FREIFELDER in New York jack­freifelder@chi­nadai­lyusa. com

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.

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JACK FREIFELDER / CHINA DAILY

Con­sul Gen­eral Sun Guox­i­ang (right) lis­tens to cu­ra­tor Herb Tam in­tro­duce about photo ex­hi­bi­tion of the Lee fam­ily at MOCA on Thurs­day.

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