Biography of George W. and Pearl L. Chen in war time China

Chapter One

George Why Chen

picture 1

San Luis Obispo County Telegram-Tribune

Monday, February 17, 1997


George W. Chen

George Why Chen of Morro Bay died Wednesday, February 12, 1997, at a Morro Bay care center.  He was 90.

Mr. Chen was born March 23, 1906, in Marshfield/Coos Bay of Oregon, the second son of pioneer Chan Gow Why and Mary Yee Chan.  He was raised and educated there.  He attended Oregon State College and graduated from Stanford University.  He was an international businessman for 60 years, working in the Far East, including the Philippines, China, and Taiwan.

He had the respect and high regard of heads of state and common folk alike.  He was member of the Masons for more than 50 years, serving as grand master in the early 1960s.  He was the recipient of many awards and commendations from that organization.

He was preceded in death by his wife Pearl Lena Chen (the younger sister of Stella Louis), a brother, Bert Why, and a sister, Mabel Chong.

He is survived by a son, Victor Gene Chen, a daughter-in-law, Wendy Lin Chen, two granddaughters, Vicki Lynn Chen and Jennie Lynn Chen, two brothers, Roy Chan and Moon Chen; two sisters, Mae Chan and Emilie Fong; many nieces, nephews, grandnieces, grandnephews and may old and dear friends.

At his request, no services will be held.  He will be inurned in Sunrise Memorial Cemetery in Vallejo, next to his wife of 52 years.  For those who wish to make memorial contributions, the family suggests the San Luis Obispo Buddhist Church, 6996 Ontario Road, San Luis Obispo, CA 93405.

Arrangements are being handled by Reis Chapel of San Luis Obispo.


An autobiographical essay

Written in April, 1995

By George Why Chen (March 23, 1906 to February 12, 1997)

I was born on March 23, 1906, in Marshfield, Oregon, the second son of the Chan Gow Why family, a well-known and firmly established pioneer Chinese family in the Coos Bay Area before the end of the 19th century.

Life was simple, orderly and busy during my childhood days.  By the time I had reached junior high school, I was already helping out in the family store.

But far above and beyond the success of the family enterprises were the religious, cultural and philosophical teachings which my parents so faithfully followed and exemplified throughout their whole lifetime.  It was beautiful, rich and fulfilling.  They lived by a strict moral code and by practicing charity.

Their exemplary life taught me many, many valuable lessons.  They have also become an unforgettable and basic part of my life.

For as long as I can remember, my parents always began their day by first invoking the Blessings of Heaven.

On the occasion when Father heard that the youngest one in the family was interested in becoming a Christian, he told her that whatever religious faith she chose to follow was her own decision to make; but she was not to forget what our family religion was.

One of my favorite stories is about what happened when I unexpectedly met several ministers and pastors of churches in the city.  They spoke well of my Father and praised his efforts on behalf of society.  Then one of them suggested converting my Father to Christianity.  One of the others said that it was not necessary.  He was already a true Christian in his heart, and that converting him to Christianity would not make him a better man.

On another occasion, when I was in the store, I tried to see if I could weigh up exactly one pound of sugar on a balance scale, adding very small amounts of sugar a bit at a time.  When Father saw what I was doing, he called out to me and said:  “Just enough is not enough; you must always give a little bit more.”

I also discovered that my parents had also attained a high level of enlightenment.




I clearly remember that time I became ill when I was a boy, and Mother, to ensure I got proper care, took me to an apartment in a building on Fourth Street which was also family property.  The only other tenant at the time was an elderly lady.  After a few days stay, Mother said to me one morning that we must leave the apartment immediately.  She had seen the God of Fire leave the kitchen, which was not a good omen.  We packed up and returned home that same afternoon.  Next morning, the elderly tenant next door accidentally dropped the oil lamp she was carrying and set the building on fire.

If I remember correctly, it was around 1917 that Marshfield was hit by a fire which destroyed a while block in the downtown area.  It started in the Lloyds Hotel when a guest overturned an oil lamp.  Within minutes the whole building was on fire, and, fanned by winds from the south, the flames quickly spread to all the other buildings in the block.  Fortunately, when the fire reached the last remaining wooden building, the flames suddenly reversed direction, away from the building and into the wind!  That 3-story wooden building left untouched was our family home and business property.   When Old Pete, an old timer also watching the fire, saw what had happened, he turned around to me and said:  “George, look at the fire.  It has changed direction and is heading away from the building.  I can’t believe it.”  When I told Father about it afterward, he said:  “Didn’t you see our patron Saint Kuan Kung seated atop the building to protect us.”  When I left Marshfield in 1929 to pursue my own career, the building was still there.


My elementary, junior and senior high school years in the local schools were good ones and I enjoyed going to school.  I realized from the very beginning that, being the only Chinese student in the classes I attended, I must become a good student if I am to be known and liked by my teachers and fellow classmates.  As the teachers were good and the classes small, it was not too difficult.  I have found that the secret in getting a good education is to pay attention, by punctual and never miss a class.

During my high school days, I realized more and more how important it was that I should receive a college education, but it was not until my senior year that I began to think seriously about what to study and where to go.

In the summer of 1924, I decided to major in economics and applied to the University of Oregon at Eugene for admission.  Then just two weeks before the fall term was to begin, suddenly, and for no rhyme or reason whatsoever, I decided to go to Oregon State College in Corvallis instead.  This unexpected move was the beginning of a chain of events which led to my going to the Far East in 1930 on a career which has covered over sixty years.

During one of my vacation trips home, my brother Bert introduced me to the Eugene Manager of the Burroughs Corporation.  When he heard that I was attending school at OSC, he said that I was welcome to visit his home anytime I passed through Eugene.  In those days, going home from Corvallis meant taking the last bus to Eugene at 4 pm, arriving at 5 pm, and then waiting until midnight to take the train to Coos Bay.  In the two years I attended OSC, 1924-1926, I probably saw him at most  5 or 6 times.

My two years at OSC were pleasant and productive, but I felt I needed more exposure to my ethnic roots (there were only five oriental students at OSC so I transferred to Stanford University in 1926.  It was a logical choice for Stanford was not only one of the finest institutions of higher learning in the United States, there was also a large group of Chinese graduate students studying under the Boxer Indemnity Fund Program, and its location was only 32 miles south of San Francisco with a large Chinese population.

After graduating from Stanford University in 1928 with a BA degree in Economics, I returned to Coos Bay to assist in the family business.

In October 1929, suddenly and without any advance notice of any kind, the Eugene Manager of Burroughs Corporation, whom I had not seen nor had any contact with for over three years, came to Coos Bay looking for me.  When we met, he told me that he had been promoted to Manager for the Far East and would I be interested in going there to work.  I said that that was something I had dreamed of doing all my life. Arrangements were then made for me to go to the San Francisco Office for on-the-job training for one year.

In December 1930, I and Mr. George H. Woo, also assigned to this program, were sent to the Manila P.J. Office of the company.  After a few months, Mr. Woo was transferred to Shanghai, China.

After ten months of effort in Manila had not attained expected results, I left for Shanghai and stayed there for four months.  With the Japanese attack in North China in 1932, I returned to the United States.

The timing could not have been worse. I had come back just as the Great Depression was at its height.  Over a year later, I saw an ad in a San Francisco newspaper, looking for a clerk.  I went for an interview and while there met a Japanese young man who had also gone there for the same purpose.  He had just graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering.  The thought then suddenly came to my mind that (if I) did not graduate from Stanford University then I would have had to look forward to nothing better than this.  With that, I walked away and returned home.

I decided then and there to leave California for Hawaii to seek other opportunities.  But after several months in Honolulu I still did not find any suitable employment.

I then decided to return to the Far East.  I borrowed seventy dollars to pay for my passage to Shanghai and arrived in that city with US$10.00 in my pocket.  I did not worry too much for I had good friends there, and the support of my Masonic Brethren.

After my arrival, I stayed with my former colleague and close friend George H. Woo and his wife Elsie for a while.  They were so kind and did so much to help me trough those trying days.  This was in late fall of 1933.

What I must do as soon as possible was to find some source of income which would give me enough to live on.  Fortunately, I obtained one through Mr. Kenneth Locke, in the legal department of an American insurance company where he was employed.

Near the end of 1934 I saw an ad in the English language newspaper for someone with good English capability and secretarial skills, and on the chance that I might qualify, I answered the ad.  I was given the job.

However, within a short period, it was found that I did not have the secretarial capabilities needed to fill the position.  Another effort was then made to find someone fully qualified.  I was retained in the office for the time being.

The position I had applied for was no ordinary one.  The young lady who did get the job, a Miss Pearl Chan who was born and educated in the United States and had also been given the opportunity to work in the Far East, became personal secretary to Madame Chiang Kai-shek, wife of President Chiang Kai-shek of the Republic of China, a position which Miss Chan occupied for six decades.

It was now spring, 1935, when I was transferred to the Economic Research Bureau in Hankow, located about 500 miles west of Shanghai along the Yangtze River, a vital business and transportation center in the Central China area.  The bureau was staffed by a group of economic and financial research experts to gather and disseminate the results of teir studies.  They now had plans to become bilingual b preparing reports in both Chinese and English, and asked me to translate their writings into English.  I made several attempts to do so, but found that my knowledge of the Chinese language was far from adequate for the purpose.  I left the bureau at the end of the year.

A few days later, I ran into Mr. Tsao Yao, an old friend and classmate of Mr. George H. Woo.  Mr. Tsao was now a ranking official with the Farmers Bank of China, one of the four major government banks.  He mentioned that there was a very good position open in Shanghai, and suggested I go there for an interview.  He would mention me to them.  The firm was Messrs. Thomas de la Rue & Company, Ltd., banknote engravers and printers.

I packed up my things and departed Hankow for Shanghai, known as the “Paris of the Orient” in those days.  After a short interview with Mr. A. J. Avramow, manager for the Far East, Messrs. Tomas de la Rue & Company, Ltd. I was hired by the firm effective March 1, 1936.

Just before the end of March, Mr. Avramow called me into his office and said that he had decided to open an office in Canton, Kwangtung province and would like me to do so.  Being a Cantonese myself, having friends and acquaintances there, and being an active member of Pearl River Lodge, F. & A. M. of China, getting started was not too difficult.

During this period, great political changes were taking place in China.  In the summer of 1936, the two provinces Kwangtung and Kwangsi became united with the other provinces under the Government of the Republic of China.

With the two provinces now under the jurisdiction of the Government of the Republic of China, there was no further need for the Canton Office as the local banknote issue will be replaced by the Chinese National Currency, which our firm was already printing for the Republic of China.  I closed the office and returned to the Shanghai Office in the fall of 1936.

Within a little over a year after unification, two other major events took place which completely changed history in the Far East.  One was the Sian Incident which occurred in December, 1936, when Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek was detained for a short period in Sian and finally released on Christmas Eve to return to Nanking, the capital of China; the other was the Japanese invasion of China, which took place on August 13th, 1937, with Shanghai as their first objective by the Japanese armed forces.  They had attacked Manchuria in 1931 and north China in 1932, but had not extended their operations until now.

I remember going to Nanking to see Pearl Chan on the weekend before August 13th.  As soon as I got off the train, she said that they had word that an attack on Shanghai by the Japanese forces was imminent.  I took the next train back to Shanghai, packed up my things and fled to the International Settlement.  At that time, I was living in a small apartment on Soochow Road, convenient and comfortable; but it just happened to be on the wrong side of Soochow Creek, the natural border between the Japanese Concession and the International Settlement.

