Phoenix Yee Fung Toy Family Association News Page

斐匿余風采堂 2013 年活動及文章


On Saturday, March 9th, the locally prominent clan of Yees spent a day and evening with notable highlights as they commemorated the premier holiday of the traditional lunisolar calendar, the Spring Festival/New Year’s. Of course, the day itself occurred on February 10th according to the general solar calendar observed throughout the world but here in Phoenix, the season of celebratory feasts during the weekends is well under way and won’t conclude for at least another month.


At noon at the Yee Fung Toy Family Association Clan Hall, the typical rites of ancestral veneration were performed, highlighted by the attendance of Alan Yee and his wife Edith from Los Angeles on their seventh trip to join us since 2003 and by the presence of nonagenarian Bill Yee who came down from his Flagstaff home for the occasion.

There is an all too widespread and erroneous belief in the local Chinese American community that these are rites of ancestor worship, rather than deep respect/veneration. In fact, Yee Fung Toy is generally honored among the Cantonese Yee clan associations in North America, but not in Hong Kong or other areas of China and east or Southeast Asia. In Standard Modern Chinese, his name would be rendered as Yu Fengcai, and he lived from 1000 to 1065 C.E. He had become a renowned scholar-official during the Northern Song Dynasty (960 to 1125 C.E.) and on his death, he was posthumously honored by the reigning Emperor who decreed his elevation to the ranks of nobility as a Duke, with the title of Zhongxiang “Loyal Assisting.”

Were this a case of ancestor worship, per se, the rites should be performed to honor of a specific prime minister of the Qin state, where Duke Mu (before his successors took the title of King, and in due course, one descendant becomes the Qin First Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi as his armies concluded their unifying conquests and the establishment of imperial unity in 221 B.C.E.) citing Yao Yu for his courage, vision, and contributions to Qin’s rising eminence declared that his personal name henceforth would be a surname. His sons were of course already born and named, so it is his grandchildren who are the first Yees ever. Thus, these traditional rites (which 2 millennia before Christ mutatis mutandi were the rites of royal ancestor worship by the Shang Dynasty kings) are now only rituals of filial devotion to our forefathers as enacted to recall their memory and to spur the emulation of a Model Ancestor of merely a millennia ago.) These are the rites by which Chinese culture has historically in its own manner in fact honored the first of the Ten Commandments having to do with human relations.

The Chinese character used in this specific imperial enfeoffment to mean “assisting” indicates through its etymological derivation that one rolls up the pantlegs and the sleeves in order to engage in the arduous, dirty, and regularly smelly challenge of agricultural labor. In this tradition of practical, hands-on achievement the evening banquet – again this year a full house at Great Wall Hong Kong Cuisine in Phoenix – saw two other “surprise” highlights. Master of Ceremonies Jack F. Yee was able to introduce his daughter, Arizona State Senator Kimberly Yee, herself a pioneering first ever Chinese-American woman to be elected first to the lower and now to the upper chamber of the state legislature, to present a special certificate of recognition from that chamber to long-time clan and community leader Rudy Yee.


This was followed by a presentation to John M. Yee, a grand elder among Yees nationally and indeed internationally, of a scroll and certificate whereby the New York Chapter of the Kaiping Natives Association designated him as Honorary President, which received a full page congratulatory display advertisement in the Amwest Chinese Post newspaper.

It was certainly the case, however, that due and dutiful appreciation for honors took second place to the warmth and enjoyment of musical art on this evening. First, Ms. Lude He, recently arrived from Shanghai, performed on the gu zheng, a plucked zither of 18-23+ strings. She not only rendered well-known traditional works, but also intrigued by showing how Irving Berlin’s perennially popular God Bless America could sound according to the different musical intervals of this ancient instrument with its considerably wider range that the likely more ancestral guqin of 7 strings. Ms. He’s skill justifiably has won wide acknowledgement and the opportunity to perform before three U.S. presidents (so far).

