Friday, April 5, 2019

Li Ling Ai, 1950s–1970s

Index to the Honolulu Advertiser & Star Bulletin, 1929–1969
Island born far east director of “Believe it or not” TV show visits parents S
6/7/50 4:3
Story of life A 6/22/50 4:5
Returns for 6 wk stay S 12/7/53 25:5
Chosen director of New China daily press A
7/22/54 C6:6

Evening Leader
(Corning, New York)
May 21, 1952
A Woman’s New York
Doctor Divides People into “Lions and Alligators”
Periodically, my Chinese friend, Li Ling Ai—lecturer, writer and actress—bobs up in New York. Born in Honolulu, educated in American schools there and in Pekin, China, she completed the traditional Chinese training so important to the last generation of that nation. Li Ling is versatile, talented and beautiful as only certain Chinese women can be beautiful. Her face is a pale olive oval, her hair ebony black, and her eyes lively brown. She never lets herself get beyond 112 pounds, thereby enabling her to wear native dress with chic and distinction. Occasionally the wears Western clothes, and again she looks regal. To me, most Chinese seem philosophic,and calm: but, wherever Li Ling Ai is involved, there’s always laughter, wonderful anecdotes, exotic food and the spell of beauty she casts.

Heralding her arrival cross-country lecture tour this time, Li Ling invited a mere fifty friends to a dinner party in honor of Dr. and Mrs. Nils Larsen of Honolulu. The doctor is en route to Sweden where he is to spend a year studying public health service to amplify his outstanding medical work in Hawaii. This dinner was held in a Chinese restaurant called Confucius (new to me) and it served delicious food the likes of which I have never eaten. I’ll never forget the speared livers spiced with lavender-salt, coriander, marjoram, cinnamon and nutmeg. After a savory brew of bird’s nest soup, we feasted on brandy-dipped, crispy duck soaked in wine,  and served with walnut-chicken roll and gelatinous rice.

During the dinner, Li Ling Ai rose before each course to explain the food and its philosophy to her guests. My dinner partner was Edward Bernays, who had lately been in Hawaii working on a project and he told me in what great esteen [sic] Li Ling’s father and  her late mother, both doctors, are heid in Honolulu. As a climax to the evening Dr. Larsen made a brief and amusing talk about “lions and alligators.” He explained that he always size’s people up as either lions or alligators. Just like those two highly contrasted animals—[he one so big as to brain, courage heart and vitality; the other so sluggish and meagrely [sic] endowed—so do most people fall into comparison as the fine big lions or the narrow-minded alligators. He added a professional explanation in terms of brains, the adrenal and thyroid glands. The lovely Li Ling, as the many friends she has won in this country will attest, belongs to the lion-hearted league.

Town Topics
(Princeton, New Jersey)
March 29–April 4, 1953
Topics of the Town
Evening program features will include an appearance by Li Ling-Ai, Chinese singer and dancer…

Binghamton Press
(New York)
November 18, 1959
(Monday Afternoon Club meeting)

Li Ling Ai, writer, lecturer and actress, will be guest speaker during the afternoon program. Miss Li, who has a background of Oriental and Occidental cultures, was born in Hawaii and educated in Peking, China, at the Institute of Fine Arts.

Miss Li was active in the movement for Hawaii statehood and lectures about the background and people of our newest state, under the topic of “Behind the Embroidered Fan.”

Binghamton Press
(New York)
November 24, 1959

Niagara Falls Gazette
(New York)
April 1, 1960
Tatler Will Hear Of China
“Behind the Embroidered Fan” will be presented by Miss Li Ling Ai at Tatler Tuesday when daughters of members will be guests.

Miss Li will discuss the symbolism and conventions of the Chinese theater, comparing it with the theater of the West. She will appear in rare costumes from her Pekin collection.

Miss Li was born in Hawaii, the child of Chinese parents who were both doctors. She is a graduate of the University of Hawaii and attended the Institute of Fine Arts in Pekin where she, became director of the Oriental Theater.

In addition to her dramatic activies [sic], Miss Li has taken an active interest in Hawaiian public affairs. She is a lecturer for the National Federation of Republican Women and worked for the admission of Hawaii to the union.

Miss Li is now writing a book about her family to be ready for fall publication.

Niagara Falls Gazette
(New York)
April 6, 1960
Tatler Hears Chinese Writer
“Each man travels the garden of his soul alone,” Miss Li Ling Ai, writer and lecturer, told Tatler members and their daughters Tuesday.

“He must be elastic stories, enough to find serenity in an intolerable world, and strong enough to know how to meet his problems, for
everyone travels alone.”

Garbed in colorful and rare Chinese costumes, Miss Li, who is also a theater producer, described the theater as a segment of life in which to escape one’s own problems.

“The Chinese,” she said, “teach their philosophy of life with simple stories repeated over and over again. Parents spend much time telling stories to their children illustrating a teaching. A child is taught filial piety and to give of himself, for then he will learn to give to others.”

