Oral Histories

Interview of Matthew Lin

Immigrant from Taiwan. Orthopedic surgeon and city council member and mayor of San Marino, California.
Suburban Chinatown: Chinese American Business and Political Leaders in the San Gabriel Valley
Asian American History
Biographical Note:
Immigrant from Taiwan. Orthopedic surgeon and city council member and mayor of San Marino, California.
Cline, Alex
Lin, Matthew
Persons Present:
Lin and Cline.
Place Conducted:
Lin's home in San Marino, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Alex Cline, series coordinator, UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research; musician. Cline prepared for the interview by studying biographical information supplied by the interviewee.
Processing of Interview:
Program staff prepared a timed log of the audio recording of this interview. Lin was given the opportunity to review the log in order to supply missing or misspelled names and to verify the accuracy of the content, but made no changes.
6 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
The Suburban Chinatown series focuses on political and business leaders in the San Gabriel Valley who came to the U.S. in the post-1965 wave of Asian immigration after the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 abolished the quota system based on national origins. The series was undertaken as a collaborative effort between the UCLA Library’s Center for Oral History Research and the American East Asian Cultural and Educational Foundation (AEACEF). AEACEF recommended the majority of the individuals interviewed and introduced the interviewer to the narrators. Many of the narrators are also featured in the AEACEF’s book Thirty Years of Chinese American Immigration in Southern California.
Father’s background in Taiwan and mainland China--How Lin’s father was able to receive medical training through Union Hospital in Xiaomen, China, despite his very humble background educationally and economically--His father treats prisoners during the Japanese occupation of China--Upon returning to the village of Chichi, Taiwan, his father sets up a medical practice, marries Lin’s mother, and starts his family--Lin’s mother’s background--How Lin’s father almost wound up being set up to marry the daughter of the consul general of Japan while he was in China--How his father escaped execution by Chinese forces after Japan was defeated--Lin’s childhood memories of Chichi--His father decides to send young Lin to live with his brother, Lin’s uncle, in Taipei in order to get a better education--The building that served as the Lin family’s house as well as Lin’s father’s medical clinic near the train station in Chichi--Religious background and pervasiveness of ancestor worship in Taiwan--Due to his parents’ emphasis on the importance of education and the expectations placed on young Lin, the eldest son, he attends school in Taipei--Lin’s uncle’s family in Taipei, with whom Lin then lives--His new life in the big city of Taipei--His family leaves Chichi and joins him and his uncle’s family in Taipei, both families living together for the first year--Lin’s school interests--The sad fate of the Lin family’s land holdings in Chichi--His father finds a job at a public medical clinic in Taipei--Overly close and cramped conditions at his uncle’s home cause Lin’s family to move into their own space--Reasons children were sometimes adopted in Taiwan during Lin’s youth--His mother gets Lin into a superior school, the Westgate School--His father opens his own tiny medical clinic, behind which the family lives in one room--Conditions that ultimately allowed Lin’s father to buy the building in which they lived and he worked—Lin overcomes some academic setbacks in middle school--His mother’s demonstrations of her love and care for Lin while he was in high school--Strategies he adopted to help him stay awake during his studies in order to excel academically--Factors that led Lin to choose to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a doctor--Lin’s friends, fellow students, and teachers--His English language education.
