After A Heavy Snow

                                                     By Parker Po-Fei Huang

                                                        A bank of whiteness


                                                           Is all I see. Have I

                                                       tossed away the world

                                                         or the world me? Or

                                                           is it just a single

                                                      moment that I stand on

                                                          a sheer precipice

                                                        with clouds passing

                                                               through me?

                                                      Some mists sweep the

                                                       sky. Some stars elicit

                                                         serenity. I feel that

                                                         I am gathering the

                                                      reflections of a flower

                                                     in the water and that of

                                                     the moon in the mirror—

                                                       no scent, no motion,

                                                        yet I sense eternity.

                                                       I stop breathing lest

                                                       I wake myself. From

                                                      where, of what world,

                                                       have I come here? I

                                                      turn my head and see

                                                     there are only footprints

                                                             that follow me.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Robert A. Kapp Memories

From Robert A. Kapp, Port Townsend, WA, who was a student of Mr. Huang's at Yale in the mid-sixties.

Dear Mr. Huang,

Forty five years on,
I think I have an inkling
Of how much you knew,
And how much I didn't know,
And how hard it must have been for you to have to
Talk "Special English" or "Special Chinese" to me,
In your unforgettably resonant voice,
About the tiniest tips of the Chinese icebergs
That I still struggle to understand,
Forty-five years on.

But all in all, if we could meet now,
I think we would have much more to share,
About China and about life.
Perhaps you would even feel that I had improved with age.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Marion B. Visel Memories

I think of Parker as "Mr. Huang" because when someone lives next door to you, and then your parents, for the first 40 years of your life it's a hard habit to change.

I remember him doing Tai Chi in the driveway most mornings. I remember him taking slow walks around the neighborhood - walking and thinking, walking and thinking. You would almost see him turning over the words of a poem in his mind as he walked.

I'm not sure how the conversation started but one day when I was 9 or 10 years old we met on the sidewalk in front of my house. He was probably returning from one of his walks, perhaps with a Chinese newspaper tucked under his arm. I asked him about "Chinese writing." He very patiently took a piece of paper out of his shirt pocket and drew a couple of characters explaining what they meant and how they came to be. Being a visual person this form of writing made complete sense to me, really more so than abstract English letters.

This story epitomizes Mr. Huang to me. His patient teaching, of course. But also his openness with me. I never hesitated to ask him a question because he treated everyone with deep respect. Even a 9 year old riding her bike down Day Spring Avenue in Hamden, CT.

The world is a better place for your having lived Mr. Huang.

Peace, Marion B. Visel

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Comic Strip Clipping

A comic strip clipping found in Parker Huang's wallet.

Janet Huang Chun Memories

Remembering Tenth Uncle

Awakening in the middle of the night,  I looked out the window and saw bright stars over the Maui sky. Immediately my thoughts went to Uncle Parker, realizing that he is now gone…I became sad for several reasons, one of which was that his passing signified the end of an era, one filled with so many difficult pages of China’s struggles during the last century. He, his siblings, and their spouses courageously bridged the gap across the ocean and braved a new culture by sheer determination and hard work. His generation dutifully and steadfastly pursued their aspirations on American soil under difficult circumstances. As we all know, their journeys were, by no means, without major sacrifices. 

Uncle Parker was the tenth of thirteen children. My siblings, Bob, Noeline and I have always addressed him as Tenth Uncle. He was the tallest, the mildest in manner and a dreamer who led a seemingly simple yet highly distinguished life. More than anyone in this scholarly clan, he was the intellectual, the poet, the impossible romantic… the latter attribute being much admired ever since I was a little girl. 

When we returned to our family home in Guangzhou after WWII, I saw him only a few times before he married Auntie Mabel. They soon left for San Francisco. This was around the late forties. Due to the political upheavals in pre-and post-Communist China, there wasn’t much contact between our families after that. He and Auntie Mabel eventually settled in New Haven where he had distinguished himself in the world of academia as a scholar, an educator and a poet, continuing the tradition established by our grandfather, Huang Sung Ling. 

Actually, I didn’t get to know Tenth Uncle until after both my parents have passed away in the late eighties. I started to call on him when I needed counsel. Unlike my Dad who was outgoing but authoritative , or Sixth Uncle who was rigidly intimidating, or Ninth Uncle who was rather reclusive, Uncle Parker was approachable and compassionate. When we talked on the phone,  he was always kind and patient with my 5th grade-level Chinese, he was generous with his time, and he was always engaging and encouraging. He was abreast of everything that was happening in the world, and he was very knowledgeable. 

He had lots of stories to share about our family. He talked about Grandfather whom I knew little about except that he was a super high achiever, formal & severe in his demeanor. Uncle Parker shared much about my parents too. Through him I learned incredible stories about my Dad when he was at the age of my grandchildren today, and of some pretty traumatic experiences during war time in Hong Kong and in China… 

Sometimes he recited his latest poems over the phone, in both English and Chinese, carefully explaining his thoughts behind every word. What I treasure most, however, was his sense of humor which I found refreshing and rare indeed, especially among his contemporaries. Each time after we talked, I would come away feeling lighter and in good spirits; generally a sense of well being would prevail.

I have often thought about the story of the meeting between my father and Uncle Parker when they were reunited in San Francisco after a separation of over 20 years. I was told that when Uncle Parker entered our living room to approach my father, he respectfully knelt in front of his Dai Gor (Eldest Brother) until my father urged him to rise. The remembrance of this encounter never failed to bring tears to my eyes. To think that a full grown man_an accomplished scholar and a highly respected professor_would actually kneel in tribute to his elder sibling in these United States of America, to show his respect… It was a discipline from another world. For better or for worse, this formality will be no more. I salute him for upholding his refine, classic form, for his humility and his meekness which, as Cousin Ben says, was by no means, unmanly in any sense of the word.  

