Pao-Yu Chou, June 28th, 2010


Pao-Yu Chou, June 28th, 2010


In this interview, Pao-Yu Chou shares her experience of growing up in China and how that effected what she got her Ph.D. in and her whole life story.


Detroit Historical Society


Detroit Historical Society




Narrator/Interviewee's Name

Pao-Yu Chou

Brief Biography

Pao-Yu Chou was initially born in China. She has moved around the world from place to place, dealing with the turmoil for most of her life. However, eventually, she ended up settling in Detroit.

Interviewer's Name

Deena Share



Interview Length



Deena Share: The interviewer is Deena Share the interview. Pao-Yu Chou The place is Huntington Woods at the home of Dr. Chou The date is June 28th, 2010. Okay. Thank you for agreeing to this interview. We're going to start with your early life and we have a little interruption. So I'll ask you if you wouldn't mind me asking you again. Sure. Tell me about you were born in Beijing, right? So if you could tell me about your family, your mother, your father.

Pao-Yu Chou: Right. My. My father's family is the descendant of the Ching Dynasty royal family. So we are the descendant of the sSir Chings son of the serve Emperor of the Ching Dynasty. So Ching Dynasty is like a. Everybody in China is a Manchu. Manchu. China has five major nationalities, and there are many, many minor ones. So Manchu is just after Han Han, the majority. So they came from, you know, Manchu come from North and came into China so much. But he was when he was very young, there was this revolution, 1911 revolution. And his parents died also right after. So, Dad, he grew up as an orphan and a very had a very hard life.

Deena Share: So they died in 1911 of natural causes?

Pao-Yu Chou: They died before. Actually, around here on natural causes. I don't know the exact date of their death.

Deena Share: But it wasn't related to the revolution. But that brought down the dynasty?

Pao-Yu Chou: Yes.

Deena Share: So his parents had been part of the royalty?

Pao-Yu Chou: Yes. Yes.

Deena Share: But then when he was orphaned. Yeah. How old did you say he was?

Pao-Yu Chou: Maybe six years old. Yeah. So if you calculate it that way, it was before a revolution. that his parents died.

Deena Share: Mm hmm. And he then was taken in by.

Pao-Yu Chou: By his older brother. Mm hmm. But I don't know whether this is relevant to say or not, but it's interesting because a Manchu, as in nationality, become very weak, especially the royal family becomes very weak. Toward the end of 200 some years, rule of China, because each child, as soon as they are born. He or she is inherited, is formed and d or have a stipend from the from the royal family. So then they didn't have to do any work. So they become very weak and they really do not know how to manage anything undertaken.

Deena Share: After this impact on your father? Was he. Did he grow up in the royal family or because of the revolution? Was there. No.

Pao-Yu Chou: No. No more rule from the royal family. And so he grew up with his older brother. But the point is that the older brother didn't know how to manage. So my father really suffered quite a lot throughout through over his childhood and through all the time when, you know, he had to go to university.

Deena Share: So he was poor.

Pao-Yu Chou: He was very poor,.

Deena Share: When You say suffering you mean physically deprivation. Right.

Pao-Yu Chou: Right.

Deena Share: So what did his brother his brother took care of? Yeah. Right. And what did his brother do to his brother?

Pao-Yu Chou: Didn't really take care of him, you know. That's the point. But they have so much you know, the family has so much older siblings because my grandfather, his father was the governor of a province in China and also is the first president of the Chinese bank. So so they do a very rich in the sense they have lots of lots of as a precious things like, you know, that they could be sold for lots of money to run them, but they never really pay attention to how to sell them. So they greedier so did not have any money. So so my mother's family is blessed.

Deena Share: Just so your father then he went to school.

Pao-Yu Chou: And then when you went to school, he went to university. And he actually graduated from a very famous university. Is the famous university. They're in China called Cheng Hwa University. And that's where he met my mother's brother.

Deena Share: Okay. Now, your father to go to school, was there did he have to pay money or did he pass an exam? How did he manage to get out of the.

Pao-Yu Chou: He actually went to a different school and then he decided that school is not good. So he transferred to Cheng Hwa and here is a taking them to to pass exam to transfer. So his money come from often someone like a distant relative or send him money. But sometimes they the distant relatives, didn't send him money. So he practically will have no no meals during during the day he had nothing to eat. So. So my my uncle, his roommate would not pay for a for your room and board. He would not pay and use him money to buy food to eat. So. So that's sort of really tough. Yeah.

Deena Share: Now let's get your mom's family. your mother's family?

Pao-Yu Chou: Yeah, My mother's family is super rich. My grandfather used to be like, when he was born, he was not very rich, but he grew to. He is very talented. He's a. Indigenous architect. So he's learned all the thing about Chinese architecture. And so so he started owning a lumber yard and all kinds of reasons, including medicine, including coffin, were joking that if he doesn't work and the medicine doesn't cure the patient, they would die and he still have the business to survive the coffin. So he's a very shrewd businessman. And in addition to that, he owns a lot of land. And, you know, addition here that he owns he owns two houses in Beijing. I was it in my uncle who lived in Germany, I think in 1996, I went to see my uncle. My uncle told me that the year after he graduated from high school, he he couldn't get into the college he wanted to. So my grandfather asked him to manage doing some work and wanted to. His job was to collect rents from 100 houses, 100 families. And the whole the whole amount went to support this big family. This big family has about 20 family members. But in addition to Dad, there's 20 or more amazing, amazing servants and chef, chauffeur and artists, cooks. And so much so.

Deena Share: Your mother grew up in a big family. Wealthy family.

Pao-Yu Chou: Very rich.

Deena Share: Did you ever see the house?

Pao-Yu Chou: Yes, I was there. I was in my house.

Deena Share: What was the house like?