The directions in education and careers that Lin’s siblings took--Lin’s experience helping his father in his father’s medical clinic as a youngster--The huge impact his seven years of medical college had on his whole life--Life lessons he learned beyond his medical training while at Taipei Medical University--Sports in which he engaged while in college--Taipei Medical University’s current standing among universities in the world--In college Lin endeavors to keep up his academic standing while engaging in many extracurricular activities--He is stationed for one year as a medical officer on the island of Kinmen after graduating from college--After his military stint Lin begins a residency in internal medicine at Tien Medical Center in Taipei---The small number of women in his graduating class--He meets his wife Joy, then a nurse, and marries her in 1971--Originally planning to simply take over his father’s practice, Lin decides to join some of his classmates and apply for further medical training in the United States--Limited medical knowledge and technology in Taiwan at the time--He is accepted for a surgical internship at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore--Contrast in the standard of living between the U.S. and Taiwan--He flies to the U.S. alone, arrives in Baltimore, heads straight to Union Memorial Hospital, and begins living in the on-call room across the street--His begins his residency by observing emergency surgery and is challenged by his poor English language skills--His nighttime preparations for surgical training--Lin performs many surgeries and excels in his training—In preparation for his wife’s arrival in Baltimore, he finds a room to rent for her before eventually moving to a basement across from the hospital--He is accepted for an elite orthopedic surgery residency through Johns Hopkins University in 1975 while freelancing in the hospital emergency room--A bout of appendicitis only briefly sidelines Lin--The Lins care for Taiwanese immigrants coming into Baltimore during the mid-1970s--They have their first two children, Jeremy in 1974 and George in 1976, while in Baltimore--Lin buys a townhouse in Baltimore in 1975--In 1977, he returns to Taiwan to look for appropriate employment after completing his residency--After learning that he needs to practice medicine in the U.S. for two years in order to take the medical boards, he decides to relocate to a place in the U.S. that is closer to Taipei, choosing Los Angeles--Upon moving to L.A. in 1978 and securing a position at Harbor City-South Bay Kaiser Permanente Hospital, with some financial help he succeeds in buying a house in Palos Verdes--Soon after he receives an invitation to start his own practice in Alhambra, quickly relocating there--Lin’s parents move in with his family in 1979, soon followed by most of his siblings--How his parents navigated travel in the L.A. area by bus--Places in the L.A. area where access to Chinese culture could be had during the early 1980s--The fate of Lin’s parents.
Reflections on early medical office in Alhambra—Challenges passing surgical protocols despite technical competencies—Relocation of medical practice to Monterey Park—Success investing in real estate ventures—Growth of medical practice and acquisition of private building—Hiking trips to Himalayas and interest in Buddhism—Reflections on real estate and previous homes—Reflections on the changing ethnic demographics of Monterey Park and San Marino—Decision to run for San Marino City Council and subsequent win—Reflections on family’s cultural identity—Decision to convert to Christianity—Volunteer work—Decision to become a Republican candidate for California State Assembly District 49.
The mix of Chinese-speaking immigrants coming into the San Gabriel Valley by the 1980s and how they interacted--Once the second generation of immigrant families settled and begin to speak mostly English, different races and nationalities begin to blend--Interracial marriage--Political and business issues in California that concerned Lin and motivated him to run for the State Assembly seat in the 49th District--Measures he took when beginning his grassroots campaign in his community--Reasons he chose to run as a Republican rather than as an independent candidate--Mistakes Lin feels he made in the general election--Aggressive, unethical campaigning he feels he fell victim to at the hands of his Democratic opponent and the prevailing political machine--The issues of language, communication, and image as factors in his campaign--Involvement of the California Republican Party and its platform talking points in Lin’s race once he won the primary--Thoughts on both the impact of Mitt Romney’s failed presidential bid and local union influence on the outcome of Lin’s campaign--His views on how to handle issues facing immigrants, including the undocumented, in the U.S. --How and what he thinks he might have done in the State Assembly had he won the election--The difficulty of knowing how best to address the ethical and spiritual issues of selfishness and greed in contemporary society--His desire to give back and to help the people of his community--His work as a volunteer in ravaged and catastrophe-struck areas of the world--His father’s influence on Lin’s life direction--The impact of his election loss on his view of life--His thoughts regarding the next 49th District State Assembly seat election--The impact of diverse forms of Chinese food on Southern California’s culinary landscape--How the many Asian students in the area help increase the area’s cultural exposure and awareness--The increase of Asian contributions to the arts in Southern California--Racial and cultural blending as a hope for more and better understanding in the world--His view of his service as an effort to make the world better and to provide better opportunities for future generations--A lesson from Confucius--His own happiness with his achievements.