Lisa See began researching her landmark 1995 e guide “On Gold Mountain: The One-Hundred-Yr Odyssey of My Chinese language language-American Family” throughout the once more room of F. Suie One, a curios and antiques retailer in Pasadena. Once more in 1989, her aunt Sissee, the mother of the store’s current proprietor Leslee See Leong, had merely celebrated her eightieth birthday; Sissee thought it was time that Lisa heard the family tales she had prolonged saved to herself.
In a sequence of conversations over the lunch desk, Sissee began to tell Lisa story after story, along with how the family had traveled to China with Sissee’s father, Fong See, to collect antiques for the California retailer he based mostly in 1888, F. Suie One. She knowledgeable Lisa he was so worthwhile that he turned the first Chinese language language man throughout the U.S. to private an automobile. These moments are retold in See’s bestselling e guide, one in all many first essential works of nonfiction to tell the story of an intergenerational Chinese language language American family.
F. Suie One was a central part of every See and Leong’s childhoods, whatever the 2 cousins being a decade apart in age: They sometimes frolicked with family in and throughout the retailer, positioned in what was then Los Angeles’ Chinatown. A central setting in “On Gold Mountain,” the shop to at the moment brims with objects that preserve personal significance for them. “All of us have reminiscences which will be tied to issues,” says See. “And typically these reminiscences return to our childhoods. They often’re a lot much less in regards to the object primarily than they’re in regards to the people and tales spherical them.”
The opera adaptation of her e guide, with a libretto by See and music by Nathan Wang, is being staged by the L.A. Opera from Would possibly 5 to fifteen throughout the Chinese language language Yard of the Huntington Library in San Marino. The effectivity will unfold throughout the Terrace of Shared Delights, with stepped platforms constructed for viewers seating. The manufacturing incorporates actors, a chorus and an skilled orchestra together with a scholar orchestra composed of musicians from schools throughout the space. Select basic pictures and paperwork donated by See and Leong to the Huntington’s library division will be projected onto two screens as backdrop. Some props, such as a result of the lamps, baskets and trunks, have moreover been purchased from F. Suie One for the current.
The opera, which premiered in 2000 on the Japan America Theatre in downtown Los Angeles, tells the story of See’s great-grandfather, Fong See, who arrived from China to California as a 14-year-old in 1871. (Inside the current manufacturing, he’s carried out by Christine Oh as a boy and by Zhengyi Bai as an grownup.) He went on to open a retailer in Sacramento that made and purchased women’s underwear. There he met Letticie “Ticie” Pruett, a youthful American woman who received right here to work for him. The opera delves into how Fong See and Ticie fell in love and later married by contract, since for the time being marriage between Chinese language language and white people was illegal. Lastly the couple moved to Los Angeles, had 5 children and opened various retailers in Southern California.
Ticie was answerable for pivoting the store’s emphasis from garments and furnishings to antiques. Brooke Iva Lohman, who performs Ticie, sings of this second throughout the opera: “The far ahead thinker appears to the long term / We solely carry antiques now.” After Fong See and Ticie separated, she continued to run F. Suie One. Sissee, who received right here to inherit the store, moved F. Suie One to its current location throughout the early Nineteen Eighties.
Take a step inside F. Suie One for the time being and in addition you’ll uncover antiques and collector’s objects from China, Japan, Thailand and completely different Southeast Asian nations. A pair of marble lions sit on the left as you enter, an outdated rickshaw propped in between them, and a stern ancestral portrait on a scroll gazes once more at you. As you make your method by the use of the shop, you’ll see works on paper along with Tibetan thangkas and tall showcases of Qing dynasty-era porcelains and lacquerware. Whereas gadgets have come and gone, various objects have been spherical since Leong took over in 1989 — just like the two lanterns coated in silk hanging from the ceiling and an enormous, elaborately carved picket wedding ceremony mattress perched in opposition to a side wall.
The mattress, which was made throughout the late 18th to early nineteenth century, is from Southern China, the place Fong See was from. Every See and Leong bear in mind having fun with in and spherical it and inspecting the intricate carvings in small panels that dot the mattress’s framework. “It’s been one factor so key in our lives,” Leong notes. The panels current various scenes — a scholar at his desk with an attendant bringing tea, a child utilizing an ox, a farmer tying collectively a sheaf of wheat. The mattress will also be a excellent fixture in See’s upcoming novel, with two of the youthful characters having fun with there.
Within the precept room, two big, six-sided lanterns dangle overhead. The lanterns was as soon as displayed at thought of one in all F. Suie One’s earlier locations in Chinatown, and Leong believes they return to a minimum of the Thirties. The lanterns are coated in a thin silk gauze that’s beginning to shred, and the work on them are fading. All this may be prohibitively expensive to revive, so Leong and her husband, Joe Schulman, who runs the store collectively along with her, are merely letting it age gracefully.
The lanterns won’t be available on the market, Leong says. “We’re merely having enjoyable with them, so we’re merely hoping that they might ultimate until the ultimate day of the store.”