'Yen Ching' Explores Family Dynamics Of Legendary Milwaukee Chinese Restaurant

Nov 28, 2018

Yen Ching Restaurant on Good Hope Road in Milwaukee’s northwest side has been serving up Chinese-American dishes for decades.

A few years ago, local film student and Chinese national himself, Yinan Wang worked as a driver for the family-run restaurant. He became interested in the family story, specifically its generational dynamics.

Wang directed and edited a documentary called Yen Ching, which showed at the 2018 Milwaukee Film Festival. Yujing Wang is producer of Yen Ching and Yinan Wang's wife.

She says what initially attracted them to the story was the fact that the owner, Guishan Chen, wanted his younger son to come back to the family business but his son didn't want to. The story focuses on the Chen family, made up of Guishan, wife Alan Lin, and older son, Rong, who work at the restaurant and a younger son, Xin, who's away at college. Guishan had come to the states before the rest of the family had come.

"The contradictions between the father's generation and the son's generation is a really interesting thing," says Yujing Wang. "And also, Chinese culture behind this is very interesting."

Guishan Chen and his younger son Xin in the restaurant
Credit Yinan Wang

She adds, "In Chinese culture, families should be together, but in the United States it's different. Everybody has the freedom to go wherever they want."

She thinks the younger son had more sense of western culture. "[He wants] to be away from the family, start his own business and be away from the family," she says. 

She says the role of being an immigrant in the film is also a multi-faceted. Chen's wife and older son are not able to speak much English, so in that sense living in the U.S. is initially hard.

"However, they're chasing their American dreams," says Yujing Wang.