The NMAAHC, The Dream of the Red Chamber, and Mister Jiu’s

Photo above: National Museum of African-American History and Culture

Saturday, September 24 is the official opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Located in Washington, DC, it holds a prominent position adjacent to the National Monument. Under the auspices of the Smithsonian Institute, this museum has been many years in the making and it will finally be unveiled today.

I first learned about the museum at the Chicago Architectural Biennale a year ago, when the now world-famous architect (WFA in pro-lingo) David Adjaye had an exhibition of his work at the Chicago Art Institute. He won the award to design the museum against fierce competition. You can read about him here:

Oprah Winfrey was a big donor to the museum. Eight years ago she galvanized my thinking and decision to support Obama, a relatively new and upcoming star in politics. Just think how inspired we were compared to this year’s election.

Despite bouts of purported museum sickness, we have already made plans to visit the NMAAHC in DC next Spring. I hope you will soon have an opportunity to see this new national treasure.

Tonight was our opportunity to see a premier opera based on a famous Chinese novel. “The Dream of the Red Chamber” was commissioned by the San Francisco Opera. Written by David Henry Hwang with music by Bright Sheng, this opera offers the Western world a glimpse into a classical Chinese story. (Review of the opera? Needs work)

As a child, I had frequently gone to see live Cantonese opera and opera movies in San Francisco Chinatown with my mother. Until now, I never really appreciated the history and culture of this art form. But after seeing the latest incarnation, it reminded me of the fond memories I had with my mother.

We took the bus across the bay at least once a month to see Chinese movies on weekends. As a full-time garment worker, my mother often found solace in seeing the movies from China and her forgotten past. Although I often found the movies boring, incomprehensible and tedious, I was able to capture dedicated time with my mother. (Review of the opera movies now? Incredible, especially Chinese rap clips that preceded the American version)

After seeing four hours of a double feature in a musty theater, where kids ran up and down the aisles during the movies and everyone cracked melon seeds and spit them in the floor, we had dinner together at the Jackson Cafe next door to the Great Star Theater. We would order a rice plate with barbequed pork and veggies, or for a special treat, clams and garlic with black bean sauce. Sadly, both Chinese-run businesses are no longer there.

Ironically, we had dinner around the corner from the Chinese opera last night. Mister Jiu’s, a new restaurant with Chinese inspired dishes, is where daughter Melissa works. It is located in the former Four Seas Restaurant, a mainstay for all Chinese banquets for forty years until it ran out of juice. Here are a few shots of Mister Jiu’s, including the executive chef, Brandon Jiu; pastry chef, Melissa; and the restaurant. Among their specialties, the lobster custard, pea tendrils, hand cut noodles and sizzling ling cod were part of the four-course menu that our party enjoyed. (Sorry, Foodies, no photos, so you’ll just have to try them yourselves).

In keeping with my new tradition, I would like to wish a hearty happy birthday to Vladimir, a dear friend and classmate from the Goethe Institute in Dresden, Germany.

4 thoughts on “The NMAAHC, The Dream of the Red Chamber, and Mister Jiu’s”

  1. This guy David Adjaye has certainly become a global megastar. And, yes, we definitely need to check out Melissa Chou’s delicacies at Mr Jiu’s next time we’re in SFO.


  2. Mr. Jiu’s is great. Atmosphere, food and service are all wonderful. Dream of the Red Chamber was a great effort especially in the sets and costumes. Having read the first 3 volumes last Spring, I’ve already figured out how to re-do the libretto and still fit the time frame. The choreography was awkward and the music and lyrics too English. I’m still glad I saw it and I thought the leads Bao Yu and Dai Yu and the Emperor’s concubine were all great.


    1. Would love to hear your ideas on how to improve the story-telling. It seemed like so much effort went into the production, without the classical operatic emotions. Were there no gory parts to embellish from the book, or life and death scenes, or wars? The women seemed too subtle, but then again, maybe this is a Chinese rendition of high drama. The libretto was all too flat to keep our attention. Enlighten us!!


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