Pao-Yu Chou: I was telling Someone that tenant friend actually that when you're young, you see everything is so big. And then if I went back, I went back in 1990. Some, you know, took some people with me to go back ever since I was much smaller. Yeah. But is a huge house is like my mother didn't want to go to school to go to high school, so my grandfather hired a teacher and built her a house because in a complex, big complex, the big complex. Has one big man quite her. I should do some math. There was a map on the internet I printed out. I don't know where he is now, but I can you know, is a big core is to work. As you know, the grandfather and grandmother live. And in addition to big court, there are three smaller courts and a smaller course has houses on for size. This is like a typical Beijing housing have forces for different size and then in the middle always say there's a yard. So you have three of those okay for the children or you know, whatever. And then they have this huge one day they live. And when my grandma, when my uncle went to the university and wanted to play tennis, then he built him a tennis court. And then when he was older and the doctor said, yes, he should have some exercise, he bought build himself a pool house only to play pool. So it was just really, really super rich.

Deena Share: Yeah. How many children were there in that?

Pao-Yu Chou: I think they have six sons and three daughters by all different mothers. He was survived by three wives. like two have died in you entry. He died before his third wife.

Deena Share: So each of those women have children. So that's what they.

Pao-Yu Chou: In addition to the wives No, I think he's wise. He died before. Just before his third wife. And then there was others. Concubines. Then each time, each current, you know, each period he has one wife, one concubine all the time. So whoever dies, he will have another one. So altogether, I think he had three wives or 2 or 3 of the total current occupied.

Deena Share: So when you. Say when he. When one died. When he married the concubine.

Pao-Yu Chou: No, no, no.

Deena Share: Yeah.

Pao-Yu Chou: He would have another wife.

Deena Share: And another concubine, perhaps.

Pao-Yu Chou: Yeah, right, right. It's the same. Yeah. And he marry another one. This is very status symbol. You have to have conquered, right? To be and, you know, belong to the rich. You have to have. So you want to have one? You. Yeah. As if you had 2 or 3, you know.

Deena Share: And everyone would have children. The wives would have children the concubines children and they would all live in this huge complex.

Pao-Yu Chou: Right. Seven sons. Seven three daughters.

Deena Share: Did the sons had multiple having wives and concubines also.

Pao-Yu Chou: No, don't don't the sons generation are it is too modern to have to have that.

Deena Share: So so your mother was where in this grouping of the family? She was she was.

Pao-Yu Chou: A third daughter.

Deena Share: The third daughter. Which wife.

Pao-Yu Chou: Of the third wife.

Deena Share: Of the third.

Pao-Yu Chou: Yeah.

Deena Share: Mm hmm. Right. So now you mentioned that she went to school. Yeah. Did they all go to school?

Pao-Yu Chou: Yeah, they all went to school. And actually, my uncle in the. In Germany said, does it force ankle uncle? And she said that passing the first he and his older brother did was to encourage all the younger, you know, brother and sister to go to boarding schools. So he went to boarding school, My aunt, which is old.

Deena Share: And in China. In Beijing, Yeah.

Pao-Yu Chou: In Beijing or another city boarding school sometime in Tianjin, which is the next city that made them independent. So so they are the generation that had modern education.

Deena Share: And the girls too. Or was your.

Pao-Yu Chou: My my mother didn't go. My aunt did go. So only one girl went to this high school, you know, born in high school and then maybe some college. But but the boys, you know, the second and the fours, they were doing really well. And then there's others, you know.

Deena Share: The kinds of things. And they study when they went to school.

Pao-Yu Chou: When they went there. So the school system at that time is very western it's, the same, you know, six year elementary school, three year junior high and three year high school. My second uncle actually, you know, my my cousin, you know, in Beijing right now we're we can become good friends. She's the daughter of my second uncle. And the second uncle came to the United States 1 to 1 now, and she's an engineer.

Deena Share: So they didn't just stay, right?

Pao-Yu Chou: Yeah, that's right. And my fourth unlce went to Germany.

Deena Share: Okay, So before we leave that, I want to go back to your father a moment. Mm hmm. Did you ever see where he lived? Just to see the contrast. You don't know what the condition is over.

Pao-Yu Chou: I mean, the whole Dennis, it was over. Yeah. Yeah.

Deena Share: So the circumstances that he lived in, you don't know what you look like. Then back to your mother's family. What happened to the wealth of that family?

Pao-Yu Chou: What happened was when my grandfather died. Finally, they divided up among older children. Mm hmm. Or, you know, children. So.

Deena Share: Did your grandfather die after most of the children were educated?

Pao-Yu Chou: Yeah, right. So. So they all have their was pretty, pretty good. They even though the the girls, the daughters also had shared the property. So my mother had three houses, one for each of us, you know, the three children. Right. So those houses. Oh, they have he she still have the deeds. And after the reform, you know, they want to return to his. This after talking to the water reform. They want to reward, you know, those people who have the property. So my father my mother gave one of the houses to my six uncle and he got some money back. It was taken over, you know. So they have people living there. You know, right away, my father, my grandfather's old house, there were 5 or 6 family living in their compound.

Deena Share: So when? Today?

Pao-Yu Chou: Yeah. You know, when I want to see it in the 1990s. You know, 6 or 7 families lived there. Yeah.

Deena Share: All right. So we have your father is comes from a distinguished family who had been part of the royalty but now but not in good circumstances. So he's quite impoverished. And your mother comes from a very different family. She's wealthy from a wealthy family. Now, tell me, how did they meet?

Pao-Yu Chou: So my my father's roommate is my mother's older brother. And I'm sort of I am not a sort of I'm really grateful for the first revolution, 1911 revolution, because without that revolution, my father, my mother couldn't have gotten married because the my marching royal family cannont, Can not Marry Han Man can Marry hann is okay, but the royal family cannot.

Deena Share: And you're your mother's family.

Pao-Yu Chou: Were HanRight? So we cannot marry.

Deena Share: Without the revolution.

Pao-Yu Chou: Right.

Deena Share: But it's also somewhat unlikely that they would meet. Right. Because of the education. Right. Then what did your father go to Was was there a particular area like we had in the state that he went to school in? Did he go to school for engineering or.

