Can a water dragon breathe fire when it’s wet? And other conundra

Letters from China

By Patrick Murphy – January 2012

The Chinese have an amazingly complicated calendar, but for all its sophistication and complexities you would think they could, at least, get the placement of Spring correct, right? Apparently not, as this is Chinese Spring. What we call “Chinese New Year” is called by the Chinese “Spring Festival.” Hello? It’s January. The days are short, the nights are long and it’s cold as a botch. Spring? Spring? The answer to the question, “Can 1.3 billion people get it wrong?” is a resounding “yes.” More

Edison Liu named president and CEO of The Jackson Laboratory

From the Jackson Laboratory

On August 26, The Jackson Laboratory named Edison Liu, M.D., as its new president and chief executive officer. Liu will officially begin his work at the Laboratory on Jan. 2, 2012.

Edison Liu


Why I Love China, Reason #297

Letters from ChinaBy Patrick Murphy – April 2009

The internet in China, as everywhere, can be somewhat user unfriendly. Factor in technoglop in a foreign language (like “Make sure the subnet mask is disengaged”) and it becomes simply impossible to achieve connectivity unaided.

Not only was I faced with that challenge, but my old computer had become unstable. Knowing that we would be returning to our Beijing apartment for several years, I decided on this trip to acquire a desktop computer. More

Review: Chinese Measure Word Dictionary

Chinese Measure Word DictionaryChinese Measure Word Dictionary: A Chinese-English English-Chinese Usage Guide by Jiqing Fang and Michael Connelly (Boston: Cheng & Tsui, 2008)

Review by Craig Dietrich

CAFAM’s own Mike Connelly is co-author of a unique and just-published learning tool and reference guide for Chinese language learners. It has to do with “measure words.”

Measure words are found in many languages. Native speakers employ them without a second thought. When you go to get a “loaf” of bread, you never say, “Give me a bread.” You use the measure word “loaf.” Similarly with a “pair” of pants or a “grain” of sand. Now actually, the vast majority of English nouns, the ones that name individual things, don’t require measure words. You can simply say “a computer,” “a pen,” or “a horse.” More

The China Trade at the Penobscot Marine Museum

Betty Schopmeyer

Betty Schopmeyer, Education Director, Penobscot Marine Museum

The beautiful Penobscot Bay town of Searsport boasts many old homes dating from the great seafaring era. Here one can find the Penobscot Marine Museum. Its principal exhibits illuminate the industry of Penobscot Bay in the 19th century and illustrate life on one of the great square-rigged ships, and what it was like to visit China when it truly was exotic.

The Asian artifacts in Penobscot Marine Museum’s collection were donated by ship captains who brought back souvenirs and items to furnish their own homes.  Betty Schopmeyer, Education Coordinator, has furnished the following information to provide a small sense of what this museum offers.

For hundreds of years, Maine has built fine ships and produced extraordinary mariners. During the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Maine vessels and captains participated in the trade with China, peaking after the Civil War. Maine was involved in the China Trade predominantly through shipbuilding and supply of master mariners. Mainers sometimes bought shares in ships owned predominantly by Boston and other outside merchants. Only a few Mainers, such as Portland ship builders Preble and Jewett, and Theodore Lyman of York owned their own ships in the China Trade:. Few, if any, Maine products were exported to the Far East. One exception was ice from the Kennebec River, which was carried to Calcutta, Bombay, and Batavia. More

The Empire Dine and Dance

By Craig Dietrich

CAFAM members will recall that, among the materials collected by Gary Libby about Chinese in Maine, is the story of the Empire Dine and Dance restaurant on the corner of Congress and Forest. An effort has been underway to install markers on certain Portland buildings such as this one, to commemorate these Chinese connections.

On October 18, 2008, (thanks to the cooperation of the present owner, Bill Umbel) the first such plaque was dedicated at the location of the Empire Dine and Dance.

An enthusiastic crowd gathered in the brilliant autumn sunshine to witness the proceedings. Professor Ahkau Ng, past president of CAFAM opened the ceremonies. Gary sketched the Empire’s history. Also present was Kuo-Tung Yang, Director General of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, accompanied by his wife Ying-Chuan Chung. Refreshments were served. More

In China, you are “old”

By Craig Dietrich

In modern times as Chinese came into increasing contact with the outside world, they used several terms to refer to foreigners. These words reflect core cultural ideas, political climate, and degrees of familiarity.

One cardinal Chinese cultural distinction is nei-wai (inner-outer) or zhong-wai (central-peripheral). Nei-wai, for example, is used to talk about within-outside the family or within-outside a profession. Zhong-wai also means Chinese-foreign. China is Zhong-guo (Central Country), wai-guo is “foreign country.” A waiguoren (outside person) is a foreigner. More

How I joined CAFAM: Gary Libby

By Gary W. Libby

I was born and raised in Portland and have had an interest in Portland’s history since I was a child. I became a Trustee of the Maine Historical Society in the 1990s and tried to interest the Society in expanding its focus to include non-white ethnic groups.

