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Danny Chen

Danny Chen

Born: Fuzhou, China
Heritage: Chinese

In this country you have opportunities for a good education. I hope that everyone studies hard. Make progress everyday.

Danny Chen

My name is Danny Chen. I was born February 12, 1971 in the area of Fuzhou, China. It is a very small town of about 5,000 people, in the southeast.

My parents were busy working to support us, so, I was raised by my Grandmother. She had six other children who were my aunts and uncles. We all lived together in a very small house in the country. Life was very tough. We didn’t have much money. Often, we were hungry.

There were no jobs available in my town. Everyone had to work to help the family. The only job was to go up in the mountains to get rocks to sell for building. The small rocks were for the government for building roads. I started working with my family in the mines at four years old.

Mining was very dangerous and difficult work. We had to go very early. In the winter it was very cold. Some people were killed by the explosions or rock slides in the mines. One of my aunties died in an accident, and after that we didn’t go back.

As a young child, I didn’t have toys or stuffed animals. For fun, the kids would play down by the river, or hike in the mountains and pick wild fruit. We swam, played tag, and catch.

I started kindergarten at five years old. This was earlier than most Chinese children who usually start first grade around eight years old. We had very few supplies. I was happy to get one pencil as a gift! I had a fifteen minute walk to school, by myself.

School was different in China. There were forty to fifty students in each class. The teachers were very strict, and did not seem concerned about the students. Parents had to pay a tuition fee of about $500, Chinese. That is how much most families made in a year, so all relatives needed to help. You could also barter with rice to pay the fees.

In the city people had better jobs, and more money to get a good education. When you are born in the country, like I was, there isn’t a push for education and there aren’t many opportunities. I stayed in school through the 9th Grade, then, I moved to the city alone to look for work.

My father came to the United States by hiding in a boat. He had to pay $20,000 to come here. For five years he worked 14 hour days in New York to save enough money to bring his family here and eventually open his own Chinese restaurants in Indiana, then in Tennessee.

After I moved to the United States, I met my wife Linda. We were married back in China, then lived in Chinatown, New York. I worked all over the U.S. in Chinese restaurants, but settled in Zimmerman to start my restaurant, China House, because I like the small town. It is a good place to raise my three children, Nancy, Crystal, and Brandon.

Family is most important to the Chinese. We’re responsible for our children and the older parents until they die. Chinese work hard and save money for the future. All parents want is a good life for the next generation.


He Works! He Works!

Honoring Danny Chen

He Works! He Works!
Honoring Danny Chen

He works cooking food at the China House
He works making sure they never do without
He works from ten in the morning until twelve at night
He works making sure his children are all right
He works to be all he can be
From a small town in southern China
He worked beside his aunts and uncles
In the mines when he was four years old
Pounding rocks to make gravel
For the roads so folks could travel
Across China the people came
He works with a white hat on
He works after the customers are gone
He works making sure his kids are fed
He works long after they’re in bed
He works to help their dreams come true
At five years old went to kindergarten
Through 6th grade did not go much farther
Was happy to get one pencil, that was all
And if you don’t have the money
You cannot go to school in China
At least that’s how it was when he was young
He works for the next generation
He works to get them an education
He works so they will learn English
He works for their independence
He works to be American
From Hong Kong to New York City
Through China town, no time for pity
For new immigrants who land on these shores
From Tennessee to Minnesota
Where he lives with his wife and children
Working together at the China House

Words & Music by Larry Long and Mrs. Blattner’s 4th Grade Class of Westwood Elementary School. Zimmerman, Minnesota
© Larry Long 2010 / BMI