After four months of bitter fighting between the two forces, the Nanking-Shanghai Defense Line was severed, forcing the Chinese troops to withdraw from the area to avoid encirclement.  Shanghai was now isolated from the rest of the country.  It was at this time that the Government moved its headquarters to Chungking, Szechuan, over a thousand miles west of Nanking, generally referred to as The Wartime Capital of China.

During all this time, I was being paid well but did little in return.  I felt that this was not proper.  Also, the country was at war and I wanted to be of help, if possible.

In the spring of 1938, I decided to resign from the firm and go to Chungking, the wartime capital of China, to offer my services.  I mentioned this to Mr. Avramow and Mr. Lo.  They were reluctant to let me go, but finally did so.  Immediately after this meeting, they left for Hong Kong.

Travelling from Shanghai to Chungking for me meant taking a ship to Haiphong via Hong Kong, to Saigon and then by the Michelin Train, so-called because of its rubber-tire wheels to lighten weight and give it the traction necessary to negotiate the steep grades en route to the Yunnan Plain and onward to Kunming, Yunnan.  From there I took a plane to Chungking.

As soon as I arrived in Hong Kong, I called upon Mr. Lo to pay my respects.  As soon as we met, he said we must go to see Mr. Avramow at the Peninsula Hotel in Kowloon.

When we met, Mr. Avramow asked me what was I doing in Hong Kong.  I mentioned that I was on my way to Chungking by way of Saigon and Kunming.  Then he surprised me by saying that he and Mr. Lo had previously discussed the matter of sending me to Chungking, but because of the dangers involved, had felt they could not do so.  Now that I was on my way, would I be willing to go as Manager of Chungking Office.  I was very happy to accept.

From 1938 to 1946, I represented the company in Chungking, and except for a short business trip to Hong Kong, I was in the wartime capital all that time.

Daily life in those days meant sitting in a dugout for 6 to 8 hours for protection against Japanese bombers and going to work after the all clear siren, generally around 3 – 4 pm.

On February 27th, 1940, Pearl and I were married in Chungking, and son Victor was born in that city on September 8, 1944.

In the summer of 1946, we returned to the Nanking-Shanghai area.  Shortly afterward, I was promoted to succeed Mr. Lo Yen-feng, who was retirig.  And in 1948, in recognition of my efforts in Chungking, my family and I were given an all expenses paid round the world trip by the company.

We had everything then, but it was not for long.  By the end of 1949, we had lost everything, and were thankful we were still alive.  Vic and his mother were evacuated by US Navy Transport in August, and I left Shanghai later that year for Hong Kong to keep up contact with the Government which had moved to Canton.  After the ROC moved to Taiwan the end of the year and the People’s Republic of China had taken over control of the mainland, I resigned from Messrs Thomas de la Rue & C. Ltd., and returned to the States.

It is late in February 1950 when I arrived in San Luis Obispo, CA, to be with Pearl and Vic.  But our stay here was not for long.

In early April, we received a telegram from Taipei, Taiwan, with an offer to return to the ROC to assist the country in its efforts.  Pearl and I just looked at each other, and then I ran down to the telegraph office and sent out our reply.  By the end of April, Pearl and Vic were in Taipei, and I followed them a little later with needed luggage.  This effort lasted 43 years.

Going to Taiwan in those days was not a simple matter.  No American citizens were permitted to go to Taiwan then because of the Communist threat to the island.  But permission was granted in our case, and before long we were busy again in the Republic of China on Taiwan.

Pearl returned to her position as Personal Secretary to Madame Chiang Kai-shek.

From 1950 to 1956, I served in an advisory capacity with the Foreign Affairs Service Department, Combined Services Forces, ROC, which was responsible for certain non-military aspects of the United States Military Assistance Advisory Group on Taiwan.

Shortly after leaving the Foreign Affairs Service Department, I heard that Cardinal Paul Yu Pin had just established an office to begin working on the project to build a large, modern Catholic Hospital on a parcel of land in Neihu, a suburb of Taipei.  I contacted the Cardinal and said that I was interested in assisting in this project.  I was accepted immediately.  Unfortunately, after months of effort, the project had to be suspended for the time being because of the size of the operation and the rapidly escalating costs involved.

In 1960, I joined Civil Air Transport, founded by General C. L. Chennault of Flying Tiger fame, and was with the airline until my retirement in 1972.

During all my 60 odd years in the Far East, and as a Freemason, I took an active part in Masonic work.  It was a great and uplifting experience for Freemasonry was just beginning to become a part of Chinese social life.  Lodge rosters read like a Who’s Who of both the local and expatriate societies.  I was elected Grand Master of the M.W. Grand Lodge of Free & Accepted Masons of China in 1962.  After retirement from CAT, I served as Grand Secretary for six years, 1972-1978.

Then, in 1978, I happened to meet General Lai Ming-tang, Commander-in-Chief of the Chinese Air Force.  He asked me what I was doing now.  I replied that I was taking it easy.  What a pleasant surprise it was to hear him say:  “NO, you don’t, George.  One with your experience and background can be of great help to the younger generation.  I am putting you back to work again.”  Shortly after this meeting, I was busy again teaching at three different Ministry of Defense colleges and institutes and other schools right up to the day I departed Taiwan for the United States on December 1st, 1993.  During the last five years of this period, I confined my teaching efforts to a special English class which Pearl had established in 1975 to train members of the Chinese Women’s Anti-Aggression League and the Women’s Section of the Kuomintang.  In the late 1980s, her health began to deteriorate and I took over the class.

My beloved Pearl passed away on Thanksgiving Day, 1992.

I returned to the United States on December 1st, 1993, and on December 4th, escorted my beloved Pearl’s cremains to the Sunrise Memorial Cemetery in Vallejo, California, for placement in permanent repose.

With the end of a wonderful lifetime which has covered most of the 20th century, I was now on my own and having to think of what to do next.  I had originally planned to go to Los Angeles to visit with friends and relatives, but changed my mind at the last moment, and proceeded to San Luis Obispo, CA, to see my sister-in-law Stella C. Louis first and then continue southward.

During my visit with her, she extended an invitation to me to stay in San Luis. She is of advanced age and cannot move about without assistance, and is living alone.  I said that I would return after my trip to Los Angeles.  I came back on New Year’s Eve.

Sixteen months have elapsed since then.  San Luis Obispo is a beautiful city with a good environment and beautiful weather.  People here are very friendly and most helpful.  I feel happy to be of assistance in caring for Stella, who has just passed her 99th birthday.

And to top it all off, I have been made to feel young again.  Through the kindness of Stella, I have met many members of the Cal Poly Chinese Students Association.  To them, 350 Lincoln Avenue is their home away from home, and Stella is “Mom”.  The students call me “Uncle George”, and are very interested in learning more about the history of the other side of the Pacific Rim during the last six decades.

A postscript regarding George’s father:  Chan Gow Why

How the shrine became a part of our family religious life is an interesting bit of Coos Bay history.  Around the turn of the century, San Francisco – Portland, Oregon, cargo was transported by coasters, small wooden vessels powered by coal.  Because of the ships’ limited fuel capacity, a port en route must be found where they could refuel.  Coos Bay was not only the best natural harbor between the two cities, there was a coal mine nearby.  A group of Chinese workmen were called in to build a spur track from the mine to the bunker along the bay, were the boats could dock and refuel.   Upon completion of the railway, the workmen came to say goodbye to Father, and also to find out if he was going to make his home in Coos Bay.  When he said that he was, they turned over to him the Kuan Ti Kung Shrine which they had brought with them when they first arrived.  Father then added a small structure to our home to house the shrine.  The shrine and family home in Coos Bay are long gone, but the traditions have not and are a part of my daily life.


Tribute to George W. Chen

On the passing of Uncle George Why Chen (March 23, 1906 to February 12, 1997)

By his “honorary Chinese nephew” Lee

Today is Wednesday, February 12, 1997.  I am here with Uncle George in Room 21 of Seashell.  They have him on oxygen to help him breathe, and a bit of morphine to help with the pain.  Mostly he is just resting.

On Saturday, I was also here with Uncle George, but we were much busier.  His telephone was finally reconnected on Friday.  So on Saturday he and I were busy with a batch of letters that he wanted to send out to all of his many good friends.  The letters let everyone know of his new address and telephone number.  Those letters were probably arriving at their destinations just about now.

On Saturday, Uncle George was still planning on attending the April 5th dedication of the Ah Luis mural in San Luis Obispo’s historic Chinatown.  He was also happily anticipating the visit from his longtime friend from Hawaii, Paul Chong, during the early summer.

He was doing so well on Saturday that there seemed to be no reason to spoil the anticipation by recalling te doctor’s dire predictions.  Uncle George was not supposed to be doing so well.  But he was indeed doing quite well:  so why not expect many more “good” days.

But since Monday, Uncle George has grown progressively weaker.  He has not much thirst nor appetite.  It is hard for me now to expect that Uncle George will hold on for too much longer.  I am sitting bedside now, swabbing his lips and tongue with water, as they dry out from the oxygen.  And I am writing this essay:  hoping that it may help his friends and family to better cope with the passing of such a great man.  I add the appellation of “great man”; Uncle George certainly would not consider himself “great” in any way.  I believe that he simply feels fortunate and blessed to have been given such a life.

I was lucky enough to become a good friend to Uncle George.  I knew him for only three years, and spent quite a large amount of time with him during this past year.  I did not know him in his prime; but I truly believe that he was not far from his prime during these past three years; even up to last Saturday.  Uncle George is not an “Old Man”, except in years.  He has maintained his composure and intelligence and dignity throughout the time of our acquaintance.  He remains a pleasure to be around, always.

During those hundred or so days which I actually spent with him, I was able to formulate a view of Uncle George and the life that he led.  Anyone who knows Uncle George also must know how he loves to tell stories.  He led an amazing life, and he tells his stories to let others know about his life, but also to affirm to himself the important aspects of his life.  He remembers with his stories, and he reminds himself to be thankful for his good fortune.

Even though Uncle George seemed to somehow always be in the midst of historic happenings, those are not the things he remembers most often.  His family seems to be what is foremost in his mind, In our hundred or so meetings, I cannot remember a day, besides today, when he did not speak of his beloved wife Pearl, or of his “daughter” Winnie Hu.  Pearl and George raised Winnie from her teen years on, and she became te daughter they never had.  And though he will always explain the particulars of how she is not “really” his daughter, you can always tell how thankful Uncle George is that he was blessed with such a daughter as Winnie.

Uncle George also often speaks of his brothers and sisters and of Vic and Wendy and of his two grown-up granddaughters.  Uncle George never wants to be a burden for anyone to bear.  He does not force himself upon his son’s family; but he is surely fond of them, and speaks proudly of them all.

The next certain topics in a daily conversation with Uncle George will be his sixty-three years spent working in the Far East.  As you all well know, Uncle George was born here in the USA, educated at Oregon State and Stanford, but then was given the opportunity in 1930 to work in the Far East.  That launched his many years of service:  starting in the Philippines, covering much of mainland China, and then finally his over forty-two years of service on Taiwan.  Uncle George held positions of stature and importance throughout his years on the mainland and then on Taiwan.  Remarkable for a boy born and raised in Coos Bay, Oregon.  He held positions which were intended for highly qualified Chinese citizens, not for some one “fresh off the boat from America”, as he considered himself to be.

Uncle George has spent most of his life as an outsider.  As we can expect, as a young man he had to deal with being considered not quite “American” enough.  He says they used to call it ABC:  “American born Chinese.”  Apparently there has been a change in terminology.  Uncle George says he has been “upgraded” to a CBA:  “Chinese born abroad”.  Either way, he has never been allowed to be just an “American born American”.  And of course, in China and on Taiwan, he was not quite “Chinese” enough either.  But this is not something which makes Uncle George bitter or angry.  He accepts it, and lives in an exemplary manner always.  He does not want others with a similar background to be treated badly, based on his conduct.  I expect that Uncle George has spent most of his life striving to be the proper role model for an ABC or CBA whether here or abroad.  What he has managed to become is the perfect role model for anyone living anywhere.  I admire him greatly, but I do not even attempt to live up to his high standards.  I know that my abilities are much less than his.

