Chin Pak Yick (1893-1958) & Lee Moon Yee (1893-1933) - Depression Era Struggles

Chin Pak Yick

My grandfather Chin Pak Yick 陳伯釴 was born in the Chazhou Liu Cun in Taishan County, Guangdong, China, 廣東省台山縣六村槎州 on June 18, 1893 to Chin Gay Bin 陳基彬 and Fung Shee 馮氏.

Chazhou village was founded by a father and son pair of imperial scholars, Chen Yu Fu and Chen Ben Shen, who placed first in provincial-level imperial exams in 1690 and 1714, respectively.

During his youth in China, Pak Yick spent most of his time studying. In 1911, Pak Yick received money from his father who was in the United States to pay for his marriage, and on April 4, 1911, he married Lee Moon Yee 李滿意. She was born on April 22, 1893 in Leong How village a bit more than one Po* away from Pak Yick’s home. The marriage was arranged by their parents, and the first time they met was in Pak Yick’s home the day they were married. Pak Yick married name was Oon Sik or Don Ing 敦鼐.

During their first years of their marriage, Moon Yee stayed in the Chin family home in Chazhou. Meanwhile Pak Yick stayed at the Sung Sin school in Lok Mee village 乐美 (about 2 li away) only coming home on Sundays and during school holidays. He attended the Sung Sin school for all of 1911 then attend the Ming Yung high school in Taishan City for six months before stopping to leave for the United States.

Chin Pak Yick's Application to Land as minor son of Merchant, CHIN Gay Bin
October 26, 1912

On October 21, 1912, Pak Yick arrived in the United States aboard the S.S. China to joined his father. He then spent the next few years studying at Oakland, California's Lincoln school, which was a primary school with 1st through 8th grade students and 26 teachers.** Meanwhile, Moon Yee started to study at the village school in Chazhou.

Pak Yick's Lincoln School Class Photo, 1913

On August 5, 1915, he and several partners established the Kwong On Teung Co. 廣安祥, a regular, good sized, general Chinese merchandise business located at 379 8th Street, Oakland, CA. They sold rice, wine, fresh and canned vegetables, and dried meats. Pak Yick had a $1,000 interest in the company which had a capitalization of $11,500 and inventory valued at $8,000. Their annual sales were around $50,000. Pak Yick was a salesman for the company earning $35 a month. He also assisted with the bookkeeping when their main bookkeeper was busy. 

According Oakland Attorney J. H. "Jim" Aldrich, by 1918, Pak Yick was speaking English very well and was often found behind the store counter dressed well in American clothes. By this time Pak Yick also had financial interests in a potato ranch some distance from Stockton and in the Chin family's Hang Far Low Restaurant which has been a San Francisco Chinatown fixture since the 1860's.

Since Pak Yick was classified as a merchant, he was one of the few fortunate Chinese men who was able to sponsor his wife to come to the US and establish a family under the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. On May 6, 1918, Moon Yee arrived in the United States on the S.S. China.

Chin Pak Yick in 1918
"Well-dressed in American Clothes"
    Lee Moon Yee in 1918
"An Entirely Respectable Chinese Woman"

Chin Pak Yick and Lee Moon Yee in May 16, 1918
Photos attached to Immigration Document

In recommending that Lee Moon Yee should be unconditionally landed, the US Immigration inspector wrote, “The applicant claims to be 24 years of age and has the appearance of a Chinese lady of approximately that age. She has natural feet, which have never been bound, and speaks the See Yip dialect, as does also her alleged husband. She has every indication of being an entirely respectable Chinese woman.”

After Moon Yee's arrival, Pak Yick moved out of his store, and he and Moon Yee settled at 615 Jackson Street in Oakland, California, where their first son, Bruce Bo Jeung Chin, was born. Pak Yick and Moon-Yee had 7 sons (Bruce, Harry, Hammond, Edward, Morris, Henry, and William) and 4 daughters (Edith, Elsie, Mary, and Helene). Twins Harry and Hammond both died shortly after birth. 

The lived at 326 Seventh Street, Oakland from 1920 to 1926. They moved to 16-1/2 Waverly Place in San Francisco in 1927. There, Morris was born. They moved back to Oakland and lived at 177 Eighth Street for a year before moving back to 326 Seventh Street.

The Chin House - 326 Seventh Street, Oakland, CA

According to son William Chin, the Seventh Street house was determined to be the Historic Hardy House, which was built in 1849. City of Oakland architects and engineers and the Preservation Committee based this determination on the frames of the window, the pillars, and the wood used. The City of Oakland recommended that the house be designated a Historic Landmark in a letter dated January 26, 1983. However, the house was later torndown. The new building is currently, as of 2023, home to the Full House Cafe.

