- "I understand his story now, the story of the Old Man of Yu. I will not give up either, because I am part of that story. It is Miss MacDonald who will help me do my part. It will be much work, but I will never falter, and our family will be together again no matter how long it takes."
- —Chin Mei-ling
Chin Mei-ling (陈美玲; November 12, 1910 – 1988) was the daughter of Chung-yun and Lai-tsun. She was born in China and later immigrated Vancouver, Canada, where she lived with her father. Mei-ling had one younger sibling, Sing-wah, who was born after she moved to Canada.
She was born on November 12, 1910 to Chung-yun and Lai-tsun. Her birthday was considered lucky by her family since it was the same as Sun Yat-sen. She grew up in a small village located in the Kwangtung province of China. Mei-ling lived with her grandparents and mother, while her father saved money in Canada.
Life in Canada
Mei-ling was brought to Vancouver, Canada at the age of eight by her father, after her grandfather convinced him to bring her instead of her mother. Her younger brother, Sing-wah, was born after she arrived in Canada. After being cheated out of his trading company, her father opened a restaurant with Wong Bak. She was befriended by Bess Murphy shortly after her arrival. By 1922, Mei-ling was nearly fluent in English and her teacher considered her "one of his cleverest students."
She later caught the attention of Miss MacDonald, who attended a church that supplied missionaries to China. Miss MacDonald wished to tutor Mei-ling after school. She agreed once she got permission from her father. Meanwhile, Mei-ling began working a small job for Mr. and Mrs. Lee. She contributed her wages to her father's savings for her mother's and brother's head tax. In February 1923, Mei-ling's friend Yook Jieh moved away after getting married.
Mei-ling said goodbye to another friend, Mr. Chee, after he died of influenza in March 1923. The following month, she heard about the Chinese Immigration Act, a proposed law that would make it impossible for her mother and brother to come to Canada. Her father later decided to send for her mother. However, she decided to stay in China as Sing-wah was too young to be left with his grandparents. Mei-ling was devastated, especially after the law was passed. She vowed to herself that her family would be reunited "no matter how long it takes."
In late December 1926, Mei-ling's father gave her permission to visit Toronto with Miss MacDonald. There they stayed with Miss MacDonald's wealthy brother. Mei-ling became quick friends with Miss MacDonald's nephew Robbie, who attended the University of Toronto. The day after Christmas, she went ice skating with Robbie and his sister Helen. She joked about Mei-ling and Robbie looking like a "courting couple". Robbie was later sent away by his father, who took the joke seriously. On the last day, Miss MacDonald took Mei-ling to her scholarship interview with the Missionary Society. Robbie said goodbye to them at the train station.
She obtained a scholarship to study medicine at the University of Toronto with the help of Miss MacDonald, who became a mother figure to Mei-ling. In 1935, she went to China as a medical missionary. There she was reunited with her mother and met her brother for the first time. Mei-ling returned to Canada in 1939 due to war. She practiced medicine in Toronto, where her father later opened a restaurant. Mei-ling lost contact with her mother and brother until 1946.
In 1947, the Chinese Immigration Act was repealed. Mei-ling was finally able to bring her mother to Canada in 1949, followed by Sing-wah and his family in 1953. Her father died five years later. In 1959, she married a doctor at the age of forty-nine. Mei-ling was "a devoted and much-loved aunt" to her brother's children. After her death in 1988, her diaries were considered "family treasures."
Personality and traits
From a young-age, Mei-ling was considered to be smart by her elders. Her grandfather recognized this trait and convinced his son to take her Canada so she could receive schooling. She made great strides in English within three years. Her teacher also named her as "one of his cleverest students". Mei-ling was humble about her accomplishments, though she enjoyed being praised.
Behind the scenes
- She is the lead character of Gillian Chan's An Ocean Apart.
- Mei-ling is also featured in a story story, "An Unexpected Gift" in A Season for Miracles.