I have included with this essay, a brief autobiography which Uncle George wrote a few years back while staying at the home of Pearl’s sister Stella Louis.  He considers it a first draft and would not want anyone to consider it a finished product.  He was still talking last Saturday about the need to do the second and more valuable part of the autobiography.  He spoke of wanting to write down the personal stories which actually shaped his life, rather than just the “who, what, when, where and hows” of the included autobiography.  I can understand his desire to write that second version, and I am truly sorry that he may very well never get that chance.  Because it is through his stories that we are given the chance to understand the essence of Uncle George.

I myself have the habit of thinking and re-thinking and then thinking some more over the key events in my life.  I think that Uncle George is much like that also.  The stories that he tells me are not ones which glorify him or his achievements.  He does not ever try to impress me wt is accomplishments.  Rather,  he seems almost spellbound by the fact that these things have actually happened to him at all.

I remember two of his stories particularly well.  Both stories are set in Shanghai during the late summer of 1937.  This was when the Japanese launched their full scale attack on China.  The first story shows us how witnessing warfare up close for so long, had made Uncle George almost indifferent to the idea that his death was always just an instant away.  The second story reassures us that even in such a war weary condition, Uncle George still felt the need to help others, and to do what was morally right, even though his conduct might appear inappropriate to others.

The first story involves the Masons.  Uncle George is proud of his long association with the Masonic Brotherhood in the Far East.  He had actually been urged to join the Masons when studying at Stanford University.  But he was sadly disappointed when he was found unacceptable for membership due to that ABC business.  Surprisingly, rather than give up on the Masons entirely, Uncle George was actually instrumental in the beginnings of Freemasonry in the Far East.  He will proudly tell you all about his being a “Past Grand Master” even if you are like me and have hardly a clue as to the significance of that honor.

But we need to get back to Shanghai in the late summer of 1937.  Uncle George and his fellow Masons had a business lunch meeting each Tuesday afternoon.  They met in the upstairs coffee shop in one of Shanghai’s biggest department stores.  George can tell you the exact name of the store, and its location and cross streets.  Sadly, I did not write down the particulars before.  Well, picture Uncle George, at age 31, working at his desk in his office in the Shanghai Bank building.  He ears on the radio that a Japanese bomb has just exploded at the intersection where his meeting was due to take place in half an hour.  Uncle George rushes to the scene.  It is utter carnage.  The Sikh policeman who usually watches over the intersection, and directs traffic from a raised tower, is still up in his tower:  standing tall with his turban intact; but nonetheless quite dead.  The ground floor windows of the department store are all shattered:  the metal window frames are twisted and charred.  Uncle George finds a path through the wreckage to the stairway leading to the second floor coffee shop.  Passing through the first floor he has seen the shattered remains of display cases and shoppers alike.  The shoppers are damaged beyond help or even recognition.  When he finally makes it to the second floor, he finds his Masonic Brethren seated around their usual tables.  Most have bleeding cuts on their faces from flying glass and shrapnel; but all are essentially intact.  Uncle George sits down, and the meeting begins s usual.  The members are so accustomed to the idea that they may well be dead tomorrow, that they see no reason why they should not have their meeting while they are able.

The second story is also set in Shanghai during this same time period.  The international Settlement has become a staging area for the Chinese troops defending Shanghai from the Japanese offensive.  The streets are filled with troops and tanks and military trucks.  It is early evening, but already dark.  Uncle George, still age 31, watches as a Chinese military truck transporting troops, runs down a young Chinese woman dressed in fine evening clothes.  She falls to the gutter;  unconscious and bleeding;  but no one pays the least attention to her, or to what has just happened.  It was war; people die; who cares about one more death.  Uncle George cares.

He has worked in the International Settlement for more than five years.  He knows his way around. He knows that a Chinese owned dance hall in the Settlement has been converted, at the owners’ request into a field hospital for the Chinese troops defending Shanghai.  Uncle George, who is still a bachelor in 1937, picks up the young woman and carries her in his arms through streets teeming with troops and civilians and confusion.  He reaches the field hospital, but the guards will ot let him past the front door.  So Uncle George talks his way in.  But the doctors refuse to treat the young woman; the hospital is for Chinese troops only, not for Chinese civilians.  Uncle George explains that the young woman has been hit by a Chinese military truck.  Still no dice.  Uncle George is faced with a dilemma.  He knows that there is no hospital in the International Settlement which will treat Chinese civilians.  If the doctors at this field hospital refuse to treat the young woman, she will almost certainly die quite soon.

Finally, whether by charm or coercion or by dropping a few key names, Uncle George convinces these doctors to provide treatment for the injured young woman that he is still holding in his arms.  And so her life is saved.  But that is ot the part of the story which causes Uncle George to remember so vividly.  That part comes later.  Once he knows that the young will be alright, Uncle George begins to leave the hospital/dance hall.  On his way out, he passes a  young Chiese gentleman dressed in eveing clothes.  The man gives Uncle George what we would nowadays call a “dirty look”.  Apparently this young ma had been the date of the injured young woman.  This man did not understand that without the help of Uncle George, his date would almost surely have died.  Instead, this man chooses to see a tall good looking well dressed gentleman who seems to be whisking his date away.  I expect that once the young woman regained consciousness, her date would have already “installed” himself in the role of her benefactor.  We will never know.  Uncle George never sees either of them again.

Uncle George has not changed very much since tat night in Shanghai.  He still cares more about the wellbeing of others, than he does about himself.  He is pleasant and charming and personable to everyone he meets.  But unlike the always smiling salesman who is charming for the sake of self interest, Uncle George acts with sincerity.  He is one of the few men who I have met in my lifetime, who truly deserves the appellation of “Gentleman”.

As I sit here, bedside to Uncle George, and watch him struggle just to keep breathing, I cannot expect him to be with us for too much longer.  But I know that he will always remain in my memories and in my heart.  I would hope that we can all make it a special point to remember Uncle George, and the special Blessing that he was to all of our lives.

Chapter Two

History of the Pearl Lena Chan Family

By Victor Chen 陳偉慶


History of the Chen Family

Pearl Lena Chen


A little after midday at 12:18 pm on September 8, 1944, at the National Shanghai Medical College in Chungking, Sichuan province, China, a premature baby boy of only 35 weeks of maturity, weighing 4 lbs. 4 oz. was born by Caesarean section to Pearl Lena Chen nee Chan at the age of 37.  Because of respiratory infection, the baby was placed in an incubator for 72 hours.  Dr. Gordon King, the gynaecologist who delivered the baby boy noted in his birth certificate.

mom 034

The mother suffered from severe pre-eclampsia while giving birth.  The baby was given special care for prematurity and was fed with human milk by dropper, starting with 4 cc per feeding until the baby was able to take in 30 cc with ease.  When a fortnight old the baby suffered a slight setback from upper respiratory infection but this was effectively treated with small doses of sulfadiazine (0.05 q. 4.h) and from that time on the baby has made uninterrupted progress.  On the date of discharge the baby’s weight was 7 lb. 5 oz. And he was on breast feeds 4 hourly.  The mother’s milk was fortunately sufficient.

Signed Gordon Kong, F.R.C.S. Gynaecology, National Shanghai Medical College, Chungking, China, Certified true copy of signed original on file at American Embassy Affidavit signed on October 26th, 1944, Chungking, Archibald A. McFadyen, Jr. American Vice Consul


The birth of the baby boy was immediately reported to Madame Chiang.  Pearl asked Madame to give the boy a name.  Madame immediately said:  “Name he boy he Victory Generation.  The war with Japan will be over soon.  They boy signifies the Victorious Generation.”  Thus the baby boy was named Victor Gene, meaning the Victory Generation.

On November 7, 1944, Mrs. Pearl Chen went to the American Consulate in Chungking, China, with the certificate by attending physician Dr. Gordon King, reported the birth of the baby boy as a child born abroad of American parents.  This report of birth of an American citizen abroad was duly noted and certified by Vice Consul of the United States of America at the American Consulate in Chungking.  Vice Consul Hungorford B. Howard.

Pearl Lena Chan (Chandler) was born in Napa County, California, on April 7, 1907.  According to U.S. Census Records, she lived at 1301 67th Street, South Berkeley, California, from 1908 through the 1920s, and at 1305 67th Street, South Berkeley, California, up to 1932.  Pearl Lena Chan graduated from Berkeley High School in 1925, was admitted to the University of California at Berkeley in August, 1925, graduated on May 15, 1929, with a B.S. in Commerce.  She went to Hawaii in the summer of 1933 and to Shanghai, China, arriving there in 1934, and began her 60-year career as English secretary for Madame Chiang Kai-shek that summer.  She died at the age of 85, at 9:05 am, on November 26, 1992, at the Veterans General Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan.


Stella Chan Louis


Thomas Chan, Pearl Chan, Stella Chan Louis

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Pearl was the younger sister of Stella Chan (Chandler)

Stella Chan Louis resided at 350 Lincoln Avenue, San Luis Obispo, California, 93401.  She was born on April 16, 1897, in Saint Helena, California.  She lived to be 100 years old, spending most of her time n San Luis Obispo, California, in a single family house on Lincoln Ave., San Luis Obispo.  She married Luis Young.  The marriage lasted 70 years.  Aunty Stella outlived Uncle Young, aka Uncle Pop, by 7 years.  Aunty Stella and Uncle Pop opened the first photographic studio in San Luis Obispo almost a century ago.  Aunt Stella and Uncle Pop were well known as photographers for the Cal Poly and San Luis Obispo high school student albums, and were well known as Mom and Pop of all the Chinese foreign students studying at Cal Poly throughout the 1970s to the 1990s.  Aunty Stella died in 1996.

There were seven children in the Chan (Chandler) family.  In the late 1960s and the middle of the 1970s, there were five who were still alive.  the first born son Thomas Chan Chandler, Stella Chan Chandler, Pearl Lena Chan, and Jessie Chan.

Uncle Tom or Thomas Donald Chandler, Chan Don Tom, the first offspring of the Chan family, was born on November 15th, 1889, at 4:30 am in San Francisco, California, in the house of Mrs. Yee, Prospect Place between Sacramento and Cay Streets.  On January 9 (?), 1894, he went to China with his parents on the S.S. Gallic.  On November 12 (?), 1894, he returned to America with his mother on the S.S. Coptic (File No. 9493/143)

Joseph Donald Chandler, also known as Chan Don Shew, was born on May 11, 1894, in Char Jew Village, Sun Ning District, Kwangtung province, China.  On November 12 (?), 1894, he came to America with his mother on the S.S. Coptic as babe-in-arms, about nine months old (File No. 9493/142)

Stella Chandler Louis, aka Chan Chun Loy, was born on April 16, 1897, in Saint Helena, California.

Roy Donald Chandler, aka Chan Don Hoy, was born on August 21, 1901, lower Brown Street, Napa, California.

Pearl Lena Chandler, aka Chan Chun Lien, was born on April 7, 1907, on Lincoln Avenue near Calistoga Avenue, Napa, California.

Jessie Donald Chandler, aka Chan Don Suin, was born on December 22, 1909, in the Sunset Apartments, Webster Street, Oakland, California.

