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Using film, photographs and personal recollections from world renowned architect I.M. Pei; prize-winning AIDS researcher and 1996 TIME Man of the Year Dr. David Ho; television journalist Connie Chung; PBS cooking show host Martin Yan (“Yan Can Cook”); playwright David Henry Hwang; community and business leaders, artists and others, THE CHINESE AMERICANS explores the diversity and rich cultural history of the Chinese American experience in a televised “family album.”
Anchored on each coast by Chinatowns in New York and California, thriving Chinese neighborhoods across the U.S. recreated the close-knit villages in China where every elder was called ‘auntie’ or ‘uncle’ and, as Master Chinese Chef Martin Yan remembers, perseverance, endurance, flexibility and hard work were passed from one generation to the next. THE CHINESE AMERICANS examines the roles Chinese schools, family and district associations, and religious organizations – whether Buddhist, Taoist, Confuscist or Christian – played in transforming Chinese immigrants into Chinese Americans while maintaining the traditions of the culture. As architect I.M. Pei explains, these families became just as American as anybody else, but “still Chinese.” The program explores this yin and yang of the old and the new, a balance between the archetypes so eagerly embraced by mainstream America and the desire to assimilate.
Though the Chinese represent barely one percent of the U.S. population, the power of their contributions to American arts, sciences, medicine and education has been tremendous. As television journalist Connie Chung discovered, this success has not always translated into acceptance. Chung relates how as a young reporter for CBS News in Washington, she endured comments from colleagues about “yellow journalism” and fought the stigma of being hired as part of a network minority quota by proving it was her ability and not her ancestry that justified her position. THE CHINESE AMERICANS celebrates the extraordinary individuals whose destinies were determined not by the Chinese lunar calendar as the ancestors believed but by the sheer determination of a new American dream.