Pao-Yu Chou: Yeah, he went to. He should have he should have major in English because he's English actually was there. So his life was supported by his English and knowledge in English and he's good in literature and so was. But instead he went to economics and he really so after he finished university and he went to England and wrote into this economic program, you know, that most of the people who came, the students from China are the top students because there's a scholarship. And so he also went there and he could finish his master's.

Deena Share: Why do you think he chose economics?

Pao-Yu Chou: I don't know. I think he those kind of jobs are more he after he graduated from university, he went to work for a bank. But but the job wasn't too good. So I'm not sure what was the motivation for him to go to to to take an economics. But it was a mistake, I think. The second thing is I'm grateful for the second revolution.

Deena Share: What was the time of that revolution.

Pao-Yu Chou: Say in 1949 49 the communists took over China. Because without that revolution, I would be I would have been very rich and very spoiled and probably wouldn't do anything, useful in my life.

Deena Share: So you see the first revolution. And so allowing your father, getting your father out of the restrictions of marriage. Yeah. So he can marry in the second revolution, you see, as something that gave more moral fiber.

Pao-Yu Chou: So you become I mean, I was in Taiwan and we moved to Taiwan later. I was there. Yeah.

Deena Share: Okay, good.

Pao-Yu Chou: Yeah. Yeah. But you're either. I'm just like any other people, you know? I'm not rich. I'm not. I don't have. I didn't have the privileges of the super rich.

Deena Share: Yeah. But, but your your parents did.

Pao-Yu Chou: they have to adjust?

Deena Share: Yes.

Pao-Yu Chou: Yes. That's that's that's the thing about revolution. You have to adjust afterwards.

Deena Share: Now, your mother wasn't didn't go to school, but her brother went to school and that's how. And you're the brother introduced your mother to your father, Right. And why did he do?

Pao-Yu Chou: My mother did go to school, to a high school, and I didn't go to university.

Deena Share: So it's at the university that the two rivals. Right. Okay. And what what did you ever hear stories about that meeting or what?

Pao-Yu Chou: Right. My my my uncle was a really good man and he worried about my father. So in the summer, he asked my father to go to my mother's family to become tutor of. Oh, his nephews. Mm hmm. So by doing that, you know, he. My father went to their family, you know, to the big family and got to know my mother. But the motivation, all my grandmother to marry my mother to my father was because there's no in laws. And he she saw that if if my mother had to live under in laws she couldn't make, she couldn't have make.

Deena Share: Was your mother Very headstrong.

Pao-Yu Chou: Very well. My mother. Very weak and very I mean just pampered by the money. And a very I think she could do anything she wanted, mostly even though they have pretty strict rules, family rules. But for instance, she will have a dress made by a tailor and she made to tailor take the dress back many times. And I just I just and, you know, it's just like a rich family's privileged woman, you know, that that my grandfather, grandmother especially, was worried as she could.

Deena Share: And so that she went into a typical family and she there would be expectation for her.

Pao-Yu Chou: Right. She was strict. She had to serve tea to the in-laws. She has to do this. And therefore, the in-laws, you know, but not that, you know.

Deena Share: So how did the two young people at that time, your father and mother, feel about the match?

Pao-Yu Chou: They had no idea, you know, what they were doing, really.

Deena Share: They were told to by the family, by, well, your mother's family. Right. Make the match. Right. And that's how I started. It wasn't a love match.

Pao-Yu Chou: Or I think they, you know. Did you just see this someone for the first time? My mother was beautiful when she was young. So you could say you do. Fell in love with it, you know? But this is such a bad match, okay? Because immediately my my grandfather's family gave my mother a house in the same room as their area. Right. They owned the whole hotel. The whole ally So they have a house and then they have, you know, maids and so forth. Then my father's salary couldn't support. So that's the beginning of the trouble is financial trouble, you know. So they moved away to Shanghai at some point and then they came back and then the Japanese came that was very hard because my father decided not to work for the Japanese. So he had no job for eight years.

Deena Share: But now what time period is?

Pao-Yu Chou: Is 19 1945 is the end of the war is eight years, 1936 or 37 somewhere.

Deena Share: So at this point he had been to England and been back?

Pao-Yu Chou: Yes, yeah.

Deena Share: So he.

Pao-Yu Chou: Had no Job.

Deena Share: And he was in economics. It didn't work out right. Your mother was with him?

Pao-Yu Chou: No, my mother stayed.

Deena Share: They were married?

Pao-Yu Chou: Yeah, they were married. Mothers stay in Beijing in the house with the two of them. My brother was born, and my. Myself and my brother was, well, born. And they. I think it was my mother's family's money. Send him to England. You know all this. Become my mother. Feel very ashamed now. He didn't even have a job for all these years. So. And then so point when you talk about the money. Remember I said the people divided after that, You know, that's before they divided up. My mother needed the money, so they were giving us every month some money to live on. And they would just road wrote it down to say, you know, from your whatever your share is, this will be deducted. But my mother felt very shameful.

Deena Share: Were there arguments in the family?.

Pao-Yu Chou: Yes all the time totally.

Deena Share: What did your mother want your father to do?

Pao-Yu Chou: She wanted him to earn money, you know.

Deena Share: Did she want What kind of job or how did she what did she want him to do differently than.

Pao-Yu Chou: To have to have a job? You know, But my I guess anywhere but because of the Japanese occupation. So he didn't want to. But he kept also, in addition to he didn't have a job. He came on getting into this business deals and that's never work out He he wants to make money and never really work Well.

Deena Share: What would be an example?

Pao-Yu Chou: I see I remember something about buying pork or something that never really worked out, you know, So.

Deena Share: He might he used the money, but it didn't turn out well. Right. And they were being supported by her father. Right. Right. And so there were a lot of arguments What else do you remember about your early childhood?

Pao-Yu Chou: Last arguments I told you about. I never knew what's going to happen. Well, that would be yelling Oh, yeah.

Deena Share: More than yelling?

Pao-Yu Chou: Yeah. Then my mother went into this hysterical stage, and, you know, nobody can come her down. And it would just. It was trauma. And with.