Next, but hardly second in audience reception, was Ms. Victoria Vilead who sang to karaoke accompaniment songs of modern popularity in both Cantonese and Mandarin as well as English. Ms. Vilead is not of Chinese ethnicity, once more proving the universality of music as a bridge between cultures and unifying peoples. Moreover, she is now a student in her second year of study of Standard Modern Chinese at the Phoenix Chinese School. Mr. David Cui, principal thereof, delighted to learn of this fact unknown to him, used his rueful admission to highlight the potential to be gained by cultural exposure and study.

Once again, the happiness of the evening concluded with a raffle where the generous support of Great Wall, of Red Wok Buffet, of New Hong Kong Restaurant, and of Super L Market provided numerous gift certificates to lucky winners. It is likely that prize or not, all the diners will have felt this was an evening of winning and well-worthwhile enjoyments of food, family, and friends.

Report by Yee Moon-cheak,
Photos by John Tang
Phoenix, Az.


斐匿余風采堂二十四週年堂慶於四月廿七日中午在堂廳舉行祭祖儀式。 會所內充滿喜興氣氛。正中的余忠襄公畫像前陳列著六隻金豬,祭祖禮成後, 大家享用將早已準備好的美味飯菜,加上切件的金豬。 餐後分派燒肉,每人一份,皆大歡喜,大家希望明年再來歡敘。



On April 27th, Saturday, the warmth of Springtime in Arizona was more than matched by the good spirits and full-house attendance (nearly 150 persons) at the Phoenix Yee Fung-toy Family Association 24th Anniversary of the opening of the Clan Hall. As always, whole Cantonese style Roast Pigs were generously provided to highlight the buffet luncheon and to provide succulent slabs to take home; any Yee seniors over age 75 got double the distribution – something golden indeed to look forward to in our golden years!


This year, the following individuals made pigs roasted by three different local restaurants available for delicious delectation:

Dr. & Mrs. Berne Yee

Mr. & Mrs. David M. Yee

Mr. & Mrs. Carl Yee

Mr. & Mrs. Guy Lee

Mr. & Mrs. Dean K. Yee

Mr. & Mrs. Kam Yi Yee

Mrs. Jerry M. (Janet) Yee

(Grand Elder John M. Yee had provided the single roast pig for the informal Clan Hall luncheon preceding the annual Yees Spring Festival Banquet last March 9.)

Another tradition on such an occasion is the observance of the rites of ancestral veneration. As has been recently noted, there is a misinformed misconception that such rites constitute ancestor worship. This unfortunately rather widespread notion derives from several different sources – linguistic, cultural, and some religious interpretations. What is involved are two sets of three bows, the formal offering of the roast pigs, of incense, of ceremonial “ghost” money, and a libation of wine – by the entire assembly, but especially by the Clan Association officers.

At the Clear Bright Festival (Qing Ming Jie), which falls 120 days after the winter solstice, on about April 4 or 5, families will head to the nearby hillocks where the ancestral graves are situated apart from valuable arable flat land, “walk(ing on the) mountain” in order to conduct typically more involved acts of respecting one’s ancestors: to trim the overgrown vegetation, to freshen the paint on the tombstone, and then to lay out after the incense and wine a more considerable feast with the modern equivalent of the ancient “three live” whole animals as offered by Shang Dynasty kings, 3 millennia ago: an ox, a ram, and a pig – nowadays, usually a whole chicken or goose, a whole fish, and a slab or two of pork.

This is a custom quite similar to the Aztec and modern Mexican Dia de los Muertos which is the Feast of All Souls on November 2 (after the Feast of All Saints). And, it is not quite as intimate as the custom in parts of Sicily where the deceased (assuming still in reasonable condition) is brought to the family dinner table to sit and preside over the chats and reminiscences of their living descendants… It is reasonable to see all such as a natural human reflection of the divine injunction in the Fourth Commandment to honor one’s parents.