In 2000 I saw a Community Voices column in the Portland Press Herald entitled “Are there any Chinese in Maine?” As I read the article it became clear to me that the title was rhetorical since the author was Fenggang Yang, a Chinese man who was a sociology professor at the University of Southern Maine.

In essence, that article asked if there had been any historical antecedents for the contemporary Chinese community to which Professor Yang belonged. That question caught my interest. I met Professor Yang for lunch to discuss the possibility of working together to try to answer his question. We found that we liked each other on a personal level and agreed to work together.

Over the next year our efforts yielded surprising results. We found that there had been a small, but vibrant, Chinese presence in Maine beginning before the Civil War. We made contact with some members of Chinese families who had been in Maine since before World War II and began conducting oral history interviews with them and collecting their family photographs.

We then arranged to have the Maine Historical Society create what we called the “Maine Chinese Archive” to house these oral history interviews, photographs, and artifacts and to make them available to the general public.

About this time Professor Yang introduced me to the CAFAM Board which expressed interest in and support for our project. Soon thereafter I joined the CAFAM Board of Directors.

Within a year of when we began our research, Professor Yang left the University of Southern Maine to accept a position at Purdue University. By then I had made many friends in the Chinese community and become hooked on this research project.

In 2001, the Maine Historical Society sponsored a day long conference devoted to the history of Maine’s Chinese community which drew interest from the Boston area as well as Maine.

As I learned more about the history of Chinese Americans nationally I found that there was quite a lot of information on the Chinese communities on the west coast, particularly in California. I also learned that there was research done on the Chinese communities in big city Chinatowns. There was some research available on the Chinese of the Mississippi Delta.

But there was almost no research available on the history of Chinese people who lived in the rest of America. I became determined to try to fill some of that gap. As my research progressed, I began to publish articles in Portland Magazine, as well as scholarly journals, detailing my findings.

With CAFAM’s help, I have begun placing historical markers on buildings in Portland which have connections to the Chinese community. With financial assistance from the Maine Humanities Council, CAFAM has made professionally framed and matted copies of photographs in the Maine Chinese Archive and placed them on display in local Chinese restaurants to bring them to the attention of the wider community.

How I joined CAFAM: Craig Dietrich

By Craig Dietrch

In 1988 I was a professor at USM, teaching China and Asia-related history courses.

It was the “best of times” to be part of this field, because China’s post-Mao opening up was just in full swing and everything about US-China relations suddenly seemed rosy. Two years earlier, on a trip with my friend Norm Buttrick, we encountered hundreds of Chinese who seemed ecstatic at the direction their country was taking and clamored to chat about it and snap pictures with plenty of “V” signs and smiles.

So, back in Maine, in 1988 when two gentlemen approached me about being a part of a new friendship organization, I could not say no. Arthur Clark, a retired engineer, and Husen Tu, an IBM employee whose family was from Taiwan, pushed the project forward. A dinner of interested people was convened at the old Hu Shang restaurant. My wife Sherry attended in my place, as I was away. On that on that most auspicious day (8-8-88) CAFAM was born.

At the time my professional life was hectic, so although I did agree to serve on the board of directors, I intended to play only a secondary role.

That’s not how it turned out. It was impossible not to get more involved with so many fine and interesting people. After Arthur served one turn as CAFAM’s president, I agreed to take a turn. Around 1990 I took over the newsletter and soon the membership records as well. Other duties followed.

Only months after our formation, China’s dramatic Beijing Spring student demonstrations erupted, with all of their hope and agony. CAFAM members demonstrated on Monument Square.

Around this time, a young Qingdao University instructor then studying business at USM married his sweetheart at a special CAFAM meeting convened for the occasion. We began to organize New Year celebrations, we met at a coffee shop to recite moon poetry for the mid-Autumn celebration. We welcomed China’s ambassador to Portland. And so forth.

Flash forward more than twenty years and CAFAM is still going strong. I am still hanging on. Most of the co-founders have gone on to other places and pursuits, but or organization has continued to attract new and younger people to carry us forward.

Review: Journey to Xiamacun

By Mason Philip Smith (Provincial Press 2008)

Review by Craig Dietrich

Early in 2008 I received an email from my friend Ma Tongchun inviting me for lunch at his ancestral farm northwest of Kunming, Yunnan. So in May I returned to China, accompanied by Brian Dorsk a friend from Cape Elizabeth.

Before proceeding to Xiamacun, “Mr. Ma” accompanied us to Heijing, on the rail line between Kunming and Chengdu. This is one of the best-preserved, and little-touristed, towns in Yunnan. For over 1,000 years the surrounding hills were mined for salt. At its peak in the Ming Dynasty, Heijing provided more than 70% of the imperial salt. It is still small, with a single main street running parallel to the Longchuan River. The town combines a strong sense of history with a pleasing lack of commercialism. Popular with visitors from Kunming on weekends, it is a gem, a place lost in time, rarely visited by Westerners (although Marco Polo knew it). More

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Who We Are

The Chinese & American Friendship Association of Maine provides forums and outreach to promote awareness of and appreciation for Chinese culture. More.


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