Deena Share: Her, her mother come to.

Pao-Yu Chou: No she. She died a long time ago. Yeah.

Deena Share: And your father? What would he do when your mother was hysterical?

Pao-Yu Chou: I sing. I sing Well, my father's personality become. After all, this suffering during his use is that he will just endure it and then ignore it, ignore and endure. I don't think he ever really attempted to solve the problem. You know, so and so that just makes things worse.

Deena Share: Yeah.

Pao-Yu Chou: But as soon as the end of the war, he went to work.

Deena Share: Okay. So what does he do at the end of the war?

Pao-Yu Chou: He went to work for a cement companies. And you say? I think it's a. Is a private company making cement and also exporting cement. And that was in different city, you know, another city. So we moved to the city.

Deena Share: Was he doing physical labor?

Pao-Yu Chou: No, no, he was doing English. His English, you know, he always depend on his English. I say.

Deena Share: So was he translating?

Pao-Yu Chou: He's writing letters and, you know, is doing all this, you know. Yeah.

Deena Share: And so at this time, there were the three of you then your brother, yourself and your sister.

Pao-Yu Chou: Right.

Deena Share: Now. And you were the middle of the family.

Pao-Yu Chou: No, I'm the oldest. You're the oldest? Mm hmm.

Deena Share: So you. Your brother and your sister? Mm hmm. Now, had the revolution had not happened?

Pao-Yu Chou: No. No. Okay.

Deena Share: So you leave the. Family leaves the. The.

Pao-Yu Chou: Beijing

Deena Share: And leaves Beijing. And goes to where?

Pao-Yu Chou: Cheinjinh China. It's a small city.

Deena Share: And you stay there for very long.

Pao-Yu Chou: We stayed here for a period of time for maybe, I think, two years where my father went to Gwangju, you know, south. Mm hmm. Because the communist sent him there. And then also he went to the Philippines. So it was the companies send him there. So he was.

Deena Share: How old were you at?

Pao-Yu Chou: I was the first grade there. First grade.

Deena Share: What do you remember about that time period? Was it happier than I think?

Pao-Yu Chou: What happened in my family is that my my father favor me and my mother favor my brother. So why were my fathers, you know, in town or, you know, living with us? My brother didn't do very well. I know when my father left, I really felt, you know, I wasn't I wasn't, like, you know, very rebelling kind of move as far as you move to a different city, go to a new school. And I didn't like the city. I didn't like the school. So.

Deena Share: So you didn't do well. I do.

Pao-Yu Chou: I do. Yeah. Uh huh.

Deena Share: Yeah. So then. Then you stayed there a couple of years, and then what happens after that?

Pao-Yu Chou: Then my father came back, supposedly to get us out of Beijing, out of Cheching Because at that time, communists were coming. So. But when he came back, it was too, too close to come. Was already approaching.

Deena Share: Was there a fear in your family about becoming?

Pao-Yu Chou: I think they were. They were fear. I would I didn't know anything. So they were I.

Deena Share: You think they were fearful of what would happen to their circumstances. Yeah.

Pao-Yu Chou: My father my mother especially, is very, very fearful. Yeah.

Deena Share: And the family still owned quite a bit of property. Yes. Yeah. Yeah. So what happens?

Pao-Yu Chou: So what happens? I remember. We couldn't go. All our luggage were already in the port, you know, at the port. So for. For taekwondo, you know, as a port. So we. We couldn't go because, you know, these to commies are coming. So when the communists did come, we Beijing didn't have any battles because the Beijing's mayors surrendered to to preserve the very old things. And all the changing had battles in the in the out in the street. So I remember being just big noises of of gunshots and, you know, whatever. And so we hid under the table. So in case there's some kind of, you know, for the family to go. Police will come in and so forth. And so. So after the after that happened, my all the mess, I guess it does. And we only have one male left. Nobody in the family knows how to raise fire. That means we can't we couldn't eat, you know. So I learned from some way distant relative to how to raise fire.

Deena Share: So what is raised fire.

Pao-Yu Chou: I mean, started fire.

Deena Share: One in Manchester.

Pao-Yu Chou: And Nicole.

Deena Share: Okay. Yeah.

Pao-Yu Chou: Would matches and coal that you you went to is a coal burning coal. So I did that and I did that was already like I was just, ah, after grade school, I would just. I graduate from grade school. So I raised the fire and made tea and that's really the beginning of me being the really important member of the family. Right. So, so I think both my parents depended on me a lot.

Deena Share: So it would be you who would go get food and cook?

Pao-Yu Chou: Well, I'll be the one that mostly, you know, doing this sort of thing. But then my mother and took us, the children, to live with my fourth uncle in Beijing because we rented a place, rented a place intending to downstairs of a big house. And then the army, the Liberation Army came and stayed part of it. So my mother was very nervous. So so she took us, three of us, to Beijing and stayed with my uncle.

Deena Share: Before that, you would have had maids or someone. who would do all of that, right? And as soon as the Communists came in, then you no longer would have that.

Pao-Yu Chou: Right.

Deena Share: Yeah. So you say you went to live with the uncle.

Pao-Yu Chou: To your family and My father? Alone stay in the house. Uh huh.

Deena Share: And then what happens?

Pao-Yu Chou: Then they decided to leave. Okay? They decided to leave, and my parents do so. So we left. We left China taking a boat. A ship? My father talked to the company about going south again, you know, But he didn't understand that His boss told him, If you leave, you wouldn't have a job. So we went to Hong Kong, the boat, you know, then I mean.

Deena Share: To leave because your parents were afraid?

Pao-Yu Chou: Yeah, yeah, yeah. My mother, they continue to be paranoid.

Deena Share: What did she think? Would happened?

Pao-Yu Chou: She didn't know what to expect. You know, she. All this propaganda about Communists bad, and, you know, she. You're just afraid.

Deena Share: Yeah. Yeah.

Pao-Yu Chou: Yeah.

Deena Share: So? Well, maybe you only digress a moment. What happened to the family who did stay.

