Shanghai Social Diary in New York: China Institute Celebrates 90th Year Gala

China Institute 90th Anniversary Gala Co-Chair Yue-Sai Kan with Peking Opera actors, who performed in New York City.


China Institute celebrated its 90th anniversary in New York City with a glittering gala that included a surprise performance by a troupe of Peking Opera performers. Three people were honored for their contribution to increasing understanding and cooperation between the U.S and China: Bob Chapek, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Chairman; Richard Gelfond, IMAX Corporation CEO; and fashion designer Guo Pei.

I was elated at the inclusion of Guo Pei, whom I predicted would become one of the biggest international names in haute couture when I first saw her work.

China Institute President James Heimowitz, Gala Co-Chair Sophia Sheng, Haute Couture Designer Beatrice Pei, and China Institute Board Chair Chien Chung “Didi” Pei.

Guan Wang, the evening’s emcee and chief political correspondent for CCTV America’s Mandarin service, with TV presenter and writer Chiu-Ti Jansen.

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Shanghai Social Diary: Chongming, the Eco Island of Shanghai

On a visit to the ecological island of Chongming, near Shanghai, my group visited Dao Zhong Dao, a stunning concept hotel and restaurant.


After a late arrival on a flight from the U.S. to Shanghai, I awoke the next morning to an enticing email invitation to Chongming Island. My friend, French architect Jean-Pierre Heim, wanted me to join a group visiting his hotel project there.

The alluvial island, also called Eco-Island, formed from silt and rock, is in the Yangtze River Delta and had long been on my must-see list.

But Heim’s group was leaving in only two hours! I abandoned my plan to spend a few days recovering from jet lag and was soon out the door.

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San Francisco Social Diary: Culinary Icon Cecilia Chiang at 94

Cecilia Chiang accepting her 2013 James Beard Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award in New York City.

This has been a banner year for San Francisco culinary legend Cecilia Chiang, still gracious and energetic at 94. She received the 2013 James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award in New York City and was the subject of the biographical documentary Soul of a Banquet, which premiered in San Francisco.

Often credited with introducing Americans to authentic Chinese cuisine and hailed as “the Julia Child of Chinese food” by chef Alice Waters, Chiang is the founder of legendary San Francisco Chinese restaurant The Mandarin, which remained under her stewardship from 1961 to 1991.

Cecilia Chiang with her son Philip Chiang, founder of the popular chain, P. F. Chang Chinese Bistro, at the James Beard Awards Ceremony.

Cecilia Chiang accepted her James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award in an authentic Qing-era red brocade qipao.

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Shanghai Social Diary in New York: Museum of Chinese in America

The Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) is currently presenting two fashion exhibitions highlighting Chinese designs, like this red Vera Wang wedding dress.

New York – The recently relocated Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) in Chinatown here has two wonderful fashioned-themed exhibits on view until September 29. I was among the guests Board Chair Patty Tang and Executive Director Helen Koh invited to a preview.

The sleek new MOCA, located at 211-215 Centre Street, turned out to be a hidden jewel—a former machine shop transformed into museum space by Chinese-American architect Maya Lin, the acclaimed designer of Washington’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial (she was just a 21-year-old Yale senior when she won the memorial’s design competition in 1982).

Ms. Lin, Ms. Koh, and guest curator Mei Mei Rado accompanied us through a tour of the two exhibits, Shanghai Glamour: New Women 1910s-40s and Front Row: Chinese American Designers.

MOCA’s Front Row exhibit features modern garments by Chinese-American designers, such as these reinterpreted qipaos by (l. to r.) Zang Toi, Peter Som, and Vivienne Tam.

MOCA has relocated to a former factory redesigned by architect and Vietnam Veterans Memorial designer Maya Lin in New York’s Chinatown.

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San Francisco Social Diary: Fisher Weisman’s “Artful Decoration”

Acclaimed San Francisco-based interior design partners Jeffry Weisman and Andrew Fisher toured the Americas with their book, Artful Decoration: Interiors by Fisher Weisman.

After seeing what author friends go through to have a book published, I’m beginning to think the writing is the easy part. What really requires tenacity and stamina is promoting the book!

Case in point: the whirlwind of activity that swept up San Francisco-based interior design partners Jeffry Weisman and Andrew Fisher as they launched their first book, Artful Decoration: Interiors by Fisher Weisman (Monacelli Press, 2013), with a foreword by Architectural Digest editor Margaret Russell. Showcasing 13 of the duo’s design projects, Artful Decoration demonstrates their flair for exquisite, unique styling and attention to detail.

For two months I’ve been following the adventures of the pair as they’ve traveled from their Nob Hill studio to Napa Valley, Chicago, LA, New York City, and Mexico for book signings and parties galore.

The first stop on the book tour was Gump’s in San Francisco, renowned for high-quality home décor, gifts, and other goods.

A destination for shoppers in search of beautiful objects and furniture, Gump’s was a perfect choice to premiere the Fisher Weisman book.

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San Francisco Social Diary: More Spring Events

A fairytale gala kicked off choreographer Christopher Wheeldon’s Cinderella ballet, which opened to rave reviews in San Francisco and next heads to New York’s Lincoln Center.


The San Francisco Ballet closed its 2013 season with a gala event for the U.S. premiere of British choreographer Christopher Wheeldon’s Cinderella.

A collaboration between the San Francisco Ballet and the Dutch National Ballet, the performance was based on the classic folktale with a score by Sergei Prokofiev. It included huge puppets, sets that incorporated video, and costumes by Julian Crouch, whose credits include operas and the Broadway musical The Addams Family.

Wheeldon, who joined the prestigious New York City Ballet corps at 19, began choreographing for the company at 23. He’s won several awards for his work for them and other eminent companies. In 2007, he and dancer Lourdes Lopez co-founded the NYC and London-based ballet company Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company.

Amy Burnett, Stephanie Ejabat, dinner chair Shelby Gans, Suzy Kellems Dominik, Kelli Burrill, Sandy Katzman, Karen Sonneborn, and Elizabeth Fullerton.

Gala co-chair Stephanie Ejabat, designer Riccardo Benavides, and co-chair Suzy Kellems Dominik.

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Shanghai Social Diary: Shanghai Comes to New York

This scene, in a Zhujiajiao garden, is from Chinese composer Tan Dun’s version of the opera The Peony Pavilion. It was recently brought to New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.


I had just returned to New York City from a fall in Shanghai when I was mentally transported back. I was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Fifth Avenue, watching The Peony Pavilion, a 16th century Kunqu opera masterpiece.

The opera was performed in conjunction with the Met’s special exhibition, Chinese Gardens: Pavilions, Studios, Retreats, on display through January 6, 2013.

I first learned about this New York production from Shirley Young, Chair of the US-China Cultural Institute (USCCI), which co-produced the Met performance. Shirley and I were part of a group that attended composer Tan Dun’s staging of The Peony Pavilion in a garden in the ancient water town Zhujiajiao, about an hour’s drive from Shanghai.

The Peony Pavilion being performed in the water town of Zhujiajiao.

The performance in Zhujiajiao took place in an ancient Chinese garden.

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