HONG Chew Yook and CHIN Shee - Life spent under the Chinese Exclusion Act

Chew Yook, 1899

My great-grandfather, HONG Yin Ming 湯恩明, was born in San Francisco, CA in 1873.

Hong Yin Ming returned to China with his mother when he was very young and returned to U.S. in 1888. At that time, he sued in court to be allowed to land.

This was six years after the Chinese Exclusion Act passed in 1882 prohibiting all immigration of Chinese laborers, with exceptions for diplomats, teachers, students, merchants, and travelers. However, U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California ruled “In the Matter of Hong Yin Ming on Habeas Corpus,” case no. 6514, that HONG Yin Ming was a native-born American citizen and allowed to land.

Where did the name Hong come from?

Our family name in Chinese is , which is pronounced Dong in Toisanese, Tsang in Cantonese, and Zeng in Mandarin. According to family lore, Yin Ming came to use the name HONG because American authorities in the 1800's confused Dong with the Cantonese word Tong which they recorded as the character "湯," and which they transliterated back to "Hong" in Toisanese. Chew Yook's descendants who's families arrived in the US before 1965 have used the surname Hong. Family members arriving more recently from China likely use the Mandarin Zeng.

In 1898, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case United States vs. Wong Kim Ark established birthright citizenship in the US and eased the way for Chinese American citizens to leave and return the United States. One year later, in 1899, Chew Yook returned to China from San Francisco using the U.S. District court case as proof of his citizenship and right to return to the United States.

Back home at the age of 29, Yin Ming married CHIN Shee 陳氏 and took the married name Chew Yook 稠毓. In Chinese tradition, wives are known by their maiden names, and Chin Shee means Ms. Chin. My Grandfather Hock How was born on June 6, 1900. Chew Yook left for America shortly thereafter but returned in 1903. His son Quong How was born August 27, 1904. 

As was often the case with Chinese in America at the time, it was very difficult for Chinese men to bring their wives back to the United States. Under the Page Act of 1875, which preceded the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, any East Asian woman who would be engaged in prostitution was banned from entering the United States. In practice, almost all Chinese woman were considered to be immoral and barred from immigrating. Thus, Chin Shee remained in China and was separation from her husband for half of their 41 year marriage.

Chew Yook, 1916

Chew Yook remained in China from 1905-1913, then made his final trip to the U.S. in 1915 with Hock How. While in America, Chew Yook worked as a cook "out in the country". According to his son Hock How, Chew Yook worked “as a family cook for Mrs. E. B. Towne at Bryant St. and Lincoln Ave.” in Palo Alto, California.

Quong How joined his father and brother in America in 1923. In 1924 with the encouragement of Hock How, Chew Yook opened a restaurant in Redwood City. “Business was not very good.” And after a year they lost money and withdrew.

Adopted Sons:

Family was very important to Chew Yook, and one way to show fealty to his family was to share his good fortune with them. So, in addition to his two biological sons, Chew Yook adopted his nephews, Jeong Hing and Chun Mao, and his first cousin's son, Ning Bo. 

Hong Ning Bo, the eldest, lived in America from 1909 to 1937, when he died at age 48. Ning Bo live for several years in Buffalo, NY.  Hong Choon Mao came to America with Quong How in 1923 and died in San Jose in 1984. Jeong Hing tried to enter the U.S. in 1931 but was denied entry and returned to China. According to Jeong Hing’s son Lan Fon, Lan Fon's 2nd cousin Ling Nan (Chew Yook’s nephew De Fu’s son) also eventually moved to the U.S.


Photo of Jeong Hing and Chew Yook from a 1931, affidavit in which Chew Yook identifies Jeong Hing as his son to facilitate Jeong Hing’s arrival in San Francisco, CA.

(Source: National Archives)

In the 1930 US Census, Chew Yook, age 61, was listed as living at 156 Cowper Street in Palo Alto as the cook for J. Everett and Grace E. Hollingsworth, ages 29 and 28, respectively.

In 1932, after living in America for 40 of the past 46 years, Chew Yook returned to China at the age of 63.  He died in July 1941 in his ancestral village, Dong An, Guangdong.


Hand Colored Photograph
of Chin Shee, 1931

Chin Shee was born in 1880. After her marriage, she lived in Dong An village with her children, Hock How and Quong How, then later with two of Quong How's children Ying Nor and Lin Jue. Hock How and Lin Jue's wives, CHU Tui Goon and CHIN Koon Hai also stayed with Chin Shee for several years.

According to Koon, after the Communist Revolution in 1949, Chin Shee and Koon were forced to kneel on broken glass because they were landowners. Hock How's daughter, Mary Lee, recalled that Hock How may have brought Chin Shee to live in Burma and Hong Kong.

Chin Shee died in 1963 at the age of 83.


Biographical Details:
Chew Yook and Chin Shee, c1937

Name: Hong Yin Ming 湯恩明 Tāng Ēn míng
Given Name: Kwai Sing 葵勝 Kuí shèng

Married Name: Chew Yook 稠毓 Chóu yù

Born 8th year of Emperor Tong Chi, year of the horse, 4th month, 11th day, hour of the snake (May 11, 1870, between 9-11am). Died Republic of China year 30 (1941), year of the snake, 7th month.

[Note there is an unaccounted discrepancy between Chew Yook's birth year from village records and the US District Court/Immigration Records.]

Wife: CHIN Shee (1880-1963)

Sons: 1. Hock How
          2. Quong How

Adopted Sons:    Ning Young (aka Ning Bo)
                            Choon Mao
                            Jeong Hing

Chew Yook was a 69th generation descendant of the Confucian Sage, Zengzi (505-436 BCE).

Living Under the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882

Tin-type photo of Hong Yin Ming, 1888. From U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California, “In the Matter of Hong Yin Ming on Habeas Corpus,” no. 6514. This case affirmatively established Hong Yin Ming's status as a natural born citizen of the United States.

Attorney A. L. Worley’s June 21, 1898, Affidavit that Hong Chew Yook is the same person mentioned in the 1888 court case establishing Hong Yin Ming’s status as a natural-born citizen of the United States. Affidavit was obtained prior to Chew Yook’s return to China on July 14, 1899, to prove his right to return to the US. 


Certificate of Identity for Hong Yin Ming issued November 10, 1915. Under the Chinese Exclusion Act and subsequent laws, all Chinese residents of the United States were required to register with the Immigration Service and obtain a certificate of identity, which was to be carried at all times. Failure to produce a certificate could result in deportation or imprisonment. Only the testimony of a white person could prevent this.

No comments: