Bill and Sue-On Hillman: A 50-Year Musical Odyssey  ::

Intro 1. Arrival 2. Village Walk-About 3. Home Search 4. Abandoned Home 5. Old Choy Home 6. Banquet I 7. Family & Friends II



Early Chinese
Settlers in

Soo Choy
My Princess

Chan Yook Hai

Jade Choy

Toisan ~Toishan ~ Taishan ~ Hoisan ~ Xinning ~ Sunning
Taishan is a city in southwestern Guangdong, China.  Taishan calls itself the "First Home of the Overseas Chinese." An estimated half a million Chinese Americans are of Taishanese descent. 80% of the workers on North America's Trans-continental Railway construction projects were Chinese - most from this area. Much of this area was overrun by the Japanese during WWII. 
Area:  3,285.91 km2
Population (2010 census)
 • Total  941,095 ~ 394,855 urban
 • Density  290/km2 
Time zone  China Standard (UTC+8)
Postal code  529200 - 529267
Area code  750

The main language of Taishan is Taishanese. While most Taishanese today use Mandarin in school or formal occasions, Taishanese is the de facto language. Schools require their students to speak Mandarin in the classroom, and teachers are required to lecture in Mandarin. Before the 1980s, Taishanese was the predominant Chinese language spoken throughout North America's Chinatowns. 

In fact, Sue-On served as a Taishanese/English translator for many years for a company out of Tucson, AZ. It was a 3-way phone translation service for which she provided translations for Chinese all over North America -- mainly hospitals, immigration offices, casinos and any firm that employed Chinese from the Taishan area. Locally, she sponsored immigrants brought in as chefs for our Soo's Restaurants and also provided translation help to other immigrants within the city.

  • Taishan and Guangzhou are the birthplaces of Guangdong music.
  • One quarter of the "Flying Tigers" came from Taishan. This "legendary" group of American airmen fought the Japanese prior to the United States entering the Second World War.
  • Taishan hosts Jiangmen Star Park which has produced more international Chinese celebrities than any other region or city in China.
  • Taishan is the birthplace of Chinese volleyball which was introduced by Overseas Chinese. Its teams have won many provincial and national championships.
  • Education enjoys significant support from Overseas Chinese professionals and businessmen. Many secondary schools were built and financed by Chinese living foreign countries, such as the United States, Canada, and Brazil. To honour their benefactors, these schools often bear their names or the names of their parents.

  • Wikipedia has identified a long list of famous Toisan People:
    This area has produced a tremendous number of famous people known internationally: politicians, artists, actors, musicians, restaurateurs, chefs, businessmen, fighter pilots, martial artists, writers, publishers, film people, educators, researchers, etc.

    Of special interest to Canadians are:
    Adrienne Clarkson: Broadcast journalist and Governor General of Canada (1999–2005) 
    Inky Mark: Canadian politician, mayor of Dauphin (1994-1997) and Member of Parliament (1997-2004)
    Norman Kwong: championship-winning Canadian football player (1948, 1954, 1955, 1956) and Lieutenant-Governor of Alberta (2005-2010).

    Interestingly, a great number of the achievements and occupations mentioned in the Wikipedia list are represented in the occupations and successful pursuits achieved by the Soo and Jade Choy, their four children and their direct descendants who came out of the Choy home that we visited and photographed in Toishan:
    Doctors ~ Surgeons ~ Scientists ~ Provincial Court Judges ~ Entertainers ~ Singers ~ Musicians ~ Martial Arts Black Belts ~ Architects ~ Accountants ~ Therapeutic Massage Therapists ~ Computer IT Specialists ~ Restaurateurs ~ Chefs ~ Real Estate Entrepreneurs ~ Chief Lab Technicians ~ Dentists ~ Military ~ Athletes ~ Radiologists ~ Presidential Speech Writers ~ University Professors ~ Teachers ~ Businessmen ~ Loving Parents . . . 
    Mr. Choy Soo (1909–1983) Immigrated from Taishan, China in 1923 at the age of fourteen and worked in the CPR restaurant and hotel in Newdale, Manitoba. Seven years later Mr. Choy returned home and married Miss Chan Yook Hai (b 1910). But immigration laws prevented Mrs. Choy’s entry into Canada. She remained in southern China and her husband visited every one and one-half years and together they had four children—two sons and two daughters. When Mr. Choy’s father (Mr. Choy Him) retired to his village in 1939, Mr. Choy Soo took over as the owner of the Paris Cafe. Like many men, Mr. Choy lived a double life. In Newdale, he worked long hours, lived alone and socialized with other bachelors and relatives in Brandon, Winnipeg, Gladstone and other prairie towns and villages. But in China, he was regarded as part of the gentry class of men who were thriving in Canada or Gold Mountain, as it was called. Four years after the Chinese Immigration Act was repealed in 1947, the family joined many others and escaped to Hong Kong, living there until 1958 when Mr. Choy was able to sponsor his wife and youngest daughter Sue-On to come to Canada. Kenny, their youngest son, came a year later in 1959 and both children completed their education in Newdale and Strathclair. Today, Sue-On and Kenny are leaders within the Chinese community of Western Manitoba. 

    1. Arrival

    2. Village Walk-About

    3. Finding Ken Tsai's Old Home

    4. Interior of Abandoned Home

    5. Early Choy Family Home

    6. Toisan Banquet I

    7. Dinner with Family and Friends II

    Click for full-size collage


    Intro 1. Arrival 2. Village Walk-About 3. Home Search 4. Abandoned Home 5. Old Choy Home 6. Banquet I 7. Family & Friends II

    Our next visit was to the
    Newer Choy Family Home


    Bill and Sue-On Hillman