FAMOUS CHINESE AMERICANS

FAMOUS CHINESE AMERICANS

Maya Lin: Vietnam Veterans Memorial, As a Yale student, Maya Lin's design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was unanimously chosen from 14,241 models in 1981. Her Wall design is acclaimed as one of the greatest war memorials ever created. Among other designs, Lin created the Civil Rights Memorial at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Alabama and the Langston Hughes Library in Tennessee. In 2000: her book Boundaries was published. Maya Lin is also the architect and designer of the new Museum of Chinese in America on Centre Street. [Source:Museum of Chinese in America **]

Taylor Gun-Jin Wang was the first ethnic Chinese astronaut to go into space. Wang was a payload specialist on the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1985. **

I.M. Pei: Chinese American architect. In 1993, he completed the expansion, modernization and reorganization of the Louvre museum in Paris, France. He is known as the last master of high modernist architecture and is considered as one of the most successful architects of the 20th century, with his works built all over the world. **

1989: Novelist Amy Tan’s Joy Luck Club became a runaway best-seller, a major motion picture (in 1993) and a springboard for an upwelling - or renaissance - of Asian Pacific American publishing activity. **

Chinese Americans in Film

Anna May Wong, film star, was born in Los Angeles in 1905. A daughter of a laundryman, Wong began playing bit parts as a teenager in the early days of Hollywood. Though her family had been in California since 1855: as a Chinese American, Wong was considered "foreign" both through social prejudices of the time, and by law. Industry regulations prevented her from playing romantic roles opposite actors of different ethnicity. Despite this discrimination, she had a number of significant film roles, and became a world renowned film star. [Source: Museum of Chinese in America **]

Filmmaker Wayne Wang was born in 1949. His famous works include the Eat A Bowl of Tea (1989), Joy Luck Club (1993), Maid in Manhattan (2002), Because of Winn-Dixie (2005) and A Thousand Years of Good Prayers (2007). **

Acclaimed actress Joan Chen starred in Bernardo Bertolucci's “The Last Emperor” in 1987. Other films she has acted in include: Oliver Stone’s Heaven & Earth and critically acclaimed Stanley Kwan's Red Rose, White Rose. In 1998: she moved into directing with the critically acclaimed Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl and Autumn in New York in 2000. **

Landmarks for Chinese Americans in Film

1973: Enter the Dragon: Bruce Lee appeared as the lead in Enter the Dragon which was the first to be produced jointly by a Chinese and American studio. Tragically Lee mysteriously died two weeks before the film was released. Enter the Dragon became one of the highest grossing films of the year and cemented Lee's status as a martial arts legend. [Source: Museum of Chinese in America **]

1973: Five Fingers of Death became the first Asian martial arts film released in the United States, helping to popularize martial arts in the United States, such as the popular television series, Kung Fu starring David Carradine. **

2006: Ang Lee becomes the first Asian director to win the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director for Broke Back Mountain.

Chinese Americans on Television and Broadway

1958: The Flower Drum Song became a Rodgers and Hammerstein hit musical. The musical was the first to feature an Asian American cast, and garners six Tony Award nominations and spawning a London production, national tours and a 1961 musical film. [Source: Museum of Chinese in America **]

1989: David Henry Hwang won a Tony Award for his play, M Butterfly. The play was inspired by the opera Madama Butterfly and deals with themes of cultural stereotypes of East vs. West and is loosely based on the real life relationship between Bernard Bouriscot and Shi Pei-Pu. **

1978: Yan Can Cook: TV chef Martin Yan pioneered the daily Chinese cooking show: the now classic “Yan Can Cook.” A valued instructor at top culinary institutions, he has taught at top culinary institutes such as the Culinary Institute of America and Johnson & Wales University. In 1985: he founded the Yan Can International Cooking School. Also a restaurateur, his Yan Can and SensAsian Restaurants offer inventive pan-Asian menus. **

1993: Connie Chung becomes the first Asian American and the second woman ever to be named to the coveted post of nightly news anchor at a major network when she becomes co-anchor of the "CBS Evening News." She has received three National Emmy Awards, including two for Best Interview/Interviewer. **

Chinese Americans in Music

Yo-Yo Ma, the multi-award winning cellist, was born in 1963. He performed for President John F. Kennedy at seven years old, having begun performing to audiences since the age of five. His famous works can be heard on soundtracks to famous movies such as Seven Years in Tibet (1997), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) and Memoirs of a Geisha (2005). To date, he has over 75 albums: 15 of which are Grammy Award Winners. [Source: Museum of Chinese in America **]

1995: Wang Lee Hom: Since the beginning of singer-songwriter and actor Wang Lee Hom’s career, this Chinese American artiste has won many awards for his music. Although raised in New York, Wang always felt the deep root in his Chinese heritage and started to incorporate Chinese sounds into his music. Wang is a Golden Melody Award-winning singer-songwriter and actor who has achieved highly recognized success in Taiwan, Mainland China, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Thailand and the rest of Southeast Asia. **

2002: Jin Au-Yeung (also known as Jin, Jin tha MC, The Emcee, and 100 Grand Jin) was the first Asian American rapper to be signed to a major record label. His latest album is entitled, ABC (American-born Chinese). This is his first album recorded in his native tongue, Cantonese. **