Because of their similarities in temperament, my artist-husband, Douglas would pitch questions to me whenever we found ourselves in a quandary. He would ask, “Now what would Uncle Parker say about this?” Douglas’ admiration for Uncle Parker never failed to move me. We each found his sensitivity endearing, his elegant simplicity inspiring and his integrity honorable. 

I have so much more to say but sadly, it is time to say Goodbye…I simply want to add to the accolades that he has received: ”Thank you Tenth Uncle, for being who you are. I will miss you and I would hope to carry a small portion of your gentle spirit and your infinite wisdom within the depth of my heart. May your creativity and your artistry continue to soar through eternity.”

From Maui, with deepest feelings and utmost respect, 
Janet Huang Chun
January, 2008

Friday, January 18, 2008

Doris Frank-Liu Memories

Ben, I read the Blog and commend you for writing such a wonderful story and expressing it in a most inspiring and beautiful form.  I have such fond memories of playing card games with your father when I was young that I decided to write a poem about it this morning.  It is a family poem but I think those who read it will enjoy it on the Blog, as it expresses a real light-hearted frivolity that none others had ever experienced.  I hope I will be able to read it at the service as well.  It is in Iambic Pentameter style which I have always written all my poems.  Chris has probably already printed out the program, but I will ask permission to say a few words.

Cousin Doris Frank-Liu   


Here is the poem:



By Doris Frank-Liu


When my sister Ellen and I visited Uncle Parker back then

He was teaching at the Army Language School in Monterey to men


I remember Salinas was cool and foggy and Alan was three

Nighttimes Uncle Parker taught and played fun card games with Ellen and me


There was a real easy game to teach others to play called "The Nose Game"

Uncle Parker told us that the way we were playing was rather tame


Since he recalled that some got so excited they'd punch their nose to bleed

We laughed so hard because he would act it out as he noticed the need


And to this day whenever I teach that simple card game to my friends

They all ask, "Where in the world did you learn this fun game that beats all trends?"


And then I smile and proudly say that it was Uncle Parker who did

Prompting me to act out the players he told of when I was a kid.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Hillhouse Avenue

A historic postcard from 1907 of Hillhouse Avenue, the street Parker Huang's office was on. Charles Dickens once called it the most beautiful street in America.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Robert Oxnam Memories



When I heard of Parker Huang’s passing, my immediate response was a tearful smile.  The tears were heartfelt – he was a remarkable man, who made a deep impact on me as he did on all students, and now he is with us no more.  But the smile was just as deep – he was someone who urged me to do more than study and think, he also prompted me to muse about things Chinese, to find real joy in the process.  It certainly was not rote education, nor just cerebral education, it was cultural and emotional education as well.   

Although I only took one course with Parker Huang – a tutorial in intermediate Chinese back in the summer of 1965 – it was a most unusual experience.  Yes, we went through the texts, and it quickly became apparent that I was not a natural linguist.  I really tried hard, too hard in Parker’s mind, because I ended up making translation an exercise in scanning dictionaries and trying to get the details right.  What I remember best was the way in which he tried to loosen me up, to get me outside the characters and the sentences, to try to see the broader shape of the language, to get a sense of what was being conveyed even if I didn’t get every nuance right. 

“Think of it as a journalist,” he said one time, “it’s a story, you don’t get it all, but it’s a puzzle, and it’s fun to figure it out.”  He then leaned back and told me about China back a couple of decades, before the Communists had gained power, back when Chinese journalists were trying to figure things out in a very confusing period. 

I suddenly realized that Parker was so much more than a language teacher; he was really a remarkably-successful thinker and writer displaced from his original profession by the tumultuous course of  20th-century Chinese history.   He told me of his own poetry writing and even showed me some samples on various scraps of paper.  One day, during a break from our reading, he smiled and began chanting some ancient poetry, his voice filled with vigor and vibrancy, his student transfixed with wonderment. 

And so, our tutorial proceeded in most unexpected directions, mixing attention to my unsteady efforts in reading intermediate Chinese with his insights and anecdotes about a China that I had never visited (and in 1965, it seemed quite unlikely that an American student would get there in the foreseeable future).  Curiously, I must have seemed like the super-serious Confucian-style student, learning how get beyond the task at hand from a remarkable gentleman who clearly represented the best of traditional China, but also the best of an urbane, cultured modern China.   

One day, when I was really bogged down in a text,  Parker suddenly stood up with a twinkle in his eyes.  “How about doing something new?  Would you like to learn taiji?”   Stunned, I also stood up, and watched him move, smoothly and gracefully, through the first few segments of a taiji exercise, describing each movement as he did it.  I followed him shakily, listening to his words – “slowly now, it’s about balance, about breath, about being centered, about emptying your mind.  If you can find the spirit of the exercise, it’s more important than getting all the little gestures right.” 

Yes, I am tearful that Parker is no longer with us.  But I am smiling as I remember what I learned from him, all that I learned from him.   Our text was in Chinese, but the course was not just about language or even just about China.  It was an education about life and learning, about unleashing the potent force of curiosity.  Parker Po-fei Huang was a man of many parts, but he was, perhaps above all, a great teacher.     

Robert Oxnam

January, 2008