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Artist Rene Yung gives a voice to Chinese immigrants past and present

Rene Yung, by Lisa Strong


Multimedia artist Rene Yung was born in Hong Kong and immigrated to the Bay Area when she was 14 years old. For the past decade, she's been dedicated to uncovering the hidden history of early Chinese immigrants in the American West with her multi-platform art and storytelling project Chinese Whispers.

The project's new stage show “Golden Gate” combines the stories of 19th century Chinese immigrants with those of recent immigrants living in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Yung spoke with KALW’s Jen Chien about exploring history that’s hidden right under our noses, and the importance of letting ordinary people speak for themselves.


YUNG: He felt like when he walked out in the street, a zipper has been zipped across his mouth. You know, he just can't communicate. And the early immigrants must've really felt like that.

Chinese Whispers presents “Golden Gate”, Friday, March 18, through Sunday, March 20, at the Southside Theater at Fort Mason Center.

Jen Chien was the managing editor for Crosscurrents and KALW News from 2016 to 2018. She has been a contributor to All Things Considered, Radio Netherlands Worldwide, BBC/PRI’s The World, Making Contact, SF Public Press, East Bay Express, New America Media, and KPFA in Berkeley, where she took part in the First Voice Apprenticeship Program. She is the recipient of the 2013 Outstanding Emerging Journalist Award from the Society of Professional Journalists of Northern California. She holds a BA in American Studies from Smith College, and an MA in Interdisciplinary Performance from New College of California. Before entering the field of journalism, she had a successful career as a professional dance and theater artist, teacher, and massage therapist.