Bill and Sue-On Hillman: A 50-Year Musical Odyssey
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HILLMAN CHINA ADVENTURE 2017
www.hillmanweb.com/china2017
CHOY HOME in TOISAN
INTRODUCTION
www.hillmanweb.com/china2017/home0.html

PHOTO GALLERIES
Contents
Introduction
Arrival
Exterior Views
Floor One
Floor Two I
Floor Two II
Floor Three
Rooftop Terrace
Departure
THE CHOY FAMILY HOME IN TOISHAN, CHINA
This building has a very fascinating history. We go into the Choy Family history in China in much more detail elsewhere on our site, but for openers we share some of the highlights on this Intro page.
Sue-On's father, grandfather and great grandfather came to the "Gold Mountain" many decades ago. From the 19th century there was a world-wide migration from Southern China as immigrants looked for a better source of income to support their families. Immigration to Canada was very difficult. There was a strong racist effort to keep Asians from joining our society. Chinese men were allowed into the country only if they paid the "head tax" which was equivalent of a year's wages. They were not allowed to bring their wives and family. As a result, they worked extremely had to earn low wages to pay off the head tax and to send money back to China to support their families. 

Sue-On's grandfather saved enough to buy a hotel, but because of racist policies could not obtain a license for a beverage room. Sue-On's dad, Soo Choy, opened a restaurant in the small prairie town of Newdale and earned enough over the years to send money back to his family and to make periodic journeys back to the homeland. Following each journey home another child was added to the family back in China.

During Soo's visit back to China in the early '30s he built a large three-storey house for the family. This ornate structure was constructed with large timbers and solid cement blocks. The Choys were land-owners so the house was surrounded by an orchard, garden, bamboo groves and rice fields. 

Sue-On's mom, Jade, raised five children here. She survived storms, droughts, famine, Jap army invasions, WWII turmoil and bandits. The security of the home was provided by a high wall and upper gun turrets. Jade not only cared for the fields, home and family through these hard times, but also was very generous in helping neighbours in need. She made sure that the kids were sent to Hong Kong and neighbouring cities for higher education.

Her youngest child, Sue-On, was born in 1948. In 1950 the Communist Revolution made her existence here unbearable. Because the Choys were landowners, the new government took over their lands and confiscated the home for government offices. Jade arranged for a neighbour woman to smuggle toddler Sue-On out to Hong Kong among her children since she had permission to move to move there. Sue-On would live with her grandparents. Later, Jade tried to follow, but was captured as she attempted to wade across the river into Hong Kong at low tide. She was imprisoned for some time and the family lost all contact with her. Eventually, funds were sent to obtain permission for her to move to Hong Kong. It would be many more years before Canadian immigration policies changed -- starting with the abolishment of the Chinese Immigration/Exclusion Act -- and Jade and little Sue-On would be allowed to join Soo in Canada in 1958.

Meanwhile, because the Choys were landowners, the house, sans land holdings, was eventually returned to family. Relatives moved in and these families still live there today. The house was very well built and has survived the years and conflicts quite well. 

Sue-On's brother, Kenny Choy, had returned to the house two times with wife Rebecca and their three daughters and spouses. When he learned that Sue-On and I were planning to visit the home, he and Rebecca agreed to join us. Their knowledge of the village and relatives provided us with invaluable assistance. They are experienced world travellers and are a joy to travel with. Our daughter, Dr. China-Li Hillman and Ryan McIntosh also joined us on our visit. Our friend, Ken Tsai -- a retired RCMP officer -- had spent his early years in the adjoining village so he and his son and daughter, Shaan and Sija, also made the trip with us. 

We took hundreds of photos of the village, the original Choy and Tsai houses, and the current Choy family home. Our photos show that the home, once surrounded by vegetation and fields, has now been swallowed up by village business and apartment buildings. It was a fascinating and emotional visit that provided a great chance for us to reflect on years gone by.

READ CHINA STORIES

Click for larger images


Choy Home Today
Few changes to the actual house.
The front wall was replaced years ago.

Click to see huge detailed image
Choy Family Home in China circa 1935
Family Members on the top floor
Vegetable Garden to the left
Orchard to the right
Bamboo Groves to the rear

Choy Home Today
Open country fields replaced by City Buildings
City Streets and Businesses


Sue-On waves from the rooftop pavilion of the home she left at the age of two years.
She was born in her mother's bedroom below.



Click for full-size collage poster

Vintage Choy Family Photos
www.hillmanweb.com/choy

Visit to Toishan Villages
www.hillmanweb.com/china2017/toisan.html


THE CHOY FAMILY HOME in TOISHAN

Contents
Introduction
Arrival
Exterior Views
Floor One
Floor Two I
Floor Two II
Floor Three
Rooftop Terrace
Departure

BACK TO CHINA 2017 CONTENTS

Bill and Sue-On Hillman
www.hillmanweb.com
hillmans@wcgwave.ca