Their mother, Mrs. Jennie Leong Chandler, born in San Francisco in 1872, married a Frank Chan (Chandler) in 1888.  She made a trip to China in January of 1894, leaving San Francisco on the steamship Gaelic and returning to San Francisco on the steamship China.

Uncle Tom and Uncle Pop opened the first movie house in San Luis Obispo.

Uncle Young Luis was the first American of Chinese ancestry in the first graduating class to graduate from the California Polytechnic Institute (Cal Poly).  Uncle Young Luis was the descendant of Ah Louie, the first Chinese to settle in San Luis Obispo and to open the Ah Louie General Store in downtown San Luis Obispo in the 1870s.  The original building that still houses the Ah Louie General Store was designated by the State of California as a historical building, and descendants of the Ah Louie family still take care of the building as guardians.

According to the affidavit of Stella C. Louis of 350 nLincoln Avenue, San Luis Obispo, California 93401:

I, Stella C. Luis, residing at 350 Lincoln Avenue, San Luis Obispo, California 93401, being first duly sworn, depose and say:

I was born on April 16, 1897, in Saint Helena, California.  My parents were Frank Candler (Chinese name was K. Y. Chin) and Jennie Chandler.  My father, Frank Chandler, and my mother, Jennie Chandler, were married in San Francisco, California, in 1888.

My parents, Frank Candler, and Jennie Chandler also were the parents of my sister, Pearl Lena Chandler (Chinese name, Chin).  My sister, Pearl Lena Chandler (Chin), was born in the home where I lived with my parents on Lincoln Avenue in Napa, California, on April 7, 1907.  I remember the birth of my sister, Pearl Lena Chandler (Chin), very vividly because the birth occurred in the bedroom of our home and, the baby, Pearl Lena, was delivered by my father, and I was in the bedroom at the time of the delivery and I saw my sister, Pearl Lena, soon after her birth.  The birth occurred during the night on April 7, 1907.

I lived with my parents and my sister, Pearl Lena, until my marriage.  In 1909, my family, which included my father, mother and sister, Pearl Lena, moved to Oakland, California.  We lived in Oakland, California from 1909 to 1910 and then we moved to Berkeley, California, where I lived with my father, mother and sister, Pearl Lena, from 1910 to December 1912.  I married Young Louis on December 31, 1912, in San Luis Obispo, California.  After my marriage to Young Louis, I remained and lived in San Luis Obispo, California with my husband.

My father and mother had seven children altogether, two daughters and five sons.  My sister, Pearl Lena, and myself are the only two children who are now living, being the issue of my father and my mother.

My sister, Pearl Lena, is married to George W. Chen and her name is now Pearl Lena Chen.  She was married to George W. Chen on February 27, 1940, at Chungking, Szechuan, China.  She and her husband, George W. Chen, had one child, the issue of their marriage.  Their son, Victor Gene, was born in Chungking, Szechuan, China, on September 8, 1944.

I make this affidavit knowing that it will be used in official proceedings before the Immigration and Naturalization Service of the United States Department of Justice to prove the fact of my sister’s birth in Napa, California, on April 7, 1907, and that as a result of her birth she at all times has been a native born citizen of the United States.  Dated May 2, 1980, Notary Public:  A.V. Muller, San Luis Obispo, California


Chin Doo Ngar

The father of Pearl Lena Chan and Stella Chan was Chin Doo Ngar, also known as Frank Candler.  He was born in May, 1868, in Kwangtung province, China.  He died in 1936 in El Paso, Texas.  He came to American in 1880 (?) and married Leung Shee, also known as Jennie Leong, 1888.  On January 9 (?), 1894, Chin Doo Ngar went to China on the B.B. Gallic under File No. 9441/27.  In 1894, September 16 (?), he returned to America on the S.S. Oceanic.  In January 1894, he had a business situated on the SE corner of First ad Combs Streets, Napa, California.  On January 8, 1894, a Certificate of Residence was issued to him, No. 36610.  On June 1, 1900, the census report of this date recorded Frank Chandler, age 32, born in May 188, China; residing at 411 Grant Street, Napa, California.  In 1913, he left his Berkeley home and died in El Paso, Texas, in 1929.


Jennie Leong

The mother of Pearl Lena Chan and Stella Chan was Leong Shee, also known as Jennie Leong.  She was born in March 1872, in San Francisco, California.  She married Chin Doo Ngar in 1888.  In January 1894, she went o China on the S.S. Gallic (File No. 9493/143).  On November 12, 1894 (?), she returned to America on the S.S. Coptic landing in port of San Francisco.  On January 8, 1894, a Certificate of Residence No. 36609 was issued to her.  On June 1, 1900, the census records showed Jennie Chandler, age 28, born in March 1872, residing at 411 Grant Street, Napa, California.


The Why Family of Oregon


On March 23, 1906, up in the State of Oregon, in old Marshfield, near Coos Bay and North Bend, the Why family gave birth to a third son.  They baby boy was named George Why Chen.  He lived to be 90 years old.  He died on February 12, 1997, in San Luis Obispo, California.

George, as many of his friends in later life would call him, told this interesting story about the origin of his middle name and surname.  As the story goes:

Chan Gow Why

In he early days of Marshfield, near Coos Bay, Oregon, there once lived a man named Gow Why, a pioneer Chinese merchant, storekeeper, hotelier, and keeper of a Buddhist shrine on the southeast corner of Broadway and Commercial Streets.


Gow Why, like many others, came to America following the California Gold Rush in 1849, arriving in the late 1880s from the village of Hoyping in southern China near the city of Canton.

When Gow Why first began doing business in early Marshfield, he used to tell his customers that his name was Chan Gow Why.  In Chinese, the surname comes first whereas in English, the surname comes last.  Thus, his family name was Chan, and his first name was Gow Why.  According to George, Gow Why’s third son, Chan Gow Why, who did not know any English when he first set foot in the New World, probably came through San Francisco where the clerk processing these first waves of Chinese immigrants recorded their names by spelling out whatever sounds were being uttered and muttered by the frightened immigrants standing before them, or recorded whatever utterances they heard, all the while assuming that the surnames came last.  The spontaneous reaction of the processing official was to jot down the sounds he heard as best he could, perhaps hearing only the Gow and Why parts of the name and missing the Can sound, which would have been uttered first.  Or, assuming that the surname came last, noted Why as the last name, and Gow as the first name.  However the mix-up came about, Chan Gow Why was recorded as Mr. Gow Why.  And from that time on, this young Chinese who was born Chan Gow Why and who should have been nown as mr. Gow Why Chan, became Mr. Gow Why.  This is the reason the first Chinese family in the Coos Bay area was named the Why family rather than the Chan family.  His grandson, Mr. Harry Why of North Bed, tells the story that Gow Why’s early customers even helped him write his English name and taught him how to spell it.  Gow Why later did learn to read and write English.  Old timers recall that he always used his abacus to calculate, and he would count audibly in Cantonese as he pushed the beads of the abacus up and down, then writing down the sums in Arabic numerals on paper and showing it to his customers.

In 1892, the builder of the Coos Bay Roseburg and Eastern Railroad from Coos Bay to Coquille brought a number of Chinese from San Diego.

It was very probable that Chan Gow Why might have been among them, as he was known to have worked on this construction.  Gow Why first became known as a vegetable peddler in early Marshfield.  He grew is vegetables in his garden near Milling, somewhere in the neighborhood of what is now called Blossom Gulch in Coos Bay.  Each day, he would pick the vegetables that he had grown and place them into two baskets slung over the ends of a wooden pole across his shoulders and make house-to-house deliveries on foot.  Soon he opened up his own grocery store in the old Western Hotel building he bought on the southeast corner of Broadway and Commercial Streets.  The store faced Commercial about the middle of the block and a café in the building faced Broadway.  Gow Why lived upstairs where he had his little temple and altar, worshipping the Chinese God of War and Merchants, Guan Gong.


Within a few short years, Gow Why built is fresh vegetable store into a grocery store and then a general merchandise store.  The Gow Why family was the first family to own a Model T Ford in old Marshfield. Gow Why is still remembered for his benevolence, keen wit and sparkling eyes.  He is listed in Oregon’s history as one of the pioneer merchants of the Coos Bay area.  The Coos Bay historical annals of 1900 state:  “Gow Why went to San Francisco, returning in a short time with an attractive young wife”.  Mrs. Gow Why, aka Mar Yee Chan and nee Chun Yee See, ascendant of the Nam Hoy district in the province of Kwangtung, southern China, was born in San Francisco.  In the records of the Sam Yup Association of San Francisco dated July 1, 1932, Mrs. Mary Yee Chan was listed as Mrs. “Sow Why”, of Nam Hoy, age 48, a resident of Marshfield, Oregon.


In 1907-1908, W.S. Chandler, the founder of the First National Bank in Coos Bay, and John S. Coke joined Gow Why in a corporation to build the Chandler Hotel, a very successful venture.  Later they built the Tioga Hotel, which turned out to be a dismal failure for the investors.  However, Gow Shy still owned many other pieces of property in the Coos Bay area, among them the commercial property in downtown North Bend on Sherman Avenue where his son Bert Why and family had a grocery store for many years.  Gow Why returned to China about 1930.


The Why family had five sons and two daughters.  The eldest son Bert continued the surname Why and the other sons took Gow Why’s original Chinese surname of Chen and Chan.  The Why family has stayed mostly in the Coos Bay and North Bend areas as Oregonians for four generations.  The other sons and daughters eventually went to California, Hawaii and China.  The eldest son is Bert Why, who with his wife Bessie, own the Bert’s Cash Grocer in Marshfield. Bert Why Jr. is a dentist in Palo Alto, California.

George Why Chen (March 23, 1906 to February 12, 1997) ventured to China in 1933 after graduating from Stanford University in Palo Alto and idling in North Bend for two years. Uncle Roy Chan (1909-2001), who settled in Vallejo, California, worked at Travis Air Force Base and later at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard until retirement, and his wife, Aunty Edna (1910-1976) worked for Bank of America for 25 years until retirement.  Mrs. Emily Fong was a music and piano teacher in Los Angeles, and her husband, Mr. Harry Fong, was an airplane mechanic in Los Angeles.  Mrs. Mabel Chong of Los Angeles worked for Woolworth for many years and her husband Uncle George Chong worked in the grocery store business for many years.  Aunt Mabel’s eldest son Richard is now the Chong family in Salt Lake City, Utah.  And one of the closest childhood friends of the Why family was Thomas Chinn, also of a Chinese American family in Oregon that settled there in the early 1900s.  Thomas Chinn later operated a successful print shop in San Francisco for about 50 years.  Uncle Roy Chan, Aunty Edna Chan, Mr. George W. Chen and Pearl Lena Chen are resting in peace in the mausoleum at the Sunrise Memorial Cemetery in Vallejo, California.



Chapter Three

Masonry in China

According to the Synopsis of the Masonic History of China, by MW Dic. George W. Chen, PGM, first published in October 1974:

“Free and Accepted Masonry was first introduced into China by Amity Lodge No. 407 under the English Constitution at Canton, Kwangtung province in 1767.  It was followed in 1788 by Lodge Elizabeth under Swedish Constitution.  Both Lodges ceased to operate shortly after the end of the eighteenth century.

“Following the deactivation of these two Lodges, there was an apparent brief period during which Masonry was again non-existent in China, but in 1844, Royal Sussex Lodge No 735 was warranted by the Grand Lodge o England to hold meetings in the city of Canton.

“Thereafter, Lodges were established in China under at least nine foreign jurisdictions, namely, England, Scotland, Massachusetts, USA, Germany, Ireland, Austria, Italy, the Philippines, and California USA.  By 1939, subordinate Lodges had, for various periods, been located in Hong Kong and eighteen mainland cities, the principal ones being along the China coast at Canton, Swatow, Foochow, Shanghai, Nanking, Tientsin, Peking and during World War II at Chungking.