Pao-Yu Chou: Who did stay my fourth uncle who married German. Yeah. My. My aunt is a German. They moved to Shanghai because there are two famous in Beijing. So don't come with the Shanghai. Later they left. Okay. But before they left, life was as normal. They were doing. They were. They were in the embassy embassies and they were doing a dirty dancing party. Do have they have like going to see Beijing Peking Opera. And my uncle has some connection with Germany. So. So he did he do some s for importing business so so they were fine. And it's interesting.

Deena Share: They're through the Cultural Revolution.

Pao-Yu Chou: And they're saying that they left just before the country revolution and only when the country was in came people's life change, people of their class, you know, life change. And I don't know how you know about this book called life and death in Shanghai is by woman very, you know, well known I think his her husband was ambassador or something. I mean, they have really high very high position. So while he was she was writing was after the revolution with the country revolution started. Yeah. And that's one day don't didn't have any.

Deena Share: Did you have any family there at that time?

Pao-Yu Chou: Yes my my uncle.

Deena Share: And and did their cicumstances change?

Pao-Yu Chou: Yeah. But before I finished I said that this woman was the house guest of my grandfather family. So they are very close connected, all upper class. Very close connected. So my say her uncle was very happy were and enthusicatic about. With the revolution and work for the revolution allowed and work for a new government. Because his field is engineer since mechanical engineer. So he did really, really well until the Cultural Revolution. His wife has some kind of connection. So take a wrongly accused. I mean their family guy. So they didn't like cutrual revolution

Deena Share: Yeah. So their material goods were taken away and they.

Pao-Yu Chou: I think along their house. No, they didn't they didn't know they were seeing some other things are taken away.

Deena Share: Was there any concern about your father's side of the family since he had been from royalty?

Pao-Yu Chou: No, because his his sister was well known for his one revolution over and removed.

Deena Share: All right. So the family goes because of fear. What could happen to Hong Kong? Yeah. Then what happened.

Pao-Yu Chou: To Hong Kong We've turned out there's no job for my father. So my father went to the Philippines and we went to Taiwan to stay with my aunt. My second and in time was in Taiwan. So the three. The four of us, the three children and my mother stay in one room there until my father returned from the Philippines.

Deena Share: Yeah, Yeah. And so he comes to Taiwan and still, again, the kind of jobs that he can get are related to English.

Pao-Yu Chou: Right into.

Deena Share: Administration.

Pao-Yu Chou: Right? Right. He was teaching English in high school and his salary is very, very low. And then he got better jobs right here.

Deena Share: So he comes to Taiwan and that's in your family lives there for quite some time. But you leave at some point from Taiwan to go to school.

Pao-Yu Chou: Yeah, from [City Names] from another city to go to university because I really don't didn't want to stay home. The same kind of problem continues causing argument. Yeah. And your mother continued In my family, Yeah.

Deena Share: Now, you had been responsible. You had taken the role of someone who gets right things done right. Did that continue then, when you were in high school?

Pao-Yu Chou: In high school, yes, but not when I was away.

Deena Share: I went, Who takes over that.

Pao-Yu Chou: Sort of nobody, you know. So that's that's why it's so tough. Tough on my sister. And yes, for my sister, not so much for my brother because my brother left, too, because he's just one year behind me. So then only my sister.

Deena Share: So you go to college and your brother goes to the same place.

Pao-Yu Chou: Right?

Deena Share: And what city is that?

Pao-Yu Chou: That's where you visited? Yeah.

Deena Share: And you go to school in economics?

Pao-Yu Chou: I went in. as a biology major, and I didn't like it at all. So transfer to for economics.

Deena Share: Yeah. And what happens after college for you? Or do my father then at that point.

Pao-Yu Chou: Yeah. Yeah. My father always wanted me to come to the United States. Always. So he applied schools for me here. Right. I need is to sign because his English is very good. I think the school is mistaken. I know. So. So. First year

Deena Share: And you have a special relationship with your father, right? So if he wanted you to do that.

Pao-Yu Chou: Yeah. I didn't know what to do myself. I knew was fine with you in high school. I keep my thinking a day that will do something about producing a lot of food for everybody. And then that was funny because now I was into this entire genetic engineer sees. But at that time I was thinking, oh will be good to have this big tomato growing, you know, so was and the reason I went to biology there's a twist there become a biology major is because I decided this this society's too dirty is to corrupt. I don't want I want to go to I want to learn some skill so I can plant gardens and garden and sell. So flowers. That's all I wanted for my life is to be able to to stay isolated away from the society.

Deena Share: What did you think was so bad about?

Pao-Yu Chou: Okay, because now.

Deena Share: You're in Taiwan. Yeah. Is that what you're thinking about? Taiwan? Not about.

Deena Share: No. No. Okay. So what was so what was it for?

Pao-Yu Chou: Is, is, for instance, I, I was upset when people do not stand in line to get on busses, I will have to say stay in line. You know, they just didn't listen to me and whatever seems that is in school with our you know you just follow certain rules. People are good but the society is different. So I just. I just. I was disgusted by you.

Deena Share: I thought the society wasn't good. It was rude. Yeah.

Pao-Yu Chou: Yeah. Did you hear about corruption of women, You know? Yeah.

Deena Share: You know, and as a biology major.

Pao-Yu Chou: No, I was going to. Majoring in. What kind of thing? Yeah. Yeah. Right, right, right. So that.

Deena Share: You could.

Pao-Yu Chou: Open it. Yeah.

Deena Share: For who? Who were the good people?

Pao-Yu Chou: Flowers. Flowers. Not just flowers. So just go somewhere, you know that I don't have anything to do with the society. And it turned out that was exactly the opposite. Yeah. Okay. So when the exam goes to a, B, c, c, it's just this field. I wanted to go in to prepare my exam for that. Yeah, but then I decided, Oh, I really want to leave home. Uh huh. So I read the C. C. group. So I couldn't go to the A's signs, you know? And so was B is literature and English and philosophy. C is how is it biology? And, you know, so. So I had to go to the biology department in Donghai. I decided because there's someone come from Donghai cause how nice it was. I was just really excited to leave home. So I went, you know, I just went. I had to take that test. And I was the first in that, in that department, you know, So. And I was first. Ever since economics. Every year I was first. And I really needed to be first because to have the scholarship, yeah, I have full scholarship for four years.