On December 23, 1933, Moon Yee died unexpectedly of cancer of the cervix. She was 40 years old.

Lee Moon Yee

Pak Yick's mother, Fung Shee, wrote several times asking him to return to China to remarry. Refusing at first, Pak Yick relented in 1936. He traveled to China with his sons Edward and William. ages 10 and 5 years-old, respectively. The remaining seven children, ages 6 to 17 years-old stayed in Oakland. Pak Yick arrange for Mary and Helene to the Ming Quong Home, where they joined Elsie, who had been living and going to school there since December 1933. The Ming Quong building was located on MacArthur Avenue and is now part of Mills College campus in the Oakland foothills. Morris and Henry were sent to the Chung Mei all-boys home in El Cerrito. Bruce and Edith were left to fend for themselves.

William reported that the three sisters were often mistreated by the Christian managers at Ming Quong. Supervisors who didn't like the girls would lock them up in a dark closet and sometimes would not give them dinner.

On August 29, 1936, Pak Yick married my grandmother Tso Mee Shew who was from the Shek Doi Village in Taishan. On July 12, 1937, they reunited with Pak Yick's children. Before and after Pak Yick’s trip to China, he worked as a manager at the Hang Far Low Restaurant. Back in Oakland, Pak Yick and Mee Shew had 2 daughters and 4 sons.

To support his large and growing family, Pak Yick worked as a grocery salesman, bookkeeper, restaurant manager, and on occasion on the farms of the central valley and in the canneries of the San Francisco and Monterey Bays.

Coming from a long line of scholars, Pak Yick was well-educated himself, and he tried to teach his children to read and write Chinese. He wrote a Chinese-English dictionary for them, as well as, a poem made up of 1,000 unique Chinese characters without any repetition. His daughter Rose thought that he might have wanted to be a doctor, and his granddaughter Marisa remembers stories about him dispensing Chinese herbs while he helped manage the Hang Far Low restaurant.

Pak Yick became a naturalized U.S. citizen on May 17, 1954, nearly 42 years after first arriving in America.

Pak Yick died in 1958 and is buried with Moon Yee at the Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, CA. Mee Shew is buried in a nearby plot while Harry, Hammond, Jimmy, Edith, and Elsie are buried together in a plot up the hill from their parents.

Chin Pak Yick 陳伯釴 (June 18, 1893 - August 23, 1958)
Given Name:     Pak Yick 伯釴    pinyin: Bo Yi
Married Name:  Oon Sik  敦鼐     pinyin: Dun Nai

First Wife:  LEE Moon Yee 李滿意
      pinyin:  Li Man Yi
(April 22, 1893 – December 23, 1933)

Second Wife:  TSO Mee Shew 曹美秀
          pinyin:  Cao Mei Xiu
(November 6, 1917 – January 9, 2006)

Sons:               1. Bruce Bo Jeung
                        4. Twins Harry Bo Tai
                        5.            Hammond Bo Tong
                        7. Edward Bo King
                        8. Morris Bo Doong
                        9. Henry Bo Wing
                      11. William Bo Shang
Daughters:      12. Mabel Joong Hon
                        13. Rose Joong Sen
Daughters:      2. Edith Joong Ha
                        3. Elsie Joong Ngaw
                        6. Mary Joong Li
                      10. Helene Joong Ho
Sons:               14. Allen Bo Mein
                        15. Dennis Bo Kwong
                        16. Fred Bo Hing
                        17. Jimmy Bo Gar

He was a 2nd generation American, and a 63rd generation descendant of CHEN Shi, the founder of the Ying Chuan Chen family 頴川陳氏.


* In Pak Yick and Moon Yee's Immigration Interview Transcripts from 1918, they both describe the distance between Char Jew and Leong How as being one Po or a little farther.
   1 po (一埔路) = 10 li (里) = 5 km. (See 一埔路 是 多少 公里)
Leong How might be Ling Tou 嶺頭 (Lien Hou in Toisanese) which is a Lee village 9 km North of Char Jew. See Friends of Roots Village DB.

** School directory, Oakland, Cal. 1915-16. Hathi Trust Digital Archive.

Memories of Living in Oakland, California: Lincoln School Alumni. CD-ROM. William Chin's family history. Pp. 593-597.

Memories of Living in Oakland, California: Lincoln School Alumni. CD-ROM. Morris Chin's memories. P.428.

More about the Ming Quong Home for Girls:

“Bonds of Sisterhood: Life and Success after Ming Quong.” Oakland Chinatown Oral History Project, 20 Oct. 2021,

Gene. “Ming Quong Home.” Oakland Wiki, Accessed 15 July 2023.

Viscovich Ed.D., Elena Wong. “The Story of the Ming Quong Homes.” Pacific Clinics, 19 Jan. 2020,

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