Miss Li related some of the traditional Chinese stories, illustrating them with the symbolic gestures of the Chinese theater.

“Believe it or not,” said Miss Li, who was associated for 10 years with Ripley of “Believe It or Not” fame, “United States and China are the two countries in the world most similar. Only in these two countries  are the men henpecked.

“In the countries where the women are docile; the men are barbaric. Where the women dominate, the men are humane.

“The Chinese are realistic people,” she continued, “and accept, the fact that everyone is human, with human frailties, desires and problems. They have a sense of humor and a great curiosity.”

In discussing her concept of America, Miss Li said, “The American women are the most admirable and capable women in the world. But it is, difficult to put a finger on the pulse of the real America and to present the human picture. When one can do this, one finds the real people with problems common to everyone.

“In traveling the world as I have done, it is important to be able to sense the temper of a people and to provide bridges of understanding which can be crossed.”

Herald Statesman
(Yonkers, New York)
May 18, 1960
Women’s Club Sets Lunch, Installation
New officers will be installed by the Crestwood Women’s Club at an annual spring luncheon May 24 at 1 p.m. at the Washington Arms Inn in Mamaroneck.

Guest speaker will be Miss Li Ling Ai, lecturer, writer and actress.

Born in Hawaii, Miss Ai is of Chinese descent. She is a graduate of the University of Hawaii. She won an award for her production of a documentary film, “Kukan.” The guest speaker is vice president of the American Oriental Women’s Club and is on the board of Hawaii State Federation of Republican Women.

Review Press-Reporter
(Bronxville, New York)
May 19, 1960
Women’s Club Of Crestwood To Hold Annual Spring Luncheon Tuesday
The Women's Club of Crestwood will hold its annual spring luncheon next Tuesday, May 24, at 1:00 p.m., in the Washington Arms Inn, Mamaroneck. The installation of the 1960-61 slate of officers will take place. The officers are: Mrs. Leroy S. Fleck, president…

The guest speaker for the luncheon will be the well known lecturer, writer and actress, Miss Li Ling Ai. Born in Hawaii of distinguished Chinese parents, Miss Li is a graduate of the University of Hawaii. She is well versed in many fields of the theater, having won an award for her production of a documentary film, “Kukan.” She is vice president of the American Oriental Women’s Club and is on the board of the Hawaii State Federation of Republican Women.

She will discuss the nation’s newest state, Hawaii.

Review Press-Reporter
(Bronxville, New York)
June 9, 1960
Crestwood Women’s Club Entertains Past Presidents At May Luncheon
…The speaker at the luncheon was Miss Li Ling Ai of Hawaii, who talked about our 50th State….

Democrat and Chronicle
(Rochester, New York)
December 2, 1960
Chinese Husbands Henpecked, Too!
A similarity between America and China was cited yesterday by Miss Li Ling Ai, world traveler and lecturer who is a native of Hawaii.

Speaking before members of the Century Club, she said: “In all my travels, I have found only two countries that are very similar, China and America.

“Because only in these two countries do the women henpeck the men.”

With the poetic vocabulary of her Chinese background, she described the Hawaiian Islands as the “lotus lands of the Pacific” which are “lush with fruits and flowers.”

The author of a book soon to be released, “Life Is for a Long Time,” Miss Li has traveled extensively as a member of the Nationalities Advisory Beard of the National Federation of Republican Women and as an editor of Ripley’s “Believe it or Not.” Her formal education was completed in Hawaii and Peking.

She reflected that the form and discipline of the “bluestocking” school she attended in Hawaii was good because, “I seem to be living in a world without form.”

As a young woman she took an expedition into the interior of China to become better acquainted with the land of her parents.

“People forget that the yesterdays, whether good or bad, made the todays,” she commented.

Attired in Chinese clothing, she explained the floral and butterfly prints as symbols of purity, good luck and richness of life. Miss Li concluded her program with demonstrations of four Hawaiian dances, several revealing Western influence.

The Daily Record
(Rochester, New York)
February 9, 1961
To Talk On Hawaii
Li Ling Ai, of Hawaii, noted lecturer, writer and actress, will speak on “Our 50th State Hawaii” today at the Rochester Ad Club noon luncheon in the Powers.

Patent Trader
(Mount Kisco, New York)
March 10, 1973
March 15
9:30—Personal memoirs, Li Ling Ai, actress, moviemaker, author, lecturer, Ondine Restaurant, Bloomingdale’s, Stamford, Conn.

Cooking with author Li Ling-Ai
December 27, 1975

Herald Statesman
(Yonkers, New York)
February 12, 1977
(same as Tarrytown Daily News)

Tarrytown Daily News
(New York)
February 12, 1977
Store sets special events celebrating Year of Serpent
To celebrate the Year of the Serpent (Chinese New Year) Bloomingdale’s, White Plains will commemorate the event in a week of daily storewide activities Feb. 14–19, with music, dancing and art exhibit.