Deena Share: So I think I'm not quite clear on where you did the you did the C level test. Yeah. And you win in the Clevel when you.

Pao-Yu Chou: Don't high, which only one diploma which is Biologoy there and but we.

Deena Share: Had. So you were not at home then. No, no, no. You're living on campus, Right?

Pao-Yu Chou: On campus. And I saw I was there by my. Okay. And then we had this liberal arts general education. So we took all kinds of things in social science, science and humanities and so forth.

Deena Share: What so what year was.

Pao-Yu Chou: 1960? 19. 1956.

Deena Share: Uh huh.

Pao-Yu Chou: I have opportunity to, to, to go to all these different classes. And I decided economics very logical. I wanted to go political science. And I said, oh, that's very dirty again. And, you know, I my, my, my, I cannot go to work. I just have to go to economics. And I really liked it.

Deena Share: Okay. So then you graduate with economics as yoyr Major Field.

Pao-Yu Chou: My major field I know is as the only. Ah. Yeah. They only have two.

Deena Share: Scholarship.

Pao-Yu Chou: To to have their science and science and then they have the other non science. And so you have two schools and I was in science I number one. Uh huh. Graduate.

Deena Share: Now at this point. Ah do you what are your friends like? Had you met the.

Pao-Yu Chou: Yeah. I met my, my husband and our future husband. So from, I think freshman would become very involved. Uh huh. So for years in Donghai, my, my my father applied me. I got a scholarship and junior. So Marquette university, my county.

Deena Share: Marquette my. This is how you finish your four years. This is for graduate study?

Pao-Yu Chou: Right, Right. But before I graduated, my father Economy scholarship in Marquette University.

Deena Share: So in economics was fine for you and I.

Pao-Yu Chou: But after I also have school in New Hampshire, so I'm kind of square. I forgot the question here was, do you want to bring your own horses? You want to do you want to bring your own horse? So here is where is your and, you know. Right. Do you have. So anyway, I decided on Marquette but I didn't pass the examination to go abroad that year.

Deena Share: Okay.

Pao-Yu Chou: Yeah. And the reason I didn't pass is, you know, economics. I said that question was wrong, which was wrong. And and so I got, you know.

Deena Share: Part of the.

Pao-Yu Chou: Grade. So anyway, I was become I become the assistance of the department for a year. And then I came.

Deena Share: All right. So then did your father apply again?

Pao-Yu Chou: Yeah. Yeah, right.

Deena Share: And to be Yeah. and applied to Brendon for you right now. You had been going with your to be has been. And were you did you plan.

Pao-Yu Chou: Yeah. Yeah. I was.

Deena Share: Going to go and was he going to go away with?

Pao-Yu Chou: He was going to go away. But then he didn't come until two years later. Okay. Yeah.

Deena Share: So you get into more and more with us. We'll show.

Pao-Yu Chou: You how. Birmar has five Asian scholars scholarships for five different countries. And I was one of the Asian scholars.

Deena Share: For Taiwan or for China.

Pao-Yu Chou: Taiwan, Hong Kong. And, you know.

Deena Share: Now there were that gap. I want to quickly now go to when you come to Bryn Mawr, and I do want you to tell us the story of when you arrived. But before that, the things were happening in China. You know, there had been the revolution in where you're thinking about this.

Pao-Yu Chou: No, we know we knew absolutely nothing about China.

Deena Share: Were you curious? Were you did you want to know and couldn't get information or what you say?

Pao-Yu Chou: We were so brainwashed. I don't even think that we were curious. We just believe everything. I was told to us that China was crashing. Any meanness. They were eating primark's people was coming out to come back. And we had to go back to to save the people in China. All that the whole campaign of, you know.

Deena Share: But your. Family, again, did. Not want to go back. Your mother.

Pao-Yu Chou: Oh, nobody wants to go back. Nobody in Taiwan wants to go back because I was just, you know. So did you.

Deena Share: Feel relieved that you had gotten out? Was that the feeling in the family? Was it?

Pao-Yu Chou: I have no. I was just taken by my My my parents always who was happy they'd gone out. You and my mother died. My father's talked at the funeral, said that he was grateful to my mother because she insisted on coming out.

Deena Share: All right, So now. Have you ever flown?

Pao-Yu Chou: No, I never flown.

Deena Share: You've taken ships to go from one place to another?

Pao-Yu Chou: Yeah, this one time. One time.

Deena Share: So this is your first airplane ride, right? And tell us about.

Pao-Yu Chou: Okay, we have this very cheap airfare. Airfare. So so we went from Taiwan and we had to fill in Honolulu. When we were stopped to fill. They said one engine is four engine, you know, four popllers . Airprint And is it one engine is not moving where I have to repair it. So they were repairing it or repairing it Like after eight hours, they said, okay, I don't think we can get it done today. So. So we're sending into a motel. So it's our hotel. We went to stay until the next days when we got on the plane again and then to it went to Oakland, California. You know, I was supposed to see this friend. I don't know why I stopped really was not a good, good, you know, planning because you don't I didn't have any experience. So I was supposed to see this friend and she lived in Palo Alto, so I was in open air airport. Still to this day, I don't know how I got to Palo Alto. I did was a bus. I took a bus from Oakland to.

Deena Share: How was your English.

Pao-Yu Chou: bad.

Deena Share: Bad.

Pao-Yu Chou: Okay. And you can I can understand what a lot of speakers was talking about.

Deena Share: and your about 22.

