Wan Lee’s Royal Ancestry

On multiple occasions, Wan Lee positions himself in the history as one of China’s royal sons.  He lists himself as a grandson or great grandson or some iteration of this (p.95 especially.  He claims these dynasties as his ancestors in front of Pearl Chang, and we later find out that she is confused about his claims.  Wan Lee’s claims are not literal–this is an impossibility because the changing of dynasties implies a shift of lineage in power.  Pearl Chang interprets it literally, thinking that Wan Lee thinks that he is better than her because of his ancestors.  This exchange enhances the contrast between the Chinese-American native and immigrant.

Wan Lee’s placement of himself in a place and time, “when China was great” (96) creates an interesting and difficult model for his own identity. Being no longer on Chinese soil, he no longer has the pride of being the son of many dynasties, because this claim was one of place and patriotism instead of blood.  It cannot be brought with him to America because it is not an internal characteristic.  Furthermore, there is the question of China having a former greatness.  The depletion of China’s power, character, and culture seem to have a direct effect on Wan Lee, further challenging his ties to prideful identity.


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