There will be daily Chinese cooking demonstrations in the Gourmet Kitchen in the housewares department, Monday, Feb. 14, from 12 to 2 p.m. Ava Ting, long-time resident of Hong Kong, cooks Won Ton; Tuesday, Li Ling Ai cooks Smothered Chicken Cantonese, 12 to 2 p.m.; Wednesday, Rita Edelman, author of “You Don’t Have to be Chinese to Cook Great Chinese Food,” cooks Hoisin Chicken Macademia Nuts; Thursday, Lucille Liang stir fries Main Dishes,' from 12 to 2 p.m., and Jean Chen, will cook Chicken with Cashew Nuts and Bean Sprout Salad, from 7 to 8:30 p.m.; Friday, Madame Grace Chu cooks a traditional New Year’s dish, Lions Head, and Saturday, Karen Lee, author of ”Chinese Cooking for the American Kitchen,” cooks Szechuan Shredded Beef and Stir Fry Shrimp/Asparagus.

There will be tasting and sipping of oriental teas, Chinese vodka, the newest taste from Mainland China and Chinese treats prepared by Ty-Loon Imperial Restaurant.

Calligraphy demonstration by Mrs. Ralph Plew will be on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Herald Statesman
(Yonkers, New York)
February 13, 1977
Bloomingdale’s advertisement

It’s the year of the serpent! come celebrate the chinese new year 4675 at bloomingdale’s white plains. a fabulous festival of oriental delights tomorrow through saturday.

Tuesday, February 15. noon to 2 pm. Li Ling Ai, teacher and author of “Life Is for a Long Time” cooks smothered Chicken Cantonese

Herald Statesman
(Yonkers, New York)
February 17, 1977
(same as Tarrytown Daily News)

Tarrytown Daily News
(New York)
February 17, 1977
Seeking a touch of the Orient?
Gung Hay Fat Choy!

In other words, Happy New Year! A bit late, you say? Not for billions of people living in the Orient, nor for Chinese-Americans in Chinatown, Chinese restaurants all across the country—or Bloomingdale’s.

In celebration of the Chinese New Year, 4675, the Year of the Serpent, Bloomingdale’s, White Plains, is all decked out in paper lanterns and bamboo umbrellas and poles this week.

Each day this week, from noon to 2 p.m., visitors to the housewares department will be treated to cooking demonstrations and sample tastes of Chinese food. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, demonstrations of Chinese calligraphy—the art of lettering—will be added.

Li Ling Ai, teacher and the author of “Life is for a Long Time,” prepared Smothered Chicken Cantonese on Tuesday.

The Dramatists Guild Quarterly
Spring 1995
page 18: Ling-ai Li
Remember the Voice of Your People’s Gods

page 20: My little one, someday in your precious lit, you will understand what the law of your ancestors means. I pray from a mother’s heart that when that day comes, you too will bow to the will of your ancestors…. Remember the voice of your people’s gods

Considering Li’s untraditional choices in her own epic life, Rose Moy’s submission

page 23: Playwright Elizabeth Wong describes the impact of seeing a play by Wakako Yamauchi in the late 1970s: “I felt really opened up by Wakako’s play to the possibility that I could explore my own world and other people would find it interesting.”

Ling-Ai Li and her fellow Hawaiian writers of Chinese descent such as Wai Chee Chun and Charlotte Lum (who were active in the 1930s and ’40s, respectively) were of the first generation born in this country. Thanks to their families and personal perseverance they received college educations at a time when career options were very limited for women. One generation removed from the practice of footbinding, they grasped the language of their birth country to imagine a world of their own creation. While their plays vary greatly in structure, all three drew from the conventions and aesthetics of Asia, experimenting in new forms and creating previously unrecorded language. Significantly, their plays focus on the roles and worlds of women, and the conflicts within their plays occur when women challenge the limitations placed on them, whether economic, societal, or cultural. And they share a common fearlessness in turning a critical eye on a rapidly shifting social landscape. While the body of plays produced by Ling-Ai Li and her fellow early Asian-American playwrights is modest, their voices speak across decades for those early Asian women writers whose work was never published and to those who persist in writing today.

Roberta Una is the artistic director of the New WORLD Theater of the Fine Arts Center of the University of Massachusetts, where she is a lecturer in the Department of Theater. She is the editor of Unbroken Thread: An Anthology of Plays by Asian- American Women, published by the University of Massachusetts Press.

Excerpts from the unpublished correspondence of Ling-Ai Li ©1995 by Ling Ai-Li. Used by permission. Excerpts from The Submission of Rose Moy by Gladys (Ling-Ai) Li

Related Posts
Li Ling Ai in Censuses, Passenger Lists, Immigration Files, and City Directories
Li Ling Ai’s Life Is for a Long Time
Li Ling-Ai’s Children of the Sun in Hawaii
Li Ling Ai, 1935–1939
Li Ling Ai, 1940–1949

(Next post: Doctor Mu)

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