Pao-Yu Chou: 22 or 23. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So, so then finally I got there and she said, I cannot come to pick you up. So you had to take a taxi. So I took a taxi to her house and then she, she sent me to another Friend. I'm going across the United States from California. And you stop in Texas and you stop in Chicago. Okay. In Chicago, you again broke down. So. So, so. So we're supposed to fly to New York City and then fly. Philadelphia. So they said, okay, we're going to fly the New York City and we're going to let you off in our Guardia Airport, and that's it. So you do your own, you know. So I was it was just two guys. One is a a Navy person who who just, you know, was in a very short time when we were airframe broke down in Chicago. Chicago. He was holding and kissing some. This is somebody, you know, And then an Army guy was very, very, you know, indifferent, you know, just very cold in the air. So I'm supposed to go with two of them from the airport to the Port Authority.

Deena Share: Okay.

Pao-Yu Chou: And then take the bus to Philadelphia. So I did what I did then. And then they gave us some money. So we went to the.

Deena Share: They sort of look out for you or not?

Pao-Yu Chou: Not really. I had to hone my, my, my suitcase and everything, so. So then so we're in New York and we're going to. About where you got after, you know, the street here. And I was waiting inside because it's like 4:00 in the morning. They say you cannot go out, is too dangerous, you know, so forth. And then by five something 5:20, I remember I said, I have to go. So I just left. I just left in a taxi to the train station. And then when you got the transit, I couldn't believe how old the train was. It was so old, you know, It was. The first train is in a new take on New York. So I got there on the train and one, two, Brimah.

Deena Share: You would've been traveling for a week or so.

Pao-Yu Chou: A long time. For a few, 3 or 4 days, you know? Yeah. I mean, if you add other travel is a long time, you know, it's ten days I think.

Deena Share: Yeah. So you get to Brimah and you get to a dormitory. Yeah. Or you stay with a family.

Pao-Yu Chou: A dormitory.

Deena Share: Dormitory.

Pao-Yu Chou: All right. So it was an interesting thing because there are lots of different nationalities from Japan, you know, from Italy, from, you know, just very, very international.

Deena Share: And your study was in economics. So what do you remember about that period?

Pao-Yu Chou: And now I'm trying to write the period until I was really okay. I read a writing that is intensive. You just study and study and study. And then I have two classes, one class. I was the only student, the other class, another student, and I just wanted to. Mack Math Micro has. Well, I was the only student the macro was to you know to students macroeconomics. Yeah yeah this to serious for the more first year and I just study and study and study. So what I do is in the morning you eat breakfast and then you, you know, go to the library and study and then go to just two classes a week. Yeah. So the rest of the time you just study. And then after dinner you go back to the library and study more and then come back like ten, 11. And I remember so. So they have milk. So you drink the meal and the people complain about the food. But to me that's just like every every meal is a feast. You know, this is because we really never had enough to eat in. at university people growing, you know, still. And we just didn't have if you're eating dinner at five, by the time you go to bed, you're just in a bed hungry. You just go to bed.

Deena Share: And this was different.

Pao-Yu Chou: Yeah.

Deena Share: And the English is just here and.

Pao-Yu Chou: You just gradually come along. Yeah. And I lied to the teacher who teaches me micro. So all he's doing, he's sitting there and he asked me questions so I have to explain everything to him on the floor in his office. And then so I'll practice my English with graphs. It was everything. So and I did really well. So I was supposed to have I mean, you first year you have a scholarship and then to see how well you do get a second year scoloarship you and then they say you have to finish your Ph.D. We don't want to you just to have your master's degree. So so they first the third year they gave me a assistantship so I didn't have any.

Deena Share: You had enough money because of the scholarship. You know, you had enough money and you.

Pao-Yu Chou: Not quiet So I had to babysit. Mm hmm. Yeah.

Deena Share: Were you corresponding with your family?

Pao-Yu Chou: Yeah, Right. Yeah.

Deena Share: At some point, your. Your politics became more radical. And your views about economics was that in the Brian Moore period it has.

Pao-Yu Chou: It started there. I live was this first year. I was in a dorm the second year and it was two ladies. So these two ladies were progressive. There were there. Progressive. They were missionary to China. Missionary to China. So they know China. So I stay with them for a year and a year, I think, is just when the civil rights movement is getting really started and their views are very progressive. They said.

Deena Share: They would talk and they asked if over.

Pao-Yu Chou: All the time, I'll.

Deena Share: Talk to you.

Pao-Yu Chou: Right. We talk at breakfast, which I one time we have a meal, we talk, and then day one I read one obviously is already retired, but they were together to high mistresses of supreme school which is a very, very wealthy private groceries boarding school. But but the other one, Miss Spear, still was the head mistress. And but she would talk in the comment, you know, like graduated. She said, no, you don't want a a membership in the in the country country club you don't does now you will go he will show and talk to them about and then sure do organize the the rich girls to tutor in the city in Philadelphia. So that was I think the beginning of.

Deena Share: You were opposed to those ideas. You didn't object to them?

Pao-Yu Chou: You know, I don't know. I learned. I know. I know. There's oh, there's this way. But yeah, the same time you see all these things happening to. I couldn't believe that that's America. I, I knew before I came. I had known before I came for instance in the Hollywood movies. You just see America being this ideal country and is very democratic, is very I mean, everybody you and I just couldn't stand it. When you see the right magazine, I remember has this policeman using the hose to fire, fire hose, to hose down people that most Americans, especially African-Americans and foreign dad was anti-Vietnam War, you know, So and then the student movement. So those have strong impact on me. Then on top of it, I was reading about China and Chinese history, and then they all came together and then the culture revolution. So all this have impact on me.

Deena Share: What happens after Brian Moore after you get your Ph.D.

Pao-Yu Chou: I didn't get my Ph.D Yeah, I just passed exams from four 4 to 3 three. I finish all my courses and pass my exams and then my and by that time came de she, he came in 1963.

Deena Share: To study?

Pao-Yu Chou: To go to Massachusetts University of Massachusetts. So after I finished to the 71 year after he came, I quit Brimoore and I didn't quit. I just you know, I'm going to finish my dissertation later. Oh, I didn't finish my exam. I didn't take the prelims yet. So I went to Massachusetts and got married and didn't make.