“The American Lodges, all functioning under the Massachusetts Constitution, were Ancient Landmark in Shanghai chartered on December 14, 1864;  Sinim Lodge in Shanghai chartered in 1903; Shanghai Lodge in Shanghai chartered on September 14, 1904; International Lodge in Peking chartered on June 24, 1916, Hykes Memorial Lodge in Tientsin chartered in September 1922; Pagoda Lodge in Mukden chartered in March 1926; Dalien Lodge in Dalien chartered in 1927; and Sungari Lodge in Harbin chartered on July 5, 1928.

“It is interesting to note that the other five Massachusetts Lodges:  Ancient Landmark, Sinim, Shanghai, International and Hykes Memorial still hold their original charters.  Sinim Lodge, under special dispensation, is presently operating in Tokyo, Japan.  The other four are inactive and their affairs are administered by the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts.  Hence, Massachusetts has the distinction of having under charter, the last five of the many Lodges that once operated in China, under foreign jurisdictions, during a period of over two hundred years.  They included:

“The Supreme Council of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction of the United States of America, chartered Yangtze Lodge of Perfection, Shanghai Chapter of Rose Croix, Cathay Council of Kadosh and Orient Consistory in Shanghai chartered on September 19, 1901, Ming Te Lodge of Perfection, Tung Te Chapter of Rose Croix, Hou Te Council of Dadosh and Chung Te Consistory in Peking chartered on October 20, 1917.

“Membership in the foreign Lodges was mainly confined to specific foreign nationals.  It was not until 1930 when a group of American and Chinese Master Masons, all raised abroad, decided to form a lodge in Shanghai for the purpose of bringing Masonry to Chinese aspirants.  The group first petitioned the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts for a Dispensation but it was denied.  They then successfully applied to the Grand Lodge of the Philippines.  It is interesting to note that the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts upon hearing the news broke off fraternal relations for several years with the Grand Lodge of the Philippines.

“The first lodge to receive its charter from the Grand Lodge of the Philippines was Amity Lodge No. 106 in Shanghai on January 27, 1931.  Five other lodges followed, namely (1) Nanking Lodge No. 108 in Nanking; (2) Pearl River Lodge No. 109 in Canton; (3)  Szechwan Lodge No. 112 in Chengtu; (4) West Lake Lodge No. 113 in Hangchow, and (5) Sun Lodge No. 114 in Shanghai.”


Pearl River Lodge

Among the original notes for the draft of the History of Pearl River Lodge No. 3 (1933-1983) written by George W. Chen and published in 1983 were the following accounts:

“On May 15, 1933, M.W. Stanton Youngberg, Reigning Grand Master of the M.W. Grand Lodge of the Philippines, signed the Dispensation for Pearl River Lodge, U.D. in Canton, China.

“On March 7, 1934, Pearl River Lodge U.D. was consecrated in due and proper form as Pearl River Lodge No. 109 under the jurisdiction of the M.W. Grand Lodge of the Philippines.

“At the beginning of 1935, Pearl River Lodge removed its quarters to the top floor of the National Commercial and Savings Bank building with a tea room immediately below for a refectory and a roof garden too.  Te brethren spent a tidy sum of money in refurnishing the premises into permanent Lodge quarters.  Rental was nominal as the lessor was a member of the Lodge.

“The weekly Wednesday luncheons at the new quarters of the Canton Club proved to be very popular as the food was good and the club rooms comfortable.  Bro. George W. Chen can personally attest to this as he had spent many enjoyable hours with the brethren there.

“The first half of 1935 was a tense period for Kwangtung politically.  Because of this, the July and August meetings were cancelled.  By September the situation had become stabilized with the province coming under the control of the Central Government, and the 29th Stated Meeting of the Lodge was held on September 8, 1936.  Bro. George W. Chen was in Canton all during this period and remembers very clearly many of the events that took place.

“Bro. T.L. Soong, Madame Chiang Kai-shek’s younger brother, and Bro. K.L. Kwong, a well known banker, had also come to Canton in the fall of 1936.

“During the 1937 Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of F&AM of the Philippines, the Committee on Jurisprudence recommended that the resolution to establish a District Grand Lodge of China be shelved…. Wor. Bro. James M. Henry of Pearl River Lodge No. 109 presented stiff opposition to the proposal….. As a result, the original motion was amended by substituting another, rejecting the report presented and requesting the grating of a petition to the brethren in China to form a District Grand Lodge.  This motion was duly seconded and approved.  Thus Pearl River Lodge had an important part in the establishment of the District Grand Lodge in China.

“On March 18, 1949, the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of China was officially consecrated and installed, and Pearl River Lodge No. 109 under the Jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the Philippines became Pearl River Lodge No. 3 under the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Mason of China, one of the six founding members of the new Grand Lodge.

In celebrating the founding of the Pearl River Lodge No. 3, George W. Chen wrote the following lyrics and Chris Vila provided the melody.

Pearl, Pearl, Pearl,

Three, Three, Three.

Three for you and three for me,

Faith, Hope and Char…I…ty.


A band of brothers,

Tried and true,

Striving for things learned and new,

May your future be bright and true blue.


Pearl, Pearl, Pearl,

May there always be

Unity, Peace and Harmony,

For all to know, and all to see.


Diliget, active, strong,

A fraternity for the free,

With happiness and with glee,

We salute Pearl River Lodge No. 3!


The draft of the History of Pearl River Lodge No. 3 continued:

“In January 1949 the Government had already left Nanking and the US Government had dispatched transports to Shanghai to evacuate American nationals from the area.  At this time, Bro. George W. Chen had been instructed to leave Shanghai for Canton to maintain contact with the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of China.  He departed Shanghai the latter part of March, just when the Grand Lodge of China was being consecrated.  But because of the rapidly deteriorating conditions throughout the country, he set up office in Hong Kong and commuted between Hong Kong and Canton.”

Again, according to the Synopsis of the Masonic History of China by M.W. Dic. George W. Chen, PGM, first published in October of 1974:

“In spite of the fact that during the 1930s China was under wanton Japanese aggression, Masonry continued to prosper and expand, mainly because the Lodges were functioning in the foreign concessions of the Treaty Ports which were left unmolested by the Japanese armed forces.  However, with the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Japanese invasion of other Far East areas, Masonry went into darkness throughout the Far East.  But as Masons have always endured and stood against adversity and persecution from time immemorial, so did a small courageous group of Master Masons in free China stand together and form the Square & Compasses Club which met fortnightly in the Chungking Canadian Mission Hostel by courtesy of Bro. Gordon.  This singular, stalwart group was composed of Chinese brethren who had escaped from Japanese occupied territories, and American military brothers who were assigned to Chungking, Szechwan, the wartime capital of China.

“In 1943, application for dispensation to form a ledge was submitted to the Grand Lodge of California.  The application was approved.  An interesting sidelight in this connection was the designation by the Grand Lodge of California of one of its members, who was an animal husbandry expert assigned to western Szechwan to assist in a livestock project in that area, to investigate and report upon the brethren in Chungking.  All his cables and communications with the Grand Lodge of California were couched in the technical language of the veterinary profession, creating wonder and amazement amongst the brethren, even to the point of the good Br. Secretary of the Square & Compasses Club refusing payment of one telegram because he could not fathom its reference to Masonry!

“Fortitude Lodge U.D. was founded in 1943 in Chugking and continued functioning util shortly after V.J Day.  Pending the completion of a lodge hall on the Chiuching Middle School campus, the construction of which was so kindly made possible by Bro. Rapee, the lodge held its meetings in the Canadian Church compound in downtown Chungking.  Fortitude Lodge U.D. was indeed aptly named for it met regularly in spite of inclement weather, difficult circumstances and the unceasing air raids against the city.

“After V.J. Day, all the members departed Chungking, the lodge was closed, and its dispensation was surrendered to the Grand Lodge of California.  Several of its members who later became Grand Masters of the Grand Lodge of China after it was reactivated on Taiwan are William H.T. Wei, Ting Chien, Theodore L. Way and George W. Chen.

“With the return of the Brethren to their respective places of abode, Masonic activity throughout China was resumed by the six Lodges chartered under the Grand Lodge of the Philippines and plans were laid down for the establishment of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of China.  This was accomplished under the sponsorship of the Grand Lodge of the Philippines.

The Grand Lodge of China was consecrated on 18 March 1949 in Shanghai.  The six subordinate Lodges chartered under the Grand Lodge of the Philippines were turned over to and re-chartered under the Grand Lodge of China renumbered as follows:  (1) Amity Lodge No. 1 and is it just coincidence that the first Masonic Lodge, chartered in Canton, China, under the Grand Lodge of England, more than two hundred years ago, and the first Masonic Lodge chartered in Shanghai, China, under the Grand Lodge of China, bore the same name “Amity”?  (2)  Nanking Lodge No. 2; (3) Pearl River Lodge No 3; (4)  Szechwan Lodge No. 4; (5)  West Lake Lodge No. 5; and (6)  Sun Lodge No. 6.

“With the establishment of the Grand Lodge of China, the American, English, Scottish and Irish Lodges then approached it for permission to continue functioning in the country.  I understand that permission was granted on the condition that no Chinese nationals would be accepted for degrees.

“Unfortunately, because of the Communist takeover of the mainland, the Grand Lodge of China existed only briefly in Shanghai.  Although it was permitted to function until 1951, it was constantly under interference and molestation by the authorities, forcing the second Grand Master, M.W. Bro. T.F. Wei to declare Darkness that year.  The Grand Lodge was then moved to Hong Kong by way of Tientsin through the efforts of the first Grand Master M.W. Bro. David K. Au.  The files and regalia were brought to Taiwan in 1954 and the Grand Lodge was reactivated in Taipei in 1955.

“However, because of the continuing occupation of the mainland by the Chinese Communists, many of the brethren had left the mainland for Taiwan, Hong Kong and other areas abroad even during the formative years of the Grand Lodge of China (1945-1950).

“During 1949-1950, a number of Chinese and other brethren had followed the Government of the Republic of China to Taiwan.  Early 1951 the brethren discussed the formation of a Square & Compasses Club.  Thirty odd Master Masons attended a dinner at which time the Club was founded.  It was the first Masonic organization in Taiwan, and may well be called the “Cradle of Masonry” in this bastion of Free China.  Bro. Oliver Todd, Past Senior Warden of International Lodge, Peiping, became the first president.  Meetings were held fortnightly with a few brothers acting as joint hosts for the dinner.  Square & Compasses Clubs were later formed at Tainan in 1956 and at Taichung in 1965.

“The signing of the Sino-US Military Defence Aid Pact late 1950 and the inception of the US Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) on 1 May 1951 further added to the number of fellow Masons on Taiwan.

“In the same year, 1951, Brother Herbert Schenck, Chief of USAID, Taiwan, suggested forming a Lodge.  The resolution was unanimously approved by the Square & Compasses Club and application was submitted to the Grand Lodge of China.  M.W. Bro. T. F. Wei, then Grand Master, with an escort of several brethren came to Taipei from Hong Kong in August 1952 to consecrate the Lodge, which was named Liberty Lodge No. 7.  The ad hoc committee consisting of Brothers Ralph Ward, Harold Snuggs, Kenneth H. Fu and Lott H.T., Wei, appointed the first group of officers, as follows:  W. Master Lott H.T. Wei, Senior Warden Herbert Schenck; Junior Warden George W. Chen, Treasurer K.T. Kwo, and Secretary Kenneth H. Fu.