Chinese Americans in Sports

1989: Michael Chang: youngest French Open/ Grand Slam Champion ever - first American male to win tournmane since 1955: Turning pro at just 15 years of age, tennis player Michael Chang set numerous "youngest player records." In 1987: he was the youngest player to win a main draw match at the U.S. Open and the youngest to reach a Tour semifinal. Becoming the youngest French Open / Grand Slam Champion ever in 1989: he then became the youngest to rank in the Top 5. Chang ended an American drought at the French Open, when he became the first American male to win the tournament since 1955. [Source: Museum of Chinese in America **]

1996: Amy Chow was a member of the famous “Magnificent 7”, the first American team to win Olympic gymnastics gold. She won a silver medal on the uneven bars, and was the first Asian American woman to take an Olympic medal in her sport. Chow has two gymnastic moves named after her. **

Figure skater Michelle Kwan won her fifth figure skating World Championship in 2003. Kwan has received a combined total of 57 6.0s (perfect scores) from her National and World competitions throughout the years. At the U.S. Nationals alone, she holds the record for most 6.0s. Because figure skating is no longer scored on a 6.0 scale, Kwan's records will stand indefinitely. **

Chinese Americans in Fashion

Detroit native Anna Sui launched her first fashion collection in 1980. Anna Sui's business continued to grow throughout the 1980s, and in 1991 she premiered her first runway show. The following year she opened her first flagship store on Greene Street in SoHo. Today she has 32 boutiques in five countries and her collection is sold in 300 stores in over 30 countries. [Source: Museum of Chinese in America **]

Fashion designer David Chu is established his apparel line, Nautica, in 1983. Originally from Taiwan, he went to New York to be an architect. He took summer drawing classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology and that little detour changed his career path entirely. Today, David Chu has a Nautica flagship store in New York and over 100 retail stores worldwide. **

Fashion designer Vera Wang founded her design company in 1990 that not only reflected her lifelong love of fashion, but also celebrated the romance, sensuality and spirit of modern young women. A native New Yorker, she joined Vogue magazine and at age 23: became the youngest fashion editor. After 16 years, Vera moved on to Design Director of women's accessories for Ralph Lauren. **

Chinese Americans in Politics

1959: Hiram Fong, Representing Hawaii, Hiram Fong becomes the first Chinese American to be elected to the U.S. Senate. [Source: Museum of Chinese in America **]

Gary Locke is the first Chinese American to become the governor of a U.S. state. In 1996, he was elected governor of Washington state. He later served as U.S. ambassador to China.

1997: Chief fundraiser John Huang was singled out for condemnation and suspicion, The Democratic National Committee found itself embroiled in a fundraising scandal. Chief fundraiser John Huang was singled out for condemnation and suspicion, raising concerns that age-old prejudices against Chinese Americans are being revived. **

1999: Nuclear Physicist Wen Ho Lee was charged with over fifty counts of mishandling classified nuclear data: Los Alamos nuclear physicist Wen Ho Lee, a Taiwan-born Chinese American, was charged with over fifty counts of mishandling classified nuclear data. Without significant evidence or just cause, Dr. Lee was jailed for nearly a year before the federal government arranged a plea bargain on one count of downloading weapons designs to a non-secure computer. The U.S. government later dropped the remaining charges. **

2001: Elaine Chao is the first Asian American woman appointed to a President's cabinet in U.S. history: Elaine Chao is the Nation’s 24th Secretary of Labor and the first Asian American woman appointed to a President's cabinet in U.S. history. Since her confirmation by the United States Senate on January 29, 2001, she has been dedicated to carrying out the Department's mission of promoting and protecting the health, safety, retirement security, and competitiveness of the nation's workforce. **

Chinese Americans in Business

1998: Andrea Jung, made history when she became president in 1998 and CEO in 1999 of Avon Products, Inc., making her one of the few Fortune 500 women CEOs and giving her the reins of one of America’s largest cosmetics and beauty products companies. She is currently the Chairman & CEO Avon Products, Inc. [Source: Museum of Chinese in America **]

Steve Chen co-founded Youtube in 2005 and has served as Chief Technology Officer of the popular video sharing website YouTube. In June 2006: Chen was named by Business 2.0 as one of the "The 50 people who matter now" in business. On October 16: 2006: Chen and co-founder Chad Hurley sold YouTube to Google, Inc. for $1:65 billion. **

In 2006, Christine A. Poon was ranked by Forbes magazine as one of the top 100 most powerful women. She joined pharmaceutical giant Johnson and Johnson in 2001, was rated to be the top-seated woman—and one of the most respected—in the pharmaceutical industry. She has been Worldwide Chairman of Medicines & Nutritionals of Johnson & Johnson since 2003. **

Chinese Americans in Science

1996: Dr. David Ho was named Time magazine's Man of the Year for his breakthrough AIDS research. Ho was one of the first scientists to propose that AIDS was caused by a virus and explained the dynamic nature of HIV replication in infected persons. This basic understanding led Dr. Ho and his coworkers to champion combination antiretroviral therapy, resulting in dramatic reductions in AIDS-associated mortality in developed countries since 1996. [Source: Museum of Chinese in America **]

1997: Steven Chu won the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics, By devising a brilliant method for using six lasers to trap and cool sodium atoms down to 240 millionths of a degree above absolute zero, Steven Chu enabled a quantum leap in the study of the relationship between matter and energy. His work won him the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics. **

2004: Dr. Jeffery Wang, Chief, Spine Service at UCLA invented the innovative artificial lumbar disc, used in medical spine procedures. Each lumbar disc or Charité disc consists of two cobalt chromium alloy endplates sandwiched around a movable high-density plastic core. **

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Museum of Chinese in America

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© 2009 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated September 2016

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