Moreover, Yee Fung-toy, or Yu Fengcai in Standard Modern Chinese, is not the ancestor of all Yees. He is only the Model that all Yees are to emulate: for after decades of service as a scholar-official in the Northern Song Dynasty (960 to 1127 C.E.), on his death in 1065 C.E., the reigning Emperor conferred upon him noble rank as the Loyal Assisting Duke. The first Yees were the grandchildren of a Chancellor of the Qin Duchy that would become the Qin Kingdom, and finally would unify Tian Xia ("[All] Heaven Under") and so confer on the new imperial realm its name – rendered as “China” – by the no-limit-to-his-ambition Qin Shi Huangdi – First Emperor of the Qin, whose tomb the terracotta army still guards against enemies coming westward from the conquered regions eastward rising in revolt, as indeed they did and ended his dynastic succession after only 15 years altogether of totalitarian sway over the longstanding feudal rivals.

And, to be sure, all Chinese officially theoretically could trace their lineage to one of the 9 sons of the nearly legendary Huang Di (here, the characters indicate not “Imperial Ruler” as in the new title created to indicate superiority over merely a Wang, or King, but rather "Yellow Ruler"). So, indeed a supposed family tree links that Chancellor grandfather to one such son; if ancestor worship were involved, all the Clan Associations would formally be able to post some idealized portrait of a single man: Huang Di, the leader of the tribe that consolidates rule in the Wei River valley, tributary to the Huang Ho (yes, Yellow River) perhaps over 4 millennia ago.

Instead, the Clan Associations arose during the heyday of the Northern Song imperial examination system, antecedents over a millennium old, and solidifying the rule of the centralized and bureaucratic empire as the older aristocratic elites during the preceding Tang Dynasty (618 to 906 C.E.) faded into history. Led by the polymath Fan Chung-yen, protégé of the renown Ou-yang Hsiu, as men of often quite humble origins came to prominence, the kinship group by patrilineal descent began to build clan halls, write clan histories, and establish clan schools so that more promising pupils could climb the ladder of success in imperial China.

The scholar-official is thus a unique type in world history, and a shining star of ideal rule, virtually a mini-philosopher king as envisioned by Platon (Aristokles, son of Ariston, usually rendered from the Latin as Plato), praised by such as Voltaire as Europe of the Enlightenment sought to escape the rule of parasitic nobles and doctrinaire churchmen. So ingrained was this path of success – study hard, test well, achieve office, gain wealth – that the emblematic and nigh universally present in homes and in businesses of the Three Blessings, Fu Lu Shou, which the first and the third being obviously the good fortune of having sons, and of gaining long life, has Lu – Wealth – represented by a scholar-official: with cap of office, belt of office, and scepter of office. This glory of ancient China now ironically casts a continuing and troubling shadow today on both sides of the Straits in terms of practical politics and personal aggrandizement.

Report by Yu Wen-chuo (M. Cheak Yee),
Photos by John Tang
Phoenix, Az.

Senator Yee named 2013 Legislator of the Year

Sen. Kimberly Yee (R-Dist. 20) received the 2013 Legislator of the Year award from the Arizona Association of County School Superintendents. Senator Yee was honored for her efforts of behalf of K-12 public education. Senator Yee chairs the Senate Committee on Education.

  Sen. Kimberly Yee receives the award from Yavapai County Superintendent of Schools Tim Carter and Maricopa County Superintendent of Schools Don Covey.

The award states, “To honor your dedicated efforts as a Member of the Arizona Legislature in providing reasonable and fair public education policy for the benefit of Arizona, the Arizona Association of County School Superintendents, hereby thanks you and offers our sincere appreciation for your service.”

The award was presented to Senator Yee on the floor of the Arizona State Senate by two members of the Association, Maricopa County Superintendent of Schools Don Covey and Yavapai County Superintendent of Schools Tim Carter.

