Oral Histories

Interview of Tei-Fu Chen

Immigrant from Taiwan. Founder of Sunrider International, a pharmaceutical company.
Series:
Suburban Chinatown: Chinese American Business and Political Leaders in the San Gabriel Valley
Topic:
Asian American History
Interviewer:
Cline, Alex
Interviewee:
Chen, Tei-Fu
Persons Present:
Chen and Cline.
Place Conducted:
Chen's office at Sunrider International headquarters in Torrance, 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:
Center for Oral History Research program staff prepared a timed log of the audio recording of the interview. Chen 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.
Length:
4.5 hrs.
Copyright:
Interviewee Retained Copyright
Audio:
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.
Born in Chiayi, Taiwan--Grandfather moved to Taiwan during World War II--Learned about herbs from his family's farm while growing up--Chinese mixture of Buddhism, Taoism, and traditional Chinese culture--Similarities of this religion and culture to Christianity--Learns English in high school--Doesn't leave Chiayi until going to college in Kaohsiung--Popularity of Western popular culture in Taiwan--Combines studies in pharmacology with his herbal knowledge from early on in his life.
Grows up speaking Mandarin and Taiwanese, later learned English-Gets involved with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when he is about 15-Wife was born to a Christian family-Comes to the United States to study pharmaceutical medicine-Moves to Utah with his wife in 1947 to attend Brigham Young University (BYU)-Is one of very few foreign students attending BYU-Has five children-Sets up Sunrider business in 1982-Derives the company mission based loosely on herbal traditions from China-Development of various essential oil products and herbal remedies-Wife has cancer in 1990's and when doctors find it, she has stage 4 metastasis to the lymph nodes-She survives cancer, going through radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery.
Sunrider operates in about 50 different countries, spanning from Asia and North America to Europe-Exercise as a necessity in his life-Training of his five children to one day run the business-Involvement in collecting art, specifically Chinese art and antiquities-Improved his English skills and knowledge of the United States by reading English newspapers before immigrating to the U.S.-Pollution in China.