“When the ad hoc committee approached then Governor O.K. Yui for permission for the new Lodge to function, he gave verbal approval thereto.  Lacking documentation, the Lodge ran into difficulties and had to delay its opening.  The problem was finally resolved by the efforts of Bro. George A. Fitch, who approached the highest authority and obtained approval.

“The first initiations were held in 1953, with Bro. T. T. Tuan as the first Mason ever to be initiated on the island.

“Liberty Lodge No. 7 received its charter on November 17, 1956, and by very good fortune the writer George W. Chen happened to be reigning Master of the Lodge during that Masonic Year.

“The Grand Lodge was reactivated on Taiwan in 1955, as was also Amity Lodge No. 1, Pearl River Lodge No. 3 was re-established at Tainan in 1956 and Szechwan Lodge No. 4 at Taichung in 1957.

“In 1961, when the writer George W. Chen was Deputy Grad Master, several Chinese brethren commented upon the importance and necessity of having the Masonic Ritual of the Three Degrees translated into Chinese without further delay, and, that if he would spearhead the project, they would give their full support to it.  It was a long and arduous task which took nearly 13 years, but it was done.  Han Lodge No. 8, which functions wholly in the Chinese national language, received its Dispensation in 1971 and its Charter on 26 October, 1972.  It has proven to be a most exemplary Lodge and is the source of great pride and satisfaction to all the Chinese brethren whithersoever dispersed around the globe.”

A two-page typewritten speech by George W. Chen, PGM, commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the establishment of Han Lodge No. 8, F&AM on May 18th, 1991, under the jurisdiction of the M.W. Grand Lodge of F&AM pf China, and the first lodge to function wholly in the Chinese language, described how the institution of this Lodge came about.


Han Lodge No. 8, F&AM, Taipei, Taiwan

By George W. Chen, PGM


Han Lodge No. 8, F&AM, under the jurisdiction of the M.W. grand Lodge of F&AM of China, the first lodge to function wholly in the Chinese language, will be observing its 20th anniversary on May 18th, 1991.

As part of the activities commemorating this auspicious event, I have been requested to put into writing some of the highlights and historic events which have led o the institution of this Lodge.

I look forward to this joyous occasion with great expectation for, to me, the celebration has a very deep meaning and great significance.

In 1925, a group of Chinese and foreign brethren in Shanghai, China, began to hold meetings to discuss the establishment of a lodge in China to be named Chung Hua Lodge.  These meetings were the first steps taken to implement the grand design to bring Freemasonry to the Chinese people.

  1. Through the establishment of an independent, regularly constituted Masonic edifice in China;
  2. To function in the Chinese language; and
  3. Dedicated to fostering Freemasonry and practicing charity among the people of this country.

In July 1928, a petition for dispensation to form Chughua Lodge was submitted to the N.W. Grand Lodge of Massachusetts.  In September 1930, the group received a reply that the petition was disapproved.  Reason given was tat the timing was inappropriate.

The brethren then reorganized as the Amity Lodge Group and submitted a petition to the M.W. Grand Lodge of the Philippines, which was approved on October 30th, 1930.  Amity Lodge No. 106 was then duly constituted in Shanghai, China, on May 25, 1931.

On May 4th, 1937, the District Grand Lodge of China was inaugurated in Shanghai, China, and on March 18th, 1949, the M.W. Grand Lodge of F&AM of China was instituted.

The establishment of the Masonic edifice in the Republic of China was the first objective of the brethren.  It took 25 years to realize this objective, during which time the Republic of China was going through trials of unification, Japanese aggression, World War II, and Communist discord and subversion.

Phase No. 2, the translation of the Masonic Ritual into Chinese, began in Shanghai, but could not be continued because of the Communist occupation of the mainland and the withdrawal of the Government to Taiwan in the fall of 1949.  In 1950, a group of Chinese and foreign brethren who had followed the Government of the Republic of China to Taiwan began to reactivate Masonry in Taiwan.  Due to unforeseen difficulties, however, the translation project could not be resumed until 1961.  It was in that year, when I was Deputy Grand Master,  that Bro. Sherman Chang recommended that the translation of the Masonic Ritual into Chinese be resumed.  The brethren approved, and I asked Bro. Hsiao Pu to prepare a draft, which he did in classical Chinese, but some of the brethren felt it might prove to be somewhat difficult for future younger generations to read and understand.  However, the work continued!

Eleven years and several revisions later, a draft was finally approved and Han Lodge No. 8 came into being.

Thus, May 18, 1991, the date of the 20th anniversary of Han Lodge No. 8, is of great significance to me, as I feel that Han Lodge has now truly reached maturity, and that the successful completion of the Second Phase of the Grand Design – the translation of the Masonic Ritual into Chinese and its implementation – has been accomplished.


Now, as we move into the third ad final phase of the overall plan – to foster Masonic principles through exemplification and to enhance the practice of charity amongst the people of the Republic of Can – my sincerest hope and prayer is that the final phase of the overall plan can be realized before the close of the 20th century!

“In addition to the Grand Lodge of China and its six subordinate Lodges (four in Taipei, one each in Taichung and Tainan), there are also established on Taiwan, three Square & Compasses Clubs (one each in Taipei, Taichung and Tainan), the Taipei Bodies AASRFSJUSA (1960), and Alishan Oasis Shriners Club (1954), Sojourners Club, Order of the DeMolay (1971) and Assembly of Rainbow for Girls (1972).

“In the early days only 12 foreign Grand jurisdictions had established fraternal relations with the Grand Lodge of China, among them were the Grand Lodge of the Philippines, California, Michigan, Brazil, Panama, Belgium, Greece, Etc. Today, Foreign Grand Jurisdictions having fraternal relations with the Grand Lodge of China number 87, and include all 49 Grand Jurisdictions of the United States of America.  The latest additions to the list are the Grand Lodge of Ceara Brazil, the Grand Lodge of Piaui Brazil, and the Grand Lodge of South Africa, with whom we have just established fraternal relations in 1974.

“The writer George W. Chen recognizes this synopsis contains many gaps and deficiencies as the information was mainly obtained verbally from the few surviving old timers now living on Taiwan.  A fully documented history of Masonry in China from its very beginnings is non-existent since many of the records had been destroyed in the war years on he mainland.  Masonry in China has gone through many trials and tribulations during the last 45 years from 1933 to 1974.  We have seen our brethren persecuted and even killed.  Notwithstanding, Masonry still flourishes in Free China and those of us who have been a part of its history feel very proud that we have been able to participate.

“To our American and Philippines brethren we owe a great debt for without their aid and assistance Masonry would ot have been able to survive in this part of the world during all those difficult years.

“Acknowledgments are due to Bros. Lott H.T. Wei and William J. Sterquelle for their kind help and assistance in compiling and drafting much of this material without which this synopsis could not have been written.”

On July 1, 1961, V.W. Bro. George W. Chen installed Bro. C.C. Tsao as Junior Warden of Pearl River Lodge No. 3, and Bro. Chen became Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of China.  On May 23, 1975, PGM (Past Grand Master) George W. Chen was elected as Grand Secretary of the Grad Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of China with W. Ian Lin as Grand Master.  On December 19 and 20, 1962, M.W. Bro. George W. Chen, Grand Master GLOC< M.W. Bro. Gerge A. Fitch, PGM GLOC< W. Bro. Ernest Eldridge, Master GLOC attended the Golden Jubilee Special Grand Communication ceremonies of the M.W. Grand Lodge of the Philippines in Manila.  The M.W. Bro. George W. Chen later reported on their visitation this way:

The Philippines Grand Lodge is the first in the Far East to celebrate a Golden Jubilee.  The three representatives who attended this important event on behalf of the GLOC returned from Manila full of enthusiasm for the hospitality received and high praise for the dignity and impressiveness with which the ceremonies were conducted.

Arriving at the Manila airport by CAT Flight 63 on Monday evening, the 18th of December, 1962, the three from Taipei were met by M.W. Bro. William H. Quasha, Grand Master, and other offices of the Grand Lodge and escorted to the beautiful Filipinas Hotel where rooms had been reserved for them.

The following morning Bro. Quasha called and took Bros. Chen and Fitch to Plaridel Temple, the home of the Grand Lodge, where together with other delegates they registered for attendance at the Special Communication.  After a tour of the building and offices Bro. Quasha took them to the famous Polo Club for lunch, then to see the impressive War Memorial where the names of 37,000 members of the American Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines are inscribed on marble slabs set in the walls of an open rotunda while the graves of 13,000 each with its marble cross, are arranged in concentric rows about the Memorial.  These were the men who lost their lives in the defense of Manila and the West Pacific Islands.


David Au Capter No. 1 R.A.M.

William G Peacher, M.D., P.S.G.M., K.G.C., S. Bernard – St. John Co. No. 13 write in his first person report David Au Chapter No. 1 R.A.M. Taipei, Taiwan The First Ten Years:

Although craft and ultracraft masonry was introduced in the Far East from the West, there is ample evidence that it cannot continue to survive unless perpetuated by nationals of the various countries involved.  This fact was emphasized by Marvin E. Fouler, current ME, GM of the G.E., K.T., USA in a letter to me dated January 24, 1979.

“If Masonry is to thrive in the Orient, it must be accepted and supported by natives of those countries.  Its continuance is certainly hazardous if the membership is composed almost exclusively of American nationals living abroad and whose continuous residence is determined by our government’s foreign relations policies.”

Perhaps one of the best examples of this principle has been exemplified by David Au Chapter No. 1 R.A.M.

The idea of the introduction of York Rite bodies in Taiwan was conceived as early as 1962.  This was evident in a letter to Nohea Peck from George W. Chen dated February 9, 1978, when both served as Grand Masters of Japan and Taiwan respectively (1962-1963).  Both became Grand Secretary of their Grand Lodges and had written histories of their organizations …. Brother Floyd J. Roberston, P.G.M. and then Grand Secretary responded graciously.

After is initial contacts, events moved rapidly towards formation of a Royal Arch Chapter in Taiwan.  Chen wrote quickly to Charles K. A. McGaughey for further information and advice.  I thereafter entered into the picture as both knew of my family connection in Taiwan and frequent visits in addition to having served as Grand High Priest R.A.M. of the State of New York 1973-1974.  McGaughey wrote to me on February 28, 1978, asking if I could help organize the chapter on one of my trips to the Far East to which I responded favorably and with pleasure on March 3, 1978.

Quite coincidentally and entirely unrelated to Chen’s interest in York Rite Masonry, I had written to him on February 3, 1978, concerning my desire to learn more about Freemasonry in Taiwan … Chen responded on February 21, 1978, and we were able to meet for the first time on March 19, 1978.

Therefore, with the instigation and approval of General Grand Chapter, I spent considerable time to this end with George Chen and Chester Shaw to whom the majority of credit should be given in the organization of the proposed chapter together with other interested brethren on my visit to Taipei, Taiwan, March 19 through April 7, 1978.

This culminated in a petition which was forwarded to McGaughey by Chen on July 5, 1978.

Following completion of the petition to establish a chapter at Taipei on July 5, 1978, what may not be generally known a second petition was forwarded to the General Grand Chapter on July 19, 1978, by William T. Wagner III to organize a chapter in Taiwan.

Although ME Companion McGaughey had supported the possibility of reviving Keystone Chapter No. 1 Shanghai, in a letter to me dated August 17, 1978, and to George Chen on October 9, 1978, the companions preferred to select their own name and elected to use and honor the name of David W.K. Au, the first Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of China.

