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Ocean-Apart

Mei-ling featured on the cover

All of the characters that appear in An Ocean Apart by Gillian Chan.

Main characters

Chin Mei-ling

Main article: Chin Mei-ling

Chin Mei-ling (陈美玲; November 12, 1910[1][2] – 1988)[3] was the daughter of Chung-yun and Lai-tsun, and older sister of Sing-wah. Her father brought her to Vancouver, Canada when she was eight, after her grandfather convinced him that she needed schooling. He later opened a restaurant to save up money to pay the head tax for her mother and brother. Mei-ling was befriended by Bess Murphy soon after her arrival. In 1922, she was given a diary by her teacher, Mr. Hughes.

Supporting characters

Bess Murphy

Bess Murphy[4] was Chin Mei-ling's best friend. She came from a large Irish family, consisting of her parents and four siblings. In November 1922, her father was fired due to his drinking habits and eventually disappeared. Her elder brother, Liam tried to keep the family afloat for a while. Bess and Declan were later sent to live with their aunt, while her mother and two younger sisters went to another aunt. She described her aunt as "a mean-spirited old witch", but Mei-ling noticed that Bess seemed better cared for. Bess did not go on to high school, unlike Mei-ling. The two of them subsequently "drifted apart."

Chin Chung-yun

Chin Chung-yun (陈重人; c. 1887[5] – c. 1958)[3] was the father of Mei-ling and Sing-wah, and husband of Lai-tsun. He was brought to Vancouver as a young boy by his uncle Wing-lok, with whom he later set up a trading company. Around 1918, Chung-yun returned to China to bring his wife to Canada, but his father convinced him to take Mei-ling instead. During his absence, his uncle died and their partners cheated Chung-yun out of the company. He later set up a restaurant with Wong Bak, while also working for the Baldwins. In 1939, he opened a new restaurant in Toronto with Tsung Sook. Chung-yun was reunited with his wife in 1949 and son in 1953. He passed away at the age of seventy-one.

Chin Lai-tsun

Chin Lai-tsun (陈丽珍; born c. 1895)[2] was the wife of Chung-yun, with whom she had Mei-ling and Sing-wah. She married her husband at the age of fifteen on his first trip back to China. After her marriage, she stayed with his parents in Kwangtung. When Mei-ling was eight, Chung-yun visited China in order to bring Lai-tsun to Canada, but his father convinced him to take Mei-ling instead. In 1923, Chung-yun sent for her to come to Canada. Lai-tsun refused as she felt Sing-wah was too young to be left with his elderly grandparents. Mei-ling did not see her again until she visited China in 1935. She lost contact with her husband and daughter during World War II. In 1949, Mei-ling was finally able to bring her to Canada.

Ivor Jones

Ivor Jones was a notorious bully at Mei-ling's school. He lead a gang of boys, including Declan Murphy. Ivor was quick to target those of other nationalities since he believed his family, being British, were superior. Mei-ling was one of his frequent targets. Nevertheless, he was a good student and was almost never caught during any wrongdoing. After his gang beat Tony Sarducci's, he tried to frame Ivor by destroying a contest prize. Mei-ling, who saw Tony near Ivor's desk, later told Mr. Hughes about it. Afterwards, Ivor became quiet and no longer bullied Mei-ling. They later attended the same high school.

Miss MacDonald

Miss MacDonald was an aspiring missionary who had trained as a nurse. She hoped to go to China someday like her brother, who was a minister living in Ontario. Miss MacDonald became interested in Mei-ling since there were few young girls in Chinatown. She eventually convinced Mei-ling to allow her to tutor her at the church. They became friends, despite the cultural gap. Over the years, Miss MacDonald became a mother figure to Mei-ling and helped her get a scholarship to study medicine. They worked together briefly as missionaries in 1935, until Miss MacDonald's health forced her to give up her work.

Yook Jieh

Yook Jieh (玉姐; born c. 1907)[2] was a friend of Mei-ling. She was sold as a muui-jaai (bonded servant) by her family to Mr. and Mrs. Mah. In late 1922, several bachelors began visiting Mr. Mah asking to marry Yook Jieh. She was excited about the prospect of marriage, though a little sad that she could not choose her own husband. Mr. Mah later chose Cheung Wan-sheung to marry her. She was married in February 1923 before the Chinese New Year celebrations. Yook Jieh moved to Saskatchewan, where her husband had opened a restaurant.

Minor characters

  • Ada Howe was a classmate of Mei-ling. She was on friendly terms with Bess and later Mei-ling. Her desk mate was Maisie.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Baldwin were the employers of Chin Chung-yun.
  • Mr. Chee (died March 23, 1923)[6] was a friend of Mei-ling and her father. He lived in the same apartment building and often looked after Mei-ling. Mr. Chee was well-respected among the people in Chinatown. He later became sick and died after a few days.
  • Cheung Wan-sheung (陈雲湘) was Yook Jieh's husband who was over three times her age. He opened a restaurant in Saskatchewan, where he planned to earn his fortune.
  • Chin Sing-wah (陈醒华; born April 5, 1920)[7] was Mei-ling's younger brother who was born after she arrived in Canada. He met his sister for the first time in 1935, when she visited China. They lost contact during World War II. By 1946, Sing-wah had started his own family and was living in Hong Kong. The whole family was finally reunited in 1953. He later took over his father's restaurant in Toronto.
  • Chin Wing-lok (陈永乐) was Chung-yun's uncle. He brought his nephew to Canada when he was a young boy. Wing-lok later set up a successful trading company with Chung-yun. He died suddenly, while his nephew was visiting China.
  • Declan Murphy was the younger brother of Bess. He was friends with Ivor Jones and his gang. Declan and Bess were later sent to live with one of their aunts.
  • Mr. Hughes was Mei-ling's teacher, who gave her a diary for her birthday. He thought of her as "one of his cleverest students" and later told Miss MacDonald about her.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Lee were a well-to-do couple who owned a store in Chinatown. They were the parents of five children, including Lily, Arthur, Rose, Hubert, and Charles. Mei-ling was paid to help care for their children before and after school. Overtime, they grew very fond of Mei-ling.
  • Liam Murphy was the older brother of Bess and Declan. He tried providing for his family when his dad left, but stopped when he discovered Declan stealing. Liam then began boarding with the family of the girl he wished to marry. Later, he began visiting Bess often.
  • Lily Lee was the oldest child of Mr. and Mrs. Lee. Mei-ling walked Lily to and from school everyday.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Mah were the employers of Yook Jieh, who they purchased as a muui-jaai. Cheung Wan-sheung was chosen by them to marry Yook Jieh.
  • Tony Sarducci was a classmate of Mei-ling's and a member of the Italian gang at school. After Ivor's gang beat his, they tried to get revenge on him.
  • Tsung Sook (钟权) was a friend of Chung-yun and Wong Bak and worked at their restaurant. He joined an association and protested the act that heavily restricted Chinese immigration. Tsung Sook went to China in 1928 to marry. His wife gave birth to a son. In 1935, he opened a restaurant in Toronto with Chung-yun.
  • Wong Bak (黄伯) was an old friend of Chin Wing-lok. He had been living in Canada for over forty years. Wong Bak later set up a restaurant with Wing-lok's nephew, Chung-yun. In 1928, he moved back to China, where his mother and brother still lived in his childhood village.

Epilogue characters

  • Elly Chin was Mei-ling's great-niece and Sing-wah's granddaughter. Like Mei-ling, she became a doctor and kept a diary.

References

See also

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