Deena Share: Did you the dissertation or.

Pao-Yu Chou: You know, I didn't know. I only I didn't even take my premium. So I went to Massachusetts and started working as a know library assistant. I was bored, you know, very bored. But anyway, he only stayed here another year. So we stayed here one year and then we moved down to New York City because he couldn't finish his study. He wasn't, you know, they wouldn't going to give him support. So we went to New York. We went to New York City. He was working and I was working.

Deena Share: What were you both working?

Pao-Yu Chou: He was working in your lab? Yeah, Columbia University Research lab. I actually, I before I started working, I passed my prelims. I used to about summer to study for my prelims. And I went back to Brima my pass and all my prelims. And then I started working for Tax Foundation in Rockefeller Plaza. I worked there until my professor, the one who taught me Mirco from Mirco, got a grant at the University of Pennsylvania, was another faculty there. And so they want me to do research work for them. So that will be in Baltimore. And my husband wanted to go back to school, so we moved to Baltimore. That's before the children were born. Okay, So so I was doing the research work there. It had to. Research is just ridiculous is like offers economic opportunities. Remember the anti-poverty programs and they're designing this is the questionaires and the question your design designed in such a way to find out why people are employed and by the questionaires So bias I think, you know, in terms of. So do they assume that people were quote, is because they were too nervous in their job interview. So the question will be, when you are into your job, are you sweat as much as you do or sweat more than you do? You know? Right. That kind of question. And the lady who designing power is part of the designing of this woman's question. Here is a, you know, faculty in University of Pennsylvania. This is a University of Pennsylvania. You said I said I think we should see what you research. You see where the people, the children go. I come to school with breakfast. I mean, sometimes, you know, and he she said, my my children don't go, go. I want you to go to school without breakfast. So thats thats irrelevant. So just that kind of attitude. Yeah. Yeah. So, so then I started having children. I said, okay, you know, is time for children. So I started, I got pregnant and I had diarrhea. And all through those years I was trying to write my dissertation.

Deena Share: And I see this is in Baltimore, Okay, so you stay there for about how long?

Pao-Yu Chou: So from 60, 1967 or 68, 67, 69, Talyah was born Yeah, 72. Dorian was born. And then we left 72.

Deena Share: To come to Detroit?

Pao-Yu Chou: No, to Nashville, Tennessee, because my ex-husband got his degree. His Ph.d to wenderville to be able to get to do a post-doctorate. Okay. So I followed him to Nashville, Tennessee. So after three years of post-doctorate, he needed a job. And by that time, I'm about to finish my dissertation. So he came. We came to Detroit.

Deena Share: What was your dissertation on? What was. What was the area?

Pao-Yu Chou: Milk.

Deena Share: Distribution.

Pao-Yu Chou: Milk production, huh? Yeah. I wanted to do a simple thing about the government has a price and corn programs supporting the price of milk. Yeah, my. I only had my conclusion. Okay. The conclusion is big farmer. The subsidy to the farmer is according to how much milk they produce. So the big farmer gets a lot of subsidy. The small farmers do not do that. And the same time the milk prices went up. It hurts the poor more than everybody else. So that's what I already had the conclusion. But you had to do a lot of others to do so.

Deena Share: And so but it's interesting, the area once again about the inequity. Yes. So you already were thinking.

Pao-Yu Chou: Oh, definitely. Oh, by that time we already have out. We have in New York City home. We're staying. We started our study group about China about communes and we started that. We were reeducated ourselves. We really did. We had groups of people, you know, young, mostly from graduate student from Taiwan.

Deena Share: So that. Really started in New.

Pao-Yu Chou: York. Yes, New York started in New York.

Deena Share: I mean, you had a Brianmoore There had been something that. Right. A group you.

Pao-Yu Chou: Started and you.

Deena Share: Pretty much stayed together and continued to.

Pao-Yu Chou: And even though we meet, we moved to America and still there. Yeah.

Deena Share: What about when you moved to Detroit then you.

Pao-Yu Chou: I mean to after that we moved to Tennessee. That's too far. Yeah, but we still do. I started writing. I started writing articles.

Deena Share: About travel?

Pao-Yu Chou: Magazines for different issues in the in this very primitive way of producing magazines, you know. But, but it's interesting because almost all campuses have Chinese students writing articles and producing magazines very widespread. So we had this magazine and I was writing articles and, you know, so that's really began began.

Deena Share: At Vanderbilt. You did that, too. Where you were?

Pao-Yu Chou: Yeah, I did already. And and in Detroit I did more.

Deena Share: How did you find a group here in Detroit? I don't have a group. You were just writing for the magazine. And and the motions were between New York and Taiwan.

Pao-Yu Chou: Or, you know, Moses, a friend I had, you know, in New York City who recently, died. He has some groups there. You know, he always have some kind of magazine going. So I was always writing. I would more after I moved to move to to Detroit. Yeah.

Deena Share: So if you think back just when we were talking today where, you know, when you were back in, yeah, youth that was all like behind you. And then it was when you got to New York. That if China became.

Pao-Yu Chou: Again very.

Deena Share: Important and therefore, since that time, it's been a major. Interest.

Pao-Yu Chou: But it's not just China. It's a world. This is a world. Every country, including this one, is just very important. Yeah.

Deena Share: Yeah. Well, I think our time is about up. But how would you characterize when you say the world? How would you?

Pao-Yu Chou: I think I've become a Marxist. I'm. I have to throw away everything I learned in graduate school. That's that's the hardest thing is to actually clean it up. Mhm. The bourgeois. We call you economics though. And read and ah. And when I first came to the try, the first time to hang in there was I didn't have to work, I was still married. I have to work in summer school. So this summer I spend study on all the time studying, especially the six weeks before the children got out of school. Have six weeks. I just study intensively, you know. So. So I think I'm always.




“Pao-Yu Chou, June 28th, 2010,” Detroit Historical Society Oral History Archive, accessed July 14, 2024,

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