The petition was approved and a dispensation was subsequently issued by the General Grand High Priest.  M.E. Junior Vandell was notified in early December 1978 that the date for consecrating the chapter had been set for December 29, 1978.  He made arrangements accordingly to be present but had to be cancelled.  This was due to President Jimmy Charter’s proclamation of December 15, 1978, reestablishing peaceful relations with the People’s Republic of China which prompted anti-American demonstrations throughout Taiwan.  The State Department advised M.E. Companion not to make the trip, so the dispensation presentation was delayed.  This however, did not concern me particularly due to my wife’s family connection in Taiwan with whom I stayed on my many previous visits and I was familiar to some extent with the language.

Therefore, I was able to be present not only at a preliminary meeting of the chapter on December 27, 1978, but also at the scheduled convocation on December 29, 1978, to help things get started.  The actual presentation of the deposition was delayed until the General Grand High Priest could e present on September 29, 1979.

A dispensation was issued by the G.G.C. RAM in the city of Taipei, Taiwan, in the ROC, by the name and style of David Au Chapter.  The following companions were listed:  William H.T. Wei, George W. Chen, Dawson Kwauk, Theodore L. Way, Chester K.M. Shaw, Wego W.K. Chiang who was German military academy graduate and second son of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek.

“Chen was responsible for the translation of the Craft ritual into the Chinese language now exclusively used in Han Lodge No. 8”.

On the 25th of April, 1981, George W. Chen was honored by the Grand Lodge of the Philippines with this plaque.

Grand Lodge of Free


Accepted Masons

Of the Philippines

It is with honor and pleasure to award this

Plaque of Merit and Recognition


Most Worshipful

George W. Chen

For outstanding Masonic leadership and for the establishment

Of a strong fraternal bond between the

Grand Lodge of China


The Grand Lodge of the Philippines


Presented this Twenty Fifth day of April, Nineteen Hundred Eighty One A.D.

On the occasion of the

Sixty Fifth Annual Communication

Of the

Grand Lodge of the Philippines Free and Accepted Masons

Simeon Rene Lacson      Manuel D. Mandac

Deput Grand Master               Grand Master

Attest:  Manuel M. Crudo, PGM

Acting Grand Secretary

Chapter Four

Paths meet to create life’s legacies


George Why Chen and Pearl L. Chen

parents with pope paulVI

In 1934, George Why Chen placed an ad in the local Shanghai English language newspaper for an English secretary.  The ad was placed for two weeks in the summer of that year.

Pearl Lena Chan

On May 15, 1929, Pearl Lena Chan graduated from the College of Commerce of the University of California, Berkeley, with the degree of Bachelor or Science.  She pondered what to do in northern California after graduation until the summer of 1934 when she went to Hawaii for a ten-day vacation.  According to George Why Chen’s account, Pearl Lena Chan saw an advertisement in the Honolulu newspapers about an ocean voyage to Shanghai, China.  She decided to extend her vacation a bit so she booked passage on the ocean voyage across the Pacific to China.

Two weeks after arriving in Shanghai, Pearl picked up the local English newspaper and saw an ad for an English secretary.  She went for the interview, perhaps out of curiosity.  The next morning, Pearl Lena Chan went to work for George Why Chen in his new and yet to be furnished office in downtown Shanghai, China.  And for the next two weeks, Pearl Lena Chan worked at a desk placed in the hallway.

However, before she ever finished her first two weeks at her new job, the life of Pearl Lena Chan took another dramatic turn when the office of the De La Rue Company in downtown Shanghai welcomed a surprise visitor.

George Why Chen received the surprise visitor with her armed bodyguards and entourage and introduced his newly hired English secretary to the extinguished visitor.  As the visitor finished her whirlwind tour of George’s offices, and as she walked down the hallway towards the door and passing Pearl on her way out, she suddenly turned around towards George and said:  “I want her.”  George had to oblige.  Several days later, Pearl Lena Chan began her sixty-year career as the English secretary to Madame Mei-ling Soong Chiang, i.e., the first lady of the Republic of China, Madame Chiang Kai-shek.


Pearl went to the Shanghai residence of Generalissimo and Madame Chiang Kai-shek and was given an office as well as a place to stay.  Not long after that, Madame Chiang Kai-shek took her entourage including Pearl Lena Chan on a DC-3 twin engine transport plane to fly to Nanking.  There, Madame’s staff obtained a Military Garrison Pass for Pearl with Pearl’s picture on it.  Pearl’s Chinese maiden name, Chan Chun Lien 陳春蓮 or Spring Lotus Chan, was rendered as Chan Chun Lien 陳純廉, Pure and Honest Chan, or simply 陳小姐, Miss Chen.  Madame Chiang always called her Pearl.  Madame’s household staff and the garrison of bodyguards always called her Miss Chen.  Cabinet ministers and lower ranking officials always called her Secretary Chen 陳秘書.



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Chiang Kai-shek ad Madame Chiang in India to visit Nehru.


Pearl Chen with James Wei (Jimmy Wei), head of the Government Information Office, circa 1960’s


The Japanese attacked China in 1937 and launched the Eight-year Sino-Japanese War of Resistance against Japan that ended with the Japanese surrender in 1945.

The Chinese government retreated westward deep into the remote areas of China and established Chungking as the wartime capital of China.  By 1940, Pearl had been working for Madame for more than 7 years, and George was still in Shanghai.  George would occasionally fly inland to Nanking and to Chungking to visit with Pearl.  Finally, on February 27, 1940, William A. McCurdy, Minister of the Methodist Church in Chungking, Szechuan province, China, solemnized the marriage of George W. Chen of Marshfield, Oregon, and Pearl Lena Chan of San Luis Obispo, California.  The marriage was witnessed by Eleanor W. McCurdy, Chi Yi Chen and B.C. Lu.


The marriage was known only to a few friends in wartime Chungking and George’s and Pearl’s friends and family back in Hawaii and California were not notified immediately.  Soon after the marriage, George returned to Shanghai from Chungking.  It was not until 1942 when Pearl had a chance to take a vacation back to the States that she and George went to visit their families and announced their marriage to the family members.   A belated wedding banquet and celebrations with family and friends were held in San Francisco and San Luis Obispo where they stayed for the duration of their vacation in California.  George and Pearl also went on a shopping spree in San Francisco.

They returned to China in 1942 after their brief vacation in California.  George went back to Shanghai and Pearl went back to Chungking.  In 1943, Pearl went to New Delhi, India, with Madame’s entourage to meet Nehru.  And throughout the early 1940s, Pearl followed Madame closely and went to every corner of China where Madame and the Soong sisters went to inspect the villages, organize the peasant women, establish nurseries, kindergartens, nurses training schools, sewing factories, road building and airfield construction sites.  Also during this time, Mrs. Anna Chennault was shuttling back and forth between Shanghai and Chungking while her husband, General Chennault, was busy battling the Japanese Zero fighters over China.

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A daily routine during those days in Nanking and Chungking was to run and hide in the underground air raid shelters and wait for the Japanese bombers to finish their bombing runs.  Madame Chiang would do two things while in the air raid shelters.  One thing was to dictate her speeches to Pearl who would take down the dictation by hand, all in Gregg Shorthand.  After the bombing runs were over, they would all emerge from the air raid shelters and return to the compound where Pearl would go to her office and type out her shorthand notes, and then present the typed speeches to Madame for her review.


On other occasions, Madame would conduct prayer meetings inside the air raid shelters.  Since many of those who hid in the air raid shelters were women and children and those teachers and nurses who took care of the war orphans, Madame organized them into the women’s prayer groups, praying and reading the Bible, studying the Bible while the Japanese bombers were pounding the city with their bombs.

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In 1945, the Nationalist government led by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek returned to the capital of Nanking.  George bought a brand new fire red convertible Buick and imported it directly from Los Angeles to Nanking, the first imported Buick convertible in China at the time.

In 1946 and 1947, everything looked rosy.  The future looked bright.  The Communist insurgencies were being kept at bay.  Chiang Kai-shek’s government seemed to be on the right track to lead Republican China into the future.  However, by 1948, things started to look bad.  George stayed on in Shanghai to make preparations for the eventual evacuation of De La Rue Company from the city before the advancing Communist troops reached the city.  Chiang Kai-shek left Nanking and decided to move the National Government to Taiwan.  Seeing the impending situation, Pearl decided to go back to the States with her three-year-old son Vic on the Queen Mary.


Thumb cut on Queen Mary

Pearl and Vic got a topside deck cabin, and Vic would wonder out onto the lounge deck and into the kitchen area.  One day on the Queen Mary, Vic picked up an opened tin can and cut his left thumb on the jagged edge of the lid.  He stood there crying, bent over the tin can while blood gushed out of his thumb onto the deck.  Pearl was called and Vic was rushed to the ship’s doctor’s office.  The doctor wrapped the thumb up tightly with a lot of gauze and tried to stop the bleeding.  That incident on the Queen Mary left a permanent scar on Vic’s left thumb.  Even at age 73, one could still tell that the flesh of the entire pad of the left thumb was severed with only the skin holding the flesh and thumb together.

Pearl and Vic arrived in San Francisco in 1948 and went to live in San Luis Obispo.

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George finished closing down the De La Rue Company office, disposing of all the precious ink that was used to print bills so that the Communists would not get their hands on it, and was then “instructed to leave Shanghai for Canton to maintain contact with the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of China.  He departed Shanghai the latter part of March 1949, just when the Grand Lodge of China was being consecrated.  But because of the rapidly deteriorating conditions throughout the country, he set up office in Hong Kong and commuted between Hong Kong and Canton.  (History of Pearl River Lodge No. 3)  Again, a dramatic turn of events near the end of 1949 would shape the future of the Chen family.

On October 1, 1949, the Chinese Communists established themselves as the People’s Republic of China in Beijing.  The former nationalist government was now knows as the Nationalist government of Chiang Kai-shek, and the Republic of China originally founded by Dr. Sun Yatsen on January 1, 1912, established itself on Taiwan with its seat of government in Taipei.

One November day in 1949, Pearl received a telegram from Madame Chiang Kai-shek.  The telegram was delivered to her in San Luis Obispo.  In the telegram, Madame Chiang asked pearl to o to Taiwan to continue to work for her as her English secretary.  George stayed behind to try to find a job while Pearl and her son Vic packed their suitcases and went to Taiwan almost immediately.

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Life in Taipei

Pearl and Vic arrived by plane in Taipei at the end of 1949, just before Christmas.  They quickly settled in an assigned civilian house right next door to General Ho Guo-guang, former governor of Szechuan province, who fled the Chinese mainland with the Nationalist government to Taiwan as the Chinese Communists took over.  The house address was No. 10, Lane 156, Sungkiang Road, Taipei, Taiwan.  Pearl and George would live here for the next 40 years.

Madame Chiang’s women’s prayer group that met in the air raid shelters in Chungking during the Sino-Japanese War now continued to meet every Wednesday at 4:00 pm, first at the little chapel on the grounds of the Shihlin residence in the early 1950s and then it was moved in the mid 1950s to the newly constructed prayer group room, a single story tin roof barracks shaped building on the grounds of the Chinese Women’s Anti-Aggression League (CWAAL) right behind the Ministry of National Defense (MND) building.  The MND was actually inside the red brick building called the Presidential Palace during the early 1950s, and Pearl’s office was inside the Presidential Palace for several years until she and her office were moved to the prayer group building.  Pearl’s office took up the front end of the building and the prayer group room was right behind her office.  In the late 1970s, the CWAAL built a huge two-story cement structure to house the group prayer room, now a big conference room, Pear’s two-room office and the Taiwan Provincial Women’s Anti-Aggression League.  Upstairs were large classrooms where sewing and nursing were taught.