“I am truly honored to receive the 2013 Legislator of the Year award from the Arizona Association of County School Superintendents,” Senator Yee said. “We share a deep passion for our school children and making education a priority at the state and county levels. I look forward to continuing to work closely with the association on important education issues facing Arizona schools.”

Although the Senate is not in session right now, Senator Yee is staying busy with her focus on education. She is co-chairing the School Safety Program Oversight Committee at the Legislature. Additional school safety funding is one of the senator’s highest priorities.

Press Release.

Phoenix Yees Happiest Autumn Picnic Yet


In places further north than Arizona, the September equinox may more routinely bring the nip of a cooler season even if “Indian summers” may intervene. For the Yees of Phoenix, set in the Sonoran Desert, it needs another couple of weeks before pleasant weather for a seasonal picnic is confidently assured. Thus, the annual outing for a shady and grassy picnic at the City of Phoenix centrally-located (Mayor) Margaret Hance Park will be weeks after the celestial tipping point out of summer.


In 2013, the date was October 6th, and the very welcome site again was the City of Phoenix (Mayor) Margaret T. Hance Park just across a field from the lovely landscaping, koi ponds, waterfall, and cultural accents of the Japanese Friendship Garden. Our own Phoenix Yee Family Association Adviser David M. Yee has long served, as well as led, the civic organization which supervises the Friendship Garden so he was once again able to procure free admission tickets for the day of our event as an added treat. Alternatively, the Garden was a restful retreat from the hubbub and barbeque smoke and the crowd of the Picnic into the renown quiet of Japanese gardening style and ethos: influenced by the popularity of Zen meditational school of Buddhism and guided by the constraints of limited space to intense attention to the selection, growth/pruning, and placement of all elements, this expansive cultural jewel in our entirely different Sonoran desert metropolis certainly conveys to the visitor the scent and scenery of Asia, even if this is not quite the more florid and nigh-overgrown approach of the typically naturalistic Chinese gardening style.

(Zen, of course, is merely the pronunciation in Japanese of the kanji – which in turn is merely the pronunciation they have for those two Chinese characters, that themselves are rendered in Chinese pronunciation as hanzi and which of course means “Chinese character” – for the original name of this school: Chan means meditation. As with so many aspects of the cultures of the sprachbund [the academic term from the scholarly field of linguistics, in German, for a speech federation or union] of Japan, Korea, and Vietnam, the root written language is Chinese, although none of these peoples natively speak a language related to Chinese, and these outlying peoples and nations adopted and then adapted the language and key cultural elements of China before then adapting them quite distinctly to their own situations and preferences. Chan has thus a continuous and divergent history both in its original homeland of China, and then in its Korean and Japanese variants.)

On this occasion, the crowd indeed was larger than ever, likely over 350 during the course of a busy morning and afternoon. The quantity of American picnic standards supplemented by Chinese side dishes proved barely adequate for latecomers. No doubt next year, the adjustments will be to plan for more food, and for attendees to arrive earlier if their Sunday schedules permit. With many hands and happy spirits, the event included a traditionally loud raffle of many dozens of door prizes, and then concluded in a smoothly conducted break-down and clean up. Thanks to the long experience of Grand Elder John M. Yee, our picnic raffle prizes both suffice to provide something to a majority of the attendees (even this time), and consist of useful items for kitchen and household – a practical touch for a family association to be sure.

Hance Park is most centrally located in Phoenix, with extensive parking available in lots and on the adjacent neighborhood streets; as a rather more modern facility (compared to the longtime earlier venue at the City’s historic Encanto Park), it is proving to be a popular choice, although in a few years the Association may need to consider relocating to accommodate the happy problem of being just a bit small for the crowd of all ages, and many well-wishing friends too.

Report by M. Cheak Yee,
Photos by John Tang
Phoenix, Az.

Updated December 8, 2013