William Poy Lee

A third generation San Franciscan, William Poy Lee is an author, lawyer, business consultant and educator who has lived in China for over five years. His memoir The Eighth Promise: A Toisan Son Pays Tribute to his Toisanese Mother was published in 2007, and is a Toisanese-Californian coming of age story in America’s tumultous 60s and 70s

Posts by William Poy Lee

Qi soup

A Chinese American rediscovers TCM in Beijing – by William Poy Lee


When she escaped China by marriage in 1949 and settled in San Francisco, my mother made eight promises to my grandmother. The seventh promise was to cook the traditional qi soups for her family to protect their mind-body balance and inner energy.

Along with every other American in the 1950s, my brother and I ate Campbell’s most popular soups – chicken noodle, cream of tomato, mushroom, split-pea. But at home, we also gulped down smelly, weird tasting Chinese soups – cow brain with ginseng, turtle, ox tail, four herbs chicken (from a live chicken, throat slit and defeathered in Chinatown). 

As we ate, Mom explained the rationale to us in ways that made no sense at the time.


Talkin' Toisanese

Coming to terms with a stigmatic linguistic identity – by William Poy Lee


Suey Wan is an innocuous farmer’s village nestled among remote hills in the backwater heart of the fertile Pearl River Delta in Guangdong province. My people’s six counties are collectively known as Toisan. Toisan’s origins are more legendary than historically established, but the first Chinese settlers are said to have arrived here during the chaotic last days of the Tang Dynasty, hoping to find peace in this then far-off corner of the expansive Chinese empire.