Pearl’s son, Victor Gene, would finish school and go to Pearl’s office to play almost every day throughout his elementary to senior high school days.  From 1952 to 1953, Pearl hired a Mrs. Wong to teach Victor Chinese so that he could attend Chinese elementary school.  Mrs. Wong had o teach Vic inside the maid’s shack to the side of the main office building.   Since Vic is left-handed, Mrs. Wong had to hit his hand with a thin ruler to remind him to use his right hand to write, rather than his left.  This training left Victor with the curious inability to eat with his right hand and to write with his left hand.  In 1951, Victor along with Moosa Jr. attended the local kindergarten run by the Salvation Army on Chungshan North Road, right across the street from the old missionary hospital known as the McKay Hospital in Taipei.

Life in Taipei for the Chen family was stable and prosperous.  George, Pearl, Victor would go to church every Sunday morning at 11:00 am at the Shihlin Chapel.  Sunday services were attended by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, Madame Chiang Kai-shek, Madame Chen Cheng, Chiang Wei-kuo and family, the Young Marshal, Mrs. Tu Yueh-sheng, the three sons of Chiang Kai-shek’s eldest son Chiang Ching-kuo and grandsons of the Generalissimo and Madame Chiang Kai-shek, but Chiang Ching-kuo himself and his Russian wife, never attended te Sunday services at Shihlin.  Several pastors gave sermons to President and Madame Chiang at the Shihlin Chapel.  The youngest pastor who has stayed with the chapel the longest is Pastor Chou Lien-hua.  Pastor Chou would give the last rites at Pearl’s funeral and arrange for her cremation in Taipei some 40 years later.  On Christmas Eve when Victor was 11 years old, he was called to the front of the chapel by Madame Chiang and a picture was taken of them posing in front of the chapel’s Christmas tree that was next to the lectern.   Victor still remembers Madame saying to him:  “You are getting as tall as I am now.”  At another Christmas, Victor was given a huge Christmas gift.  Madame had just returned from the United States that year and had brought the gift especially for Pearl’s son, Vic.  It was a big red electronically controlled toy Porsche sports car.

While living in Taipei, Pearl would often be called late at night to be picked up by military and later civilian jeep from the Guandi (presidential residence in Shihlin) carpool to be taken to work.  Pearl would work until very late into the night, sometimes sleeping over at the presidential residence, where an extra bedroom would always be set up for her to work and rest in.  Often, Madame Chiang would call Pearl by phone from the bathroom of the presidential residence at 10:30 pm at night for Pearl to go to work.  Usually, this meant Pearl would take dictation in the bathroom, sitting against the bathroom wall facing the bathtub while Madame dictates while taking her bath.

Madame Chiang began smoking while she was young.  She is often seen smoking while on campus at Wesley College in Macon, Georgia.  She only smokes Kent cigarettes, sometimes with an elegant ivory cigarette holder.  Although she seldom speaks while smoking, she did occasionally speak to the children from afar while holding a long cigarette holder in her hand and waving at the children.  Madame was never known to have smoked in the chapel during service.



Cardial Paul Yu Pin


In the late 1950s, Pearl introduced George to Cardinal Paul Yu Pin.  Through the Cardinal, George got a job in 1961 with Air America in Taipei.  His salary was paid in US dollars.  George eventually retired from Air America and began teaching English at the Chinese Armed Forces National Defense Language Institute.  Pearl helped the daughter of William Glenn and his Korean wife.  Mr. Bill Glenn was an American journalist and editor who went to Korea to become English secretary to the first South Korean president in the 1950s.  When the president was deposed in the early 1960s, William Glenn secured a position as an editor for the Government Information Office in Taipei.  His daughter graduated from the Taipei American School in the early 1970s but had no college to attend so Mr. Glenn sought Pearl’s help.  Again, trough Pearl’s introduction, Mr. Glenn was able to send his daughter to Fu Jen Catholic University by the grace of Cardinal Yu Pin.

In the early 1970s, Cardinal Paul Yu Pin used to live on the campus of Fu Jen Catholic University.  Every morning and afternoon, he would take a stroll near the paddy fields surrounding the campus. One afternoon, the Cardinal was strolling along the edge of the paddy fields in a red robe.  One of the water buffalos saw him and began to charge at him.  The Cardinal was about 60 years old and was overweight.  He did not step aside in time.  The water buffalo knocked him down.  He was rushed to the hospital immediately afterwards but he did not suffer any major injury.  But since then, Cardinal Paul YU Pin would always appear at public functions in a wheelchair.

Cardinal Pal Yu Pin enjoyed a very close working relationship with Madame Chiag Kai-shek because of Pearl.  There is a news photo showing Cardinal Paul Yu Pin in a wheelchair flanked by Madame Chiang Kai-shek and Pearl.

Pearl Chen and her granddaughters


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George W. Chen, Pearl L. Chen, and granddaughters Vicki and Jennie

Event related to the passing of Pearl L. Chen

Wendy’s dream

Wendy, Vic’s wife and Pearl’s daughter-in-law, had a dream one Wednesday night.  She dreamt that her deceased mother came to her in her dream to ask her to buy a “clock” for her.  On Thursday night, Wendy dreamt of her deceased mother again asked her in her dream:  “Did you buy a clock yet?”  Wend answered in her dream:  “Not yet!”  The deceased mother said to her in the dream:  “Hurry up. I need it to pick up somebody at 2:30 pm on Saturday.”   Wendy asked her deceased mother in the dream:  “Whom are you going to pick up on Saturday?”  Her deceased mother said to her in the dream:  “Your husband’s mother.”  That Saturday at 2:30 pm, her husband’s mother, Pearl L Chen, went into a coma at the Taipei Veterans General Hospital.  She never woke up.

Pearl L. Chen passed away on November 26, 1992.  Her son Victor was informed about his mother’s condition around October 24, and flew from California to Taipei in anticipation.  On November 26, 1992, Vic went to the Taoyuan International Airport to board his scheduled flight back to San Francisco.  He had already gone through Customs and was waiting in the boarding lounge when his name was heard over the airport public address system.  He was immediately located by airport and airline personnel and escorted back through Customs.  That process, which involved stepping back from the passenger waiting lounge up a flight of stairs through the Customs counter of about one foot across, took three hours.  By the time Vic got back to the hospital, Mom’s body had already been sent to the morgue.  Pearl Lena Chen, April 7, 1907, to 9:05 am, November 26, 1992, lived a life of 85 years, 60 of them were dedicated to one person, Madame Chiang Kai-shek.


Winnie nee Chiang Hu

George was unable to land a decent job in California in 1950.  Since Pearl now had a very steady job and permanent housing in Taipei, she told George to come to Taipei.  George arrived in Taiwan in 1951.  At that time, General Huang Jen-lin, always referred to as J.L. Huang by Pearl, was head of the Nationalist Chinese Armed Forces Joint Logistics Headquarters.  Pearl introduced George to Uncle J.L Huang, as Victor would later refer to him, so General Huang immediately put George to work, setting up a military interpreter’s school to train English-Chinese translators and interpreters to help out the US military advisory group (MAAG) in Taipei and the US troops in Korea.  The first class of graduates was sent to Korea as early as 1952 before the outbreak of the Korean War.  George’s students from this era would include the first college graduates from Tamkiang College in Tamsui north of Taipei who were admitted to the interpreter’s class as well as many who gave their lives as interpreters in Korea during the Korean War.  One of these interpreters who died in Korea was a Mr. Chiang.  He died of a brain hemorrhage in Korea.  Before he left on his tour of duty, he asked is friends whether they would take care of his young daughter if he did not complet his tour of duty alive.  George first found the daughter Chiang Ming-chiu a place to stay while she attended Tamkiang high school and college, but a short time later, news came from Korea that her fater died of a brain hemorrhage.  George told Pearl.  A small room was made ready and Chiang Ming-chiu moved in to live with George, Pearl and their son Victor.  Pearl gave Chiang Ming-chiu her English name Winnie, and Victor caller her Winnie too.  To Victor’s and Wendy’s two daughters and George’s and Pearl’s granddaughters Vicki and Jennie, she was Aunty Winnie.  By the time Vicki and Jennie met her, she was already married and was known as Aunty Winnie Wu.  Her husband, David Hu, is the son of former Kuomintang general who was imprisoned by the Chinese Communists for 30 years and was released from prison in Beijing in 1972.

Winnie met David Hu at Cal Poly where she studied library science and he studied engineering.  David Hu went on to work for Xerox in Los Amgeles until he was laid off on December 31, 1993.  In 1994, he joined some Chinese American engineers to establish their own company in Ireland.  Winnie and David Hu then moved to work in London before retiring.


The Chen Hsing Polio Children’s Rehabilitation Center 振興

In the summer of 1967 and 1968, Victor taught English at the Hua Hsing華興 Military Orphanage Middle School on Yangminshan and during the weekends visited the polio children’s rehabilitation center in Shih Pai on the outskirts of Taiwan, both of which were founded by Madame Chiang Kai-shek.  There at the polio children’s school, Victor met an elementary school teacher Lin Yuan-chun 林元春.  By mid 1969, Victor and Yuan-chun decided they wanted to get married.  Pearl gave her future daughter-in-law her English name Wendy.  So on Thanksgiving Day, 1969, Victor and Wendy got married.  On Thanksgiving Day, 1970, Wendy gave birth to Vicki, and on December 3, 1972, exactly a week after Thanksgiving Day in 1972, Jennie was born.  Both Vicki and Jennie were born in Taipei at the Taipei Nurses Teaching Hospital.

In 1974, Victor came to the United States and found work as a Chinese journalist and editorial writer for the Chinese Times of San Francisco.  金山時報,  In 1975, Wendy, Vicki and Jennie came to San Francisco and the family live in an apartment on Hyde Street.  In 1976, Victor went to Washington D.C. to a new job.  Vic’s friend Norman Chang lent Vic an old car but on the same day, Vic’s borrowed car was hit.  Vic walked to a car dealer and bought an old Volkswagen Beetle with no gas gauge, drove to Dulles airport that evening, picked up Wendy, Vicki and Jennie, and began a new life and a new job in Falls Church, Virginia.


Wendy Lin Chen’s ancestry

Wendy Lin Chen nee Lin Yuan-chun 林元春, the first daughter of a family of 9 children, daughter of Mr. Lin Bing-gui and Lin Shu-shen, was born in Matou 麻豆, Taiwan, on December 18, 1947, delivered at home by a midwife.  The Lin family in Matou was the Fourth House of the Lin Family.  It is said that in the 1600s, eight brothers from Chuan Chou 泉州 in Fukien province crossed the Taiwan Strait and settled in the Tainan and Matou areas in southern Taiwan.  During raids by bandits, people fled and often gave away or threw away pieces of gold and silver.   The fourth brother who earned a living carrying water, would often be given pieces of gold and silver by fleeing residents.  Soon, he amassed a fortune and he acquired large tracts of land in the Tainan and Matou areas, establishing himself as a prominent landlord.

Lin Yuan-chun graduated from the Taipei Girls Normal School as an elementary school teacher.  In her late teens, she competed in the Matou county public speech competition and popular song contests and consistently won first prize.  She also recorded the narration for the new housing development projects for the county of Matou.

After graduation from the teacher’s college, she returned to her birthplace and taught junior middle school students at Matou Junior Middle School.  Soon her good friend Lee Rong-rong 李蓉蓉 urged her to apply for a teaching job at the Cheng Hsing 振興Polio Children’s Rehabilitation Clinic ad Junior High School.  She got the job, and began teaching polio inflicted children.  There she met many visiting dignitaries of foreign countries and she met Madame Chiang Kai-shek many times.

After she married Victor, her mother-in-law Pearl showed Madame Chiang a picture of her.  Wendy remembers that afterwards, mother-in-law Pearl said that Madame commented after seeing the picture of